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Fluid is an important, if underappreciated, component in modern robotics. Its chief role is to generate, control, and transmit power throughout complex devices—an engineering science known as hydraulics.

One problem with hydraulic components is that the pressurized piping required to make it all work is often treated as a system that is more or less independent from the rest of the device.

That has important consequences for the way robots are designed and built. Hydraulics dramatically increases the complexity and the time required to build, operate, and maintain robots.

Today, that looks set to change thanks to the work of Robert MacCurdy and pals at MIT. These guys have modified a 3-D printer to make it capable of incorporating hydraulics into any design.

That makes it possible to design and build hydraulic machines in a single step for the first time. “Until now there has been no means of incorporating robust, high-performance force-transmission elements directly into a 3-D-printed part,” they say.

Now that is cool! To read more, click here.