Project Code: 34745
Start date and planned duration: January 2022, 24 months
- To explore the availability of smart materials in raw form suitable for additive manufacturing process usage
- To investigate the properties of the printed smart materials for different process parameters and settings
- To manufacture and characterize prototype micro actuators
- To investigate the control methodologies for 4D printed actuators
4D Printing refers to the fabrication of three-dimensional structures with the added dimension of “time”. This pertains to the ability of structures to change shape post-printing (or in the “field”) if exposed to predefined environmental stimuli. This dynamic behavior is activated by an external energy input, such as temperature, light, pH, and voltage, among other environmental stimuli.
In addition to the endless possibilities of shapes that 3D/4D printing can offer, it also provides a broad spectrum of sizes. In this project we seek to focus on very small devices also referred to as microrobotics. Unlike regular roboti, which rely heavily on DC/AC motors for actuation and a high number of assembled parts, microrobots are typically based on materials with less complex, straightforward (mostly monolithic) designs. Consequently, 4D printing at a small scale holds very high potential in the field of microrobotics. Traditional microfabrication techniques (cleanroom technology) are highly limited in terms of design, geometries (mainly 2D shapes), and materials selection. By contrast, 4D printing introduces a new level of versatility and complexity into the forms and configurations produced on such a scale; it also allows for a simpler use and integration of a wide variety of smart materials. This renders the design of microrobots with more sophisticated geometries and advanced capabilities, a fast and cost-effective process.
Benefits to Industry
Through this project, we explore the subject of programmable 3D printed robotic micro-actuators using printable smart polymers allowing more compact and inexpensive actuators. The proposed work would put in place advancements in the following fields in 4D printing technology:
- Current knowledge base of smart materials and how their potential could be leveraged for the design of programmable microrobotics actuators fabricated through 3D printing technology;
- The characterisation of such materials towards driving the design and development of controllable smart micro actuators;
- The high-level control of such structures in a controlled and predictable manner.