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Digital fabrication of a novel bio-actuator for bio-robotic art and design

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We describe the design, fabrication and testing of a biologically-driven actuator which serves as a proof-or-concept “artificial heartbeat” for future use within bio-robotic art and design. The actuator employs live biological material, both as a source of power and means of actuation. Pneumatic pressure generated by the action of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae causes a diaphragm to distend. Movement of the diaphragm is regulated by a purpose-built control valve. When the diaphragm is fully distended, the valve opens to release pressure, returning the actuator to its state of rest in readiness for the next actuation cycle.

The control valve employs a temperature-responsive NiTi “artificial muscle” which is activated when heated electrically using power generated by microbial fuel cells. In an alternative embodiment, the NiTi valve is powered by solar energy via photovoltaic panels. Results are presented showing the performance of devices powered by both energy sources. The structure of the bio-actuator is fabricated by 3D printing and rapid tooling techniques.

Bio-actuation may be employed for such functions as shapechange, pumping and propulsion. Possible applications for the physical principles described in this paper range from energy autonomous robotics and artificial life to artworks which creatively exploit robotic and bio-technology.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2011

More about this publication?
  • For more than 30 years, IS&T's series of digital printing conferences have been the leading forum for discussion of advances and new directions in 2D and 3D printing technologies. A comprehensive, industry-wide conference that brings together industry and academia, this meeting includes all aspects of the hardware, materials, software, images, and applications associated with digital printing systems?particularly those involved with additive manufacturing and fabrication?including bio-printing, printed electronics, page-wide, drop-on-demand, desktop and continuous ink jet, toner-based systems, and production digital printing, as well as the engineering capability, optimization, and science involved in these fields. In 2016, the conference changed its name formally to Printing for Fabrication to better reflect the content of the meeting and the evolving technology of printing.

    Please note: For purposes of its Digital Library content, IS&T defines Open Access as papers that will be downloadable in their entirety for free in perpetuity. Copyright restrictions on papers vary; see individual paper for details.

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