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Beyond Human Touch: 3D Printing Advances Robotic Skin With Human-Like Sensing

Beyond Human Touch: 3D Printing Advances Robotic Skin With Human-Like Sensing

August 10, 2023 – By Rachael Ballard

Robotic skin with human-like sensing holds immense potential in robotics, prosthetics, and healthcare, and presents a significant opportunity for the advancement of human-machine interfaces, artificial intelligence, and several other fields. Researchers are leveraging B9Creations 3D printing technology to create an adaptive robotic skin that possesses both high sensitivity and wide bandwidth, as well as an enhanced pressure-sensing ability that goes beyond that of human skin.

This development, enabled by B9Creations technology, is intended to create a large-scale adaptive robotic skin that has superior sensing capabilities to human skin. Compared to human skin, its thin-film pressure sensors can sense pressure that is 97% lower than the minimum detectable pressure and 262.5% higher than the maximum detectable pressure.

As a result, these pressure sensors can overcome the challenges associated with other methods’ tradeoffs between sensitivity and bandwidth and the previous inability to manufacture highly uniform sensors. This unique sensing capability provides opportunities for augmented sensing in robotics, healthcare, and beyond.

The adaptive robotic skin consists of several components, including a microfluidic thermal actuator, an elastomeric enclosure, and an array of thin-film pressure sensors that have high uniformity between devices, as well as a wide range of sensitivity and bandwidth. The microfluidic thermal actuator was constructed by bonding two layers, one with a fluidic channel and another with a flat surface. The mold for the fluidic layer was created using a B9 Core 530 3D printer to achieve the desired channel pattern.

In the past, several studies have been conducted on robotic skin to replicate the flexibility, stretchability, and self-healing abilities of human skin, while also incorporating tactile sensing abilities to detect stimuli such as pressure and temperature. Despite the fact that cutting-edge technologies have nearly attained many of the properties and capabilities of human skin, the ability to sense pressure, which is considered one of the primary functions of the skin, still falls short of achieving actual skin-like performance capable of either high sensitivity or wide bandwidth, but not both simultaneously. 


The potential of robotic skin extends well beyond its initial creation – with the power to transform various industries through its diverse range of potential applications, including:

  • Prosthetics: Adaptive robotic skin can be used to create more sensitive and flexible prosthetic limbs, enabling the sensing of pressure, temperature, and other physical sensations, improving the user’s experience and control.
  • Robotics & Automation: The sensitive and flexible nature of robotic skin can be applied to robotic grippers and manipulators, enabling the handling of delicate objects and working more safely around humans. It can be used in industrial robots to help them navigate their environment more effectively and safely, as well as to detect damage, allowing humans to perform maintenance and critical repairs.
  • Wearable Technology: Robotic skin can be used to create wearable devices that can monitor a person's vital signs, such as heart rate and breathing, in real time.
  • Healthcare: Robotic skin can be used in several healthcare applications, such as pressure mapping for bedridden patients to prevent bedsores and detecting pressure points in wheelchairs. It can also be used to monitor the health of elderly patients or those with chronic illnesses, allowing for early detection and intervention.
  • Virtual Reality and Gaming: Robotic skin could be used in virtual reality or gaming to provide more realistic haptic feedback and increase immersion.
  • Human-Machine Interfaces: Adaptive robotic skin can be integrated with human-machine interfaces to create a seamless connection between humans and machines.
  • Environmental Monitoring: Robotic skin can be used to monitor environmental conditions, such as temperature, humidity, and air quality, in real time, providing valuable data for scientific research and environmental management.


Learn More About B9Creations' 3D Printing Solutions for Biomedical Engineering and Research