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A combination of AI, 3D printing and robotics to conquer space and courier companies

“AI Chemist” is a robot that can work on Mars and produce oxygen, which occurs in trace amounts in the Martian atmosphere. In the Earth laboratory, the machine created a catalyst from materials available only on Mars to extract oxygen from water so that astronauts can breathe or use it as fuel. The robot used a laser to identify significant amounts of iron, nickel, calcium, magnesium, aluminium and manganese in samples of Martian meteorites and, using an algorithm determined that it could produce an appropriate catalyst from them.

At the Federal University of Technology in Zurich, it was possible to create a robotic hand with bones, ligaments and tendons for the first time using 3D printing. The technology combines 3D printing with a laser scanner and a feedback mechanism. This marks a breakthrough in 3D printing – when all hand parts are printed simultaneously rather than separately – and in soft robotics, which avoids metal, usually used to build robots. That method allows the construction of much more complex and durable robots.

The AI-powered DexR robot loads FedEx trucks as if playing a 3D version of Tetris. DexRa’s role is to automate one of the most challenging tasks faced by company employees – loading parcels onto a truck, as rows of boxes of different sizes need to be arranged as efficiently as possible, trying to maximise their number. The machine’s software uses camera data and LiDAR sensors to recognise packages and plan their stacking.

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