researchers at ETH zurich have developed a 7.5-centimetre mini-submarine equipped with paddles, with nothing but 3D printing. using a new propulsion concept for swimming robots, the submarine moves without the need for an engine, propellant or power supply, but by exploiting temperature fluctuations in the water for propulsion.


visualisation of a mini-submarine with two paddles 
image courtesy of ETH zurich / tim chen

 

 

under the direction of ETH professor kristina shea and colleagues at caltech in pasadena, california, the scientists developed the mini-submarine whose 3D-printed strips power the robot ‘by acting like muscles’ according to changes in the temperature of the water. for now, each strip can execute one paddle stroke forward and one backwards, and must be reprogrammed manually after, however the scientists are positive that it is possible to fabricate complex swimming robots with multiple actuators. ‘the main takeaway from our work is that we have developed a new and promising means of propulsion that is fully 3D printed, tuneable and works without an external power source,’ mentions ETH professor shea. 

 

 

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