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3D-printed structures that shape-shift with magnetic microparticles

These small, soft 3D-printed structures can shape-shift—expand, contract, wrinkle up, roll, and move about—thanks to the magnetic microparticles within their silicone-based rubber bodies. This is the latest iteration of magnet-controlled robots out of MIT. The team is working towards developing “a stronger, more intelligent version of this robot that can be used for tasks such as medical procedures or cleaning up radioactive waste.”

The researchers fabricated each structure from a new type of 3-D-printable ink that they infused with tiny magnetic particles. They fitted an electromagnet around the nozzle of a 3-D printer, which caused the magnetic particles to swing into a single orientation as the ink was fed through the nozzle. By controlling the magnetic orientation of individual sections in the structure, the researchers can produce structures and devices that can almost instantaneously shift into intricate formations, and even move about, as the various sections respond to an external magnetic field.

Previously: These tiny origami robot transformers use magnetic fields to walk, roll, sail, and glide, magnetic fields make this tiny robot roll, jump, swim, and wriggle and from 2014, Magnetically Actuated Micro-Robots.

Plus: Watch this larger Self-Folding Crawler: A Transformer-style Origami Robot collaboration out of MIT and Harvard, and MIT CSAIL’s robotic fish that can independently swim with real fish.

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