MIT 3D Prints ‘SoFi’ Robotic Fish for Underwater Observation

While 3D printing is becoming popular in the food and medical industry there is yet another use for this technology. No longer does it take only divers to view underwater species a Soft Robotic Fish named SoFi has been created with the 3D printer using silicone rubber. The name SoFi comes simply from the term soft fish.

The robotic fish moves in the water with minimal noise. It also swims by itself without bothering marine life. It can swim at depths of fifty feet for forty minutes. It is able to navigate all of the underwater currents as well as through the corals. It is also programmed to take photos and videos. The robotic fish is going to help in the aid of exploration of underwater creatures.

What Makes the Fish Move?

The robotic fish mimicking the movement of actual fish moves by propelling itself with a hydraulic fishtail. The fishtail has two internal cavities which are made of silicone elastomer.

The fish moves in the same way hydraulics do. It pumps the water into two internal cavities which produce movement in the same manner as car pistons do for the engine. The “buoyancy control unit” causes SoFi to move vertically as it compresses and decompresses air. This robotic fish is the first fish that can swim untethered for long periods of time.

The Head of the 3D Fish

The head of the 3D fish is where all of the electronics are. These include;

1. Fisheye camera,
2. Microcontroller,
3. The motor driver, and
4. Depth sensor.

It also has the same battery that smartphones use. These electronics are kept from getting wet by using a coating of epoxy.

SoFi uses a control interface that is actually the controller used in Super Nintendo. The controller was modified by making it waterproof. An acoustic communications system was also installed in the controller. The controller allows the speed and motion of SoFi to be controlled.

Purpose and ArcheoROV

SoFi was created so that it would not bother the ecology of marine life. It is small and mimics natural fish. With it being small it can go into areas where other objects cannot.

Researchers hope that this robotic fish SoFi is only the start of an undersea research observatory.

Not only is SoFi the only printed object to explore the ocean’s floor a 3D submarine has also been printed. The submarine is remotely controlled. This submarine has been named ArcheoROV.