Tactile Robots: 3D Printing Leading the Path to the Future Sensation.

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3D printing is revolutionizing the field of robotics by improving their sense of touch. This advancement could lead to a wide range of applications, including handling delicate objects, enhancing safety in human interactions, and improving performance in artificial limbs. However, touch is a complex skill that involves multiple receptors and inputs such as temperature, force, texture, weight, and shape. Currently, most attempts to give robots a sense of touch rely on cameras to interpret visual information. These cameras can pick up details about texture, shape, and hardness.

One company at the forefront of tactile sensing technology is GelSight, based in Waltham, Massachusetts. GelSight has developed a soft rubbery material that can be placed on top of a light and a camera. When this material comes into contact with an object, it changes shape. The deformation is captured with extreme precision by the camera, allowing for the measurement of shifts as small as one micrometer. GelSight’s products, such as the GelSight Mini, offer affordable and compact gel-based tactile sensors that can scan ultra-fine 2D and 3D images of various material surfaces.

A major limitation of vision-based touch systems is their slow frame rates, restricted lens coverage, and light refraction issues. To overcome these challenges, researchers have turned to soft robotics, which are made of elastically deformable, highly compliant materials. However, the fabrication of these soft robots has been time-consuming and labor-intensive. Thanks to advancements in 3D printing of soft materials and multi-materials, the direct manufacturing of sophisticated designs and functions has become possible.

Additive manufacturing has also facilitated the integration of sensors and actuators into soft robots, enabling the development of a sense of touch. For example, researchers at Harvard University have developed an organic ionic liquid-based conductive ink that can be 3D printed within the soft elastomer matrices that make up most soft robots. This groundbreaking technology allows for the creation of robots that can sense touch, pressure, and movement. The combination of ionic liquid sensors and embedded 3D printing opens the door to the creation of complex robots with embedded sensors and actuators.

Another recent development in the field of soft robotics is a 3D printed hand developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge. This hand can pick up various objects using only wrist movements and the feeling in its “skin”. Tactile sensors in the robotic hand help it predict the necessary amount of pressure to grasp objects without dropping them, increasing its success in manipulation tasks.

Overall, 3D printing is playing a crucial role in improving the sense of touch in robotic systems. It enables the creation of complex robots with embedded sensors and actuators, making tasks that were once beyond the capabilities of advanced robotic systems possible. This advancement has the potential to revolutionize various industries, from healthcare to manufacturing. Companies involved in developing new or improved products, processes, or software using 3D printing may also be eligible for the Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit, which can provide additional financial incentives for innovation.

Title: Revolutionizing Robotics with the Sense of Touch: Leveraging R&D Tax Credits for 3D Printing


Innovation is the driving force behind technological advancements, and the incorporation of 3D printing technology into the field of robotics is a testament to this progress. The ability to create robots with a sense of touch is a game-changer, enabling them to perform intricate manipulation tasks previously deemed impossible. This blog post explores the potential of this groundbreaking technology and how companies can leverage R&D tax credits to support their endeavors in creating touch-sensitive robotic systems.

Unlocking New Possibilities with 3D Printing:

The world of robotics is witnessing a significant revolution as 3D printing techniques enable the development of a new generation of robotic systems. These systems exhibit enhanced precision and dexterity, allowing them to undertake an extensive range of manipulation tasks. By utilizing 3D printing technology, companies can create robotic prototypes that can simulate the sense of touch, leading to further advancements in various applications.

Defining Eligible Activities for R&D Tax Credits:

Under the R&D Tax Credit program, companies can claim qualified expenses related to research and development activities. When it comes to integrating 3D printing hardware and software for process improvement, the time spent becomes eligible for tax credits. Furthermore, the costs of filaments consumed during the modeling and pre-production stages can also be recovered. Incorporating 3D printing into the development process becomes a clear indicator that R&D Credit-eligible activities are underway.

Leveraging R&D Tax Credits:

Companies that choose to adopt 3D printing technology at any stage of their robotic system’s development should consider taking advantage of R&D Tax Credits. These credits can provide significant financial support, helping companies offset research and development costs. By utilizing these credits, businesses can allocate resources more efficiently, further fueling innovation and accelerating the development of touch-enabled robotics.

The Impact of Touch-Sensitive Robotics:

The integration of a sense of touch into robotic systems bridges the gap between human capabilities and technology. With greater responsiveness to various stimuli, robots with a sense of touch can perform intricate tasks with precision, opening up a vast array of potential applications across industries. From healthcare to manufacturing, these advancements have the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with technology and elevate the capabilities of robotic systems.


The advent of 3D printing technology has propelled the development of robotic systems with a sense of touch, revolutionizing the field of robotics. Applying 3D printing techniques in the creation and testing of prototypes or during final production warrants consideration for R&D Tax Credits. These credits can enable companies to recover costs associated with integrating 3D printing hardware and software, as well as the consumption of filaments during the development process. Embracing this innovative technology and leveraging R&D Tax Credits can significantly support companies involved in the creation of touch-enabled robotic systems and accelerate the realization of their fullest potential.

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