3D Printing Silicone For Soft Robotics Is Possible With Additive-X and Lynxter
When you envision robotics, you probably imagine hard plastics, composites and metal parts powered by mechanical and electronic components. But rigid robotics has a counterpart – soft robotics – which uses compliant materials instead of hard materials to create flexible and deformable robots.
A prime example is a camera robot that can fit into a pipe and squeeze down inside to fit smaller bores, traversing pipe networks to diagnose faults for servicing. Another example is a soft surgery robot that assists with delicate procedures.
Soft robotics is for applications where flexibility, dexterity and deformability are crucial, but soft robotics is notoriously difficult to engineer.
The biggest challenge with soft robotics is specifying materials and manufacturing processes capable of creating parts that can perform mechanical movements of compression, stretching, and unwinding. Thankfully, 3D printing offers a reliable solution with 3D-printed silicone, made possible with the Lynxter S600D.
3D printed silicone
Silicone parts are traditionally made with moulding processes, but these do not allow complex geometries and shapes. Engineers must sacrifice silicon’s flexibility for TPUs and other hard filaments that limit performance.
The Lynxter S600D changes this for good. Fitted with the LIQ21 tool head, it prints liquid silicone, with a range of RVT1 and RTV2 silicones from 10 to 40 shore A hardness available within the Lynxter ecosystem.
Here’s a video of the S600D making a silicone suction cup:
With the S600D, you can design soft components without worrying about geometry limitations and experimental print shapes and develop prototypes in days, slashing your time to market and boosting innovation.
Schneider Electric uses the Lynxter S600D to prototype flexible and soft modular components for robotics. The Schneider Electric Openlab has developed a prototype of a silicone gripper with multiple “fingers” compatible with a robotic arm, with the S600D giving engineers prototyping flexibility.
If you haven’t heard of a 3D printer that prints liquid silicon before, don’t worry – this technology is the first of its kind. The Lynxter S600D utilises FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) and LAM (Liquid Additive Manufacturing Technology) to print filaments, pastes, and liquids.
In addition to liquid silicon, you can print carbon PA, PP, PEKK, aluminium filament, polycarbonate, TPU, clay, porcelain, PP glass fibre, PCL and many more materials by swapping out tool heads.
All images in this article are credited to Lynxter.