Researchers from Cornell University are using 3D printers, which squirt out physical objects layer by layer, to develop wings for tiny flying micro-robots. Their latest robot, built from polyester stretched over a carbon fiber frame, weighs just 3.89 grams and can hover for almost 90 seconds. From New Scientist:
What's so special about 3D printers? They make it possible to create complex structures, such as wings that are warped to improve performance, like the manually curved wings of a paper aeroplane, says Richter. Their printer is capable of producing features just 40 micrometres wide, and thin films just 16 micrometres thick.
The other advantage of printing is speed, says Lipson. Once they have arrived at a new wing design, printing a set takes under an hour.