Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences released an interesting demo of blending rigid and soft materials during 3D printing to create hybrid robots with enhanced performance for tasks like jumping and landing.
Their paper published this month by lead author Nicholas W. Bartlett concludes:
The fabrication of soft robots using multimaterial 3D printing has numerous advantages over traditional molding techniques. This strategy promotes high-throughput prototyping by enabling rapid design iteration with no additional cost for increased morphological complexity. By allowing designers greater freedom, 3D printing also facilitates the implementation of good robotic design principles, such as modularity and the separation of power and control actuators.Beyond soft robotics specifically, the ability to print a single structure composed of multiple materials enables investigation into mechanically complex designs, without the drawbacks of complicated assembly or inconsistent manufacturing repeatability.
• A 3-D Printed Functionally Graded Soft Robot (PDF)