MIT engineers have created 3D-printed structures whose movements can be controlled with a wave of a magnet. the menagerie of soft structures that can be magnetically manipulated includes a smooth ring that wrinkles up, a long tube that squeezes shut, a sheet that folds itself, and a spider-like ‘grabber’ that can crawl, roll, jump, and snap together fast enough to catch a passing ball.

MIT engineers create 3D-printed shape-shifters controlled by magnets

images courtesy of MIT

 

 

each piece is created using a newly developed type of 3D-printable ink that has been infused with tiny magnetic particles. researchers fitted an electromagnet around the nozzle of a 3D printer, which caused the magnetic particles to swing into a single orientation as the ink was fed through the nozzle. by controlling the magnetic orientation of individual sections in the structure, the researchers can produce structures and devices that can almost instantaneously shift into intricate formations, and even move about, as the various sections respond to an external magnetic field.

MIT engineers create 3D-printed shape-shifters controlled by magnets

 

 

we think in biomedicine this technique will find promising applications,’ explains xuanhe zhao, the noyce career development professor in MIT’s department of mechanical engineering and department of civil and environmental engineering.for example, we could put a structure around a blood vessel to control the pumping of blood, or use a magnet to guide a device through the GI tract to take images, extract tissue samples, clear a blockage, or deliver certain drugs to a specific location. you can design, simulate, and then just print to achieve various functions.’

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