Robot 3D prints right tool for the job using hot glue

When you're looking at a screw, you want a screwdriver, not a hammer. Someday soon, a robot may be thinking the same thing. The difference? The robot doesn't have to worry about leaving its tools at home, as it could just print out whatever it needs on the spot.

A robotics team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (also called ETH Zurich) have built a robot that is darn handy with a hot glue gun.

The 'bot uses hot glue — or Hot Melt Adhesive (HMA), as the team calls it — to construct whatever tool is needed out of layers and layers of the stuff. In the video below, it's building a cup. The idea of a blobby tool made out of hot glue may not sound all that useful, but it's an interesting proof of concept.

The next step? Getting the robot to understand just what tool it needs for the situation it's in, as right now the robot is really only glue-printing tools for demonstration purposes. After that, the team is certainly not limited by imagination, as reported by IEEE Automaton's Evan Ackerman:

"This is something that the researchers will be working on in the future, and they fantasize about a robot that can adaptively extend its body how and when it deems fit. They also suggest that this technique could be used to create robots that can autonomously repair themselves, autonomously increase their own size and functionality, and even autonomously construct other robots out of movable HMA parts and integrated motors, all of which sounds like a surefire recipe for disaster if we've ever heard one."

Automaton, via PopSci

(Editor's Note: Evan Ackerman's work also appears on DVICE. Yeah, he's that guy.)

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