Pioneering achievement: 3D printed robotic hand complete with bones, ligaments, and tendons

Researchers at the ETH public university in Zurich, along with US-based startup Inkbit, have made a major breakthrough in 3D printing technology. For the first time, they have printed a robot hand complete with bones, ligaments, and tendons, all at once using different polymers of varying softness and rigidity. This new laser-scanning technique allows 3D printers to create “special plastics with elastic qualities” simultaneously. This advancement opens up new possibilities in prosthetics and other fields that require soft robotic structures.

ETH Zurich/Thomas Buchner
ETH Zurich robotics professor Robert Katzschmann notes that robots made of soft materials, such as the hand they developed, have advantages over conventional metal robots. Soft robots are less likely to cause injury when working with humans and are better suited to handling fragile goods. The integrated scanner constantly checks the surface for irregularities, allowing for fine-tuning of stiffness to create unique objects for various industries. Inkbit, a startup affiliated with MIT, will be selling newly-made printers and complex 3D-printed objects that make use of this technology to manufacturers and smaller entities.