Roboticized 3D Printer Has Been Developing Shock Absorbing Structures For Years

Imagine you want to iterate on a shock-absorbing structure design in plastic. You might design something in CAD, print it, then test it on a rig. You’ll then note down your measurements, and repeat the process again. But what if a robot could do all that instead, and do it for years on end? That’s precisely what’s been going on at Boston University.

Inside the College of Engineering, a robotic system has been working to optimize a shape to better absorb energy. The system first 3D prints a shape, and stores a record of its shape and size. The shape is then crushed with a small press while the system measures how much energy it took to compress. The crushed object is then discarded, and the robot iterates a new design and starts again.

The experiment has been going on for three years continuously at this point. The MAMA BEAR robot has tested over 25,000 3D prints, which now fill dozens of boxes. It’s not frivolous, either. According to engineer Keith Brown, the former record for a energy-absorbing structure was 71% efficiency. The robot developed a structure with 75% efficiency in January 2023, according to his research paper.

Who needs humans when the robots are doing the science on their own? Video after the break.

[Thanks to Frans for the tip!]

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