Last August, we reported news that everyone’s favorite creepy humanoid, the Atlas robot from Google-acquired Boston Dynamics, would feature 3D printed parts in future iterations. The newest version of the bipedaling bot finally made its public debut this week, leaving the Internet stunned with its ability to recover after being knocked over and making videos of the old Atlas falling over a bit less funny. We also got to learn exactly how 3D printing was used in the legs of this latest version.
Marc Raibert, founder and president of Boston Dynamics, explains to IEEE Spectrum, “The engineering team did a huge amount of work to make ATLAS lighter and more compact. One thing we did was use 3D printing to create the legs, so the actuators and hydraulic lines are embedded in the structure, rather than made out of separate components. We also developed custom servo-valves that are significantly smaller and lighter (and work better) than the aerospace versions we had been using.”
The 3D printed parts, then, help to streamline the design of Atlas, proving to be a particularly useful technology for a robot that there is (hopefully) only one of in the world right now. In addition to printed components, the bot has stereo and LIDAR sensors to react to changes in terrain and is able to chase a box and stack boxes autonomously, though all general steering is handled by radio control for now. See the magical mechanical man perform simple tasks worse than your average human in the video below.