Researchers at ETH Zurich and Inkbit, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology spin-out, have developed a new 3D inkjet-printing technique that can print both rigid and elastic materials simultaneously at high resolution. The printer uses a scanning system to adjust the rate of material deposition, allowing the use of chemistries that take longer to polymerize.
The team demonstrated the technology by 3D printing a functional robotic hand with rigid bones and elastic tendons, as well as a six-legged robot and a pump modeled on the human heart. The breakthrough enables the creation of complete functional systems in a single print job, opening up possibilities for diverse applications. Future work aims to expand the range of printable materials, potentially including hard epoxies, hydrogels for tissue engineering, and conductive polymers for electronic circuits.