Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a 7.5-centimetre mini-submarine equipped with paddles, with nothing but 3D printing.
Using a new propulsion concept for swimming robots, the submarine moves without the need for an engine, propellant or power supply, but by exploiting temperature fluctuations in the water for propulsion.
Under the direction of ETH professor Kristina Shea, and colleagues at Caltech in Pasadena, California, the scientists developed the mini-submarine whose 3D-printed strips power the robot "by acting like muscles" according to changes in the temperature of the water.
For the time being, each strip can execute one paddle stroke forward and one backwards and must be reprogrammed manually after, however, the scientists are positive that it is possible to fabricate complex swimming robots with multiple actuators.
"The main takeaway from our work is that we have developed a new and promising means of propulsion that is fully 3D printed, tuneable and works without an external power source," mentions ETH professor Shea.
Have a look at the video below to see the 3D-printed submarine in action.