Friday, 31 March 2017

Printable Sensor Laden Skin for Robots

Gold Bug robot skin
According to several studies this decade has seen maximum technological advancements in the past 50 years. The radical positive changes in technology have made this the age of tablet computer and Smartphone. This is the era of touch sensitive surfaces and they’re so fragile that anyone with a cracked Smartphone screen can easily attest to the fact. While touch sensitive phones or TV devices seems possible, covering a bridge, airplane or a robot with sensors would require technology that’s both lucrative and lithe to manufacture.

Creation of a new device 

However, our world-renowned scientists are known for their superficial capability and unending endeavors to create something new. A group of dedicated scientists at MIT’s CSAIL or Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have devised that 3D printing could make the work possible. The researchers tried to demonstrate the viability of printable and flexible electronics that combine processing circuitry and sensors. The amazing fact is that the researchers were actually able to create a device that would react to mechanical changes by altering its surface color.

The scientists found as their inspiration, ‘goldbug’ or more commonly known as the golden tortoise beetle that changes its color from golden to red, when prodded or poked. This reaction in both the beetle and the new device is caused by the mechanical stresses. MIT graduate Subhramanium Sundaram says, that the network of interconnects and sensors are called sesnsimotor. Sundaram, who led the project, said that their attempt was to try and replicate sensimotor pathways and install it within a 3D printed project. So, in their attempt to make their vision possible, they considered testing the simplest organism they could find.

Several scientists made it possible 

To demonstrate their new concept and design, the researchers presented their concept in Advanced Material Technologies. Along with Sundaram who is the first author of the paper, were his senior associates like professor of EECS Marc Balbo, and associate professor Wojciech Matusik. Others who joined the paper include technical assistant in MCFG David Kim, an EECS student named Ziwen Jiang, and a former postdoc, Pitchaya Sitthi Amom. A type of plastic substrate is used to deposit flexible circuitry on printable electronics and for decades this has been a major area of research. According to Sundaram the range of the device itself greatly increases once the print in put on the substrate.

However, he also says that the types on materials on which the print can be deposited get limited by the choice of substrate. This happens because; the printed substrate would be created by combining different materials, interlocked in complicated but regular patterns. Hagen Klauk who is a world-renowned scientist at Max Planck institute is quite impressed by the creation of this concept. According to him, printing an optoelectronic system that too with all the components and substrate by depositing all the liquids and solids is certainly useful, interesting and novel. Further, the demonstration of this method makes the system functional and proves this novel approach is 100% possible. This approach will lead to improvised manufacturing environments, and dedicated substrate materials will no longer be available.