Specialists in art, design and robotics have been working together to explore ways in which live biological materials might be exploited to bring about movement or shape changes in physical objects.
Peter Walters from the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK, and colleagues, have created a novel, biologically-driven actuator: an “artificial heartbeat”, powered by live biological material.
Pneumatic pressure released by live yeast causes a membrane to distend. Movement of the membrane is controlled by a valve activated by electricity produced by a microbial fuel cell. When the membrane is fully distended, the valve opens to release pressure, returning the actuator to its state of rest for another actuation cycle.
A 3D printer created the structure of the bio-actuator, the rigid components and also made the moulds used to cast flexible components in silicone elastomer material. 3D printing technologies enable physical objects to be fabricated directly from computer. Here the 3D printing process used in the fabrication of the bio-actuator is photopolymer jetting developed by Objet (now Stratasys) in which a liquid photopolymer resin is deposited by inkjet printing and immediately cured by ultraviolet light.
This biologically-driven actuator will serve as a proof-or-concept “artificial heartbeat” for future use within bio-robotic art and design.
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!