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3-D printed synthi-muscle ‘can lift 1,000 times own weight’

AN ARTIFICIAL muscle that can lift up to 1,000 times its own weight has been developed by scientists using a 3-D printer.

Technicians designed the rubber-like synthetic device (pictured above) to expand and contract in response to an electric current in the same way as its organic equivalent.

The muscle, which was developed in the US at the Creative Machines laboratory at Columbia University and partially funded by Israel’s defence ministry, could be used for surgical robots which need to grip and manipulate tools.

With a charge running through it, the material was capable of expanding to nine times its normal size.

In tests the device, described as a ‘soft actuator’, demonstrated enormous strength, having a strain density – the amount of energy stored in each gram of a stretched elastic body – 15 times greater than natural muscle.

Lead scientist Prof Hod Lipson, said: ‘We’ve been making great strides toward making robot minds, but robot bodies are still primitive.

‘This is a big piece of the puzzle and, like biology, the new actuator can be shaped and reshaped a thousand ways. We’ve overcome one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots.’

Prof Lipson’s colleague Dr Aslan Miriyev: ‘Our soft functional material may serve as robust soft muscle, possibly revolutionising the way that soft robotic solutions are engineered today.

‘It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight. It’s the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle.’

The long-term aim is to accelerate the artificial muscle’s response time and link it to an artificially intelligent control system, said the researchers.