Here’s another tech to file in the “boundless possibility of 3D printing” category: Two Swiss engineering professors are developing microscopic robots that will work inside the body to transport cargo – namely, drugs.
Work done at ETH Zurich by Bradley Nelson, a professor of robotics and intelligent systems, and Christofer Hierold, a professor of micro and nanosystems, could apply these minirobots to improve minimally invasive surgery, targeted drug deliver, remote sensing and single cell manipulation.
With an additive manufacturing technique, the scientists are able to use a complex method to create the micro-robots, or micro-actuators, which are then coated with biomedical materials. The scientists believe they could increase functionality and deliver medication to targets inside the body.
The researchers do this by inserting magnetic nanoparticles into an epoxy resin and using a laser beam which moves repeatedly in a three-dimensional way, which through magnetizing, curing, and building allows them to produce helical structures 60 micrometers in length and 9 micrometers in diameter. Due to this design, the microscopic actuators swim consistently without veering off course, and can be digitally maneuvered.
By coating these micro-robots, which are designed to operate like flagella, originally employing ‘corkscrew propulsion,’ the scientists were able to create a variation due to their microscopic 3D printing technique which gave them the flexibility to modify the shapes into spiral and twisted shapes, as well as double-twisted wires.
They look like this:
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