Washington: Mechanical insects can soon take flight on 3D printed wings.
Until now, 3D printers were capable of printing objects out of metal, glass, plastic, even sugar and mashed potatoes. Now, they are being used to print delicate, transluscent wings for mechanical insects, reports the Discovery News.
Roboticists Charles Richter and Hod Lipson, along with their colleagues at Cornell University developed a flapping-wing aircraft, or ornithopter, that weighs just 3.89 gm and can hover for 85 seconds, the lightest and longest ``flying`` model thus far.
According to them, these advancements will help scientists understand key mechanical principles central to insect flight and control, eventually leading to the development of low-power micro air vehicles that perform functions such as mapping, surveillance and search-and-rescue operations.
By switching to 3D printing, the researchers were able to produce the wings - made from a thin polyester film stretched over a carbon fibre frame - and all of the complex components in just minutes.
"Overcoming this barrier to experimentation will allow a comprehensive study of lift production for a wide variety of wing shapes, including those replicating real insect wings," said the researchers.
The results have been published in the recent issue of Artificial Life.