A new concept for 3D printed structures designed by engineers at MIT can be remotely controlled with magnets. The innovative gadgets include a smooth ring that wrinkles up, a long tube that squeezes shut, and a sheet that folds itself. The most impressive structure is a spider-like “grabber” that can crawl, roll, jump, and snap together fast enough to catch a passing ball or wrap up and carry small objects. Each piece is created using 3D printable ink infused with tiny magnetic particles that are directed into a uniform orientation via printer nozzle retrofitted with a electromagnet.
Researches believe these magnetic concepts could one day find applications in the realm of medicine similar to implanted stents or pacemakers. “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.” (via digg)