23 Jan, 24

Scientists 3D Print Robotic Hand with Bones, Ligaments, and Tendons for the First Time


Researchers from ETH Zurich, a public university in Zurich, and the US-based startup Inkbit, have achieved a groundbreaking feat in 3D printing technology. They successfully printed a robotic hand that includes bones, ligaments, and tendons in one go, marking a significant advancement in the field. The innovative process involves simultaneously printing various parts of the hand using different polymers with varying softness and rigidity.

The team utilized a novel laser-scanning technique to create “special plastics with elastic qualities,” expanding the applications beyond prosthetics to any domain requiring the production of soft robotic structures. This breakthrough method developed by Inkbit enables the 3D printing of slow-curing plastics, offering advantages such as increased durability and enhanced elastic properties compared to traditional fast-cure projects.

Professor Robert Katzschmann from ETH Zurich highlights the advantages of soft robots, emphasizing their reduced risk of injury when working with humans and suitability for handling fragile goods. The new technology scans the surface for irregularities during the layer-by-layer printing process, allowing for the use of slow-curing polymers. This innovation not only facilitates the creation of human-like appendages but also opens up possibilities for manufacturing objects that absorb noise and vibrations.

Inkbit, an MIT-affiliated startup, played a pivotal role in developing this technology and plans to commercialize it. The company intends to sell the advanced printers to manufacturers and offer complex 3D-printed objects utilizing the technology to smaller entities. This transformative approach represents a significant stride in the integration of soft materials in robotics, showcasing the potential for diverse applications across industries.