Abstract

Stereo-lithography (SL) is a method of rapidly prototyping parts and products by using a photopolymer resin cured by an ultraviolet laser layer by layer. This allows the user to go quickly from a CAD file to a physical three-dimensional manifestation of the part. Traditionally, this technology is employed to build rigid parts, but recently several research groups have discovered the potential of producing mechanisms, in particular robotic mechanisms, using SL or similar rapid prototyping technology.

This article discusses the possibility to include inserts, such as actuators, sensors or joints, into a part while it is being built in an SL machine. This would allow the fabrication of functional robotic mechanisms that do not require any assembly. Benefits are anticipated in particular for the fabrication of small-scale robotic mechanisms with many actuators and/or sensors.

The capabilities and limitations of current SL technology to build around inserts are discussed and concepts that may eliminate the limitations are presented. One of these concepts was implemented in a test-bed that emulates the functionality of an enhanced SL machine.

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