16+ Coolest 3D Printed Robotics Projects (2023 Update)
At 3DSourced we’ve covered everything 3D printing and 3D since 2017. Our team has interviewed the most innovative 3D printing experts, tested and reviewed more than 20 of the most popular 3D printers and 3D scanners to give our honest recommendations, and written more than 500 3D printing guides over the last 5 years.
3D printed robots are increasing in dexterity, reducing in cost, and rapidly bringing future tech into our present world.
With the help of additive manufacturing, robots can now perform important functions with agility and precision, from gesture-controlled arms to humanoid helpers that learn as they interact with our world.
In this article, I’ll share some of the most impressive advancements made possible by 3D printing robotics.
From educational bots that teach basic programming to futuristic humanoids and adorable robotic pets, additive manufacturing is ushering in the next generation of innovative and accessible robotics.
The Most Advanced 3D Printed Robotics Projects
- Humanoid Robots – Meet the 3D printed robots built to walk, talk, and act almost human
- Educational Robots – Discover the 3D printed bots made to teach and inspire future engineers
- Robotic Arms – See the incredible dexterity unlocked in robotic limbs thanks to 3D printing
- Zoomorphic Robots – Experience robots inspired by animals and nature, from insects to household pets
- Small-Scale 3D Printed Robots – Marvel at the tiny but mighty 3D printed robots powered by tech like Raspberry Pi
3D printed humanoid robotics have come a long way since Boston Dynamic’s Atlas famously fell over to the internet’s delight, and here we’ll look at some of the coolest and most impressive models that are only improving over time.
- Learn More: Pollen Robotics
Pollen Robotics was founded in 2016 with the goal of releasing open-source software and hardware innovations for a variety of purposes. Their most notable achievement is Reachy, an expressive and versatile partially 3D printed robot that can be programmed and reprogrammed at will.
With three different varieties, this cute and functional robot is perfect for both educators and professionals alike. It can be programmed in Python or ROS and be used to prototype and test various AI capabilities and hardware applications.
- Learn More: GWAS Tech
Less cute but no less impressive than Reachy is the 3D printed ED-A – or ‘Eddie’ – by GWAS Tech. It was printed using common filaments like PLA, PETG, and ABS, and was designed and programmed by one man.
Eddie can move, manipulate objects, and even talk using complicated AI programs that can identify and even share opinions on household objects. It may look like something from a sci-fi horror movie, but if you check out the creator’s various videos on YouTube you’ll agree that this 3D printed robot is one impressive piece of tech.
- Learn More: John Choi
The ASPIR V2 was born from the desire to see a humanoid robot that fell between the two categories of ‘toy’ and ‘advanced tech’. With an impressive 33 degrees of freedom, giving it insane maneuverability. For reference, the Reachy robot discussed above has 7 degrees of freedom.
If you’re looking to print all 90 parts of the ASPIR V2 yourself, then you’ll need to prepare to use 5kg of PLA and be willing to wait through a 300-hour printing time. You’ll also need to make sure your printer has an absolute minimum build area of 250x250x250mm.
Learn More: Boston Dynamics
Boston Dynamics is one of the first places most people think of when talking about advances in robotics. Their strides in tech have led them to Atlas, a humanoid robot with 3D printed legs that can move and walk with incredible accuracy.
Atlas can learn as it goes, using a highly precise 3D scanner to identify obstacles and other things in its path and moving to avoid them, all while dedicating what it learns to memory. Its agile movements are thanks to a combination of aluminum and titanium alongside lightweight 3D printed parts.
Despite being one of the oldest robotic projects around, InMoov, invented by French sculptor and designer Gael Langevin, has been reenergized by the 3D printing industry and is once more paving the way for future development.
Starting as a single prosthetic hand, and advancing to being a full upper body as of now, InMoov is limited in its functions, restricted to simple movements and gestures, but has many intricate parts that move independently, including fingers and eyes.
However, that is not what makes InMoov special. What does is the fact that the designs are publicly available on their website, and the code is open-source, meaning anyone can print or modify InMoov themselves in their own home, and program it using community-created code.
All you need to build your own model is a desktop 3D printer with a 12 x 12 x 12 cm build volume, three servo motors, an Arduino Uno and Mega microcontroller, and MyRobot Lab and Python scripting software, as well as the required printing materials.
Naturally, InMoov is a favorite of laboratories and universities, and is used for teaching computing and programming. But the truly accessible nature of such an advanced model is a good omen for the future of 3D printed robotics.
Poppy is a bipedal humanoid robot developed by Matthieu Lapeyre for his PhD thesis and first produced in the Flowers Laboratory in Bordeaux in 2012. Poppy is entirely 3D printed and is capable of fluid movement, including walking.
Much like InMoov, Poppy is an open-source project and the building blocks are available for any hobbyist or professional to access and reproduce. Poppy is also scalable, meaning that, with the right mechanical components, it can be produced in any size to either fit or maximize the build volume of any 3D printer.
The simplicity of the design means that components can be added or removed to reproduce at mass market levels, allowing anyone to have their own Poppy built to their custom characteristics. And she can be programmed with any number of choice commands.
Poppy’s web interface allows the user to pre-program tasks to be carried out without any need for further input, meaning you can leave your house and let Poppy act independently.
Giving anyone the ability to print these robots from home, 3D printing is democratizing a once-exclusive industry. This is the future that 3D printing has always promised to bring.
3D printing robots for educational purposes is a fantastic way to get your first steps in 3D printing, mechanical engineering, and AI programming. Here are some of the best 3D printed robots for use in classrooms and beyond.
Jimmy the Robot
- Learn More: 21st Century Robot
Jimmy the Robot is an adorable and highly customizable 3D printed robot that’s available as both a toy and an educational tool for both robotics and basic programming. Using 3D printing for more versatile components, Jimmy’s exterior can look however you like, and his programming is entirely open source and available as learning tools for people with little or no programming experience.
The basic programming allows for balance, gait, and movement, while the more advanced codes will allow for social interaction, learning, and face recognition.
- Learn More: Juno Instructions
If you’re eager to learn about basic robotics and 3D printing but are concerned your lack of experience will hold you back, then look no further than the IMA Juno model
Juno is an excellent first step in learning how to make and program your own 3D printed robots. Much like how Lego instructions teach kids the basics of architecture and design components, the instructions in the link above will show you basic construction, wiring, and motor configuration.
Buddy the Social Robot
- Learn More: Instructables
Curiosity is what makes robots so fascinating, a programmed will and capacity to learn and memorize is as impressive as it is endearing, and it’s the endearing side that makes Buddy here my favorite educational robot on this list.
The Wall-E-inspired educational robot teaches as much as it learns, reacting to and seeking to identify anything placed in its vicinity. The exterior case is easily 3D printed and assembled, and the easy-to-use code can be manipulated in the most basic of programs, making Buddy an ideal model for schools to introduce students to programming language.
- Learn More: Instructables
The LittleArm V3 was designed with STEM education in mind, so it’s the perfect starting place for teaching about articulation, design, and programming in robotics. It was funded by well over twice the asking amount on Kickstarter, making it one of the most popular 3D printed robots for educational purposes on this list.
The V3 simply means the design was perfected over various renditions, needing fewer parts and screws, as well as making the design sturdier and able to withstand tinkering and playing to make it an ideal addition to any classroom.
3D printed robotic arms offer flexibility and added points of articulation and freedom compared to those made with standard manufacturing techniques. Because of this, 3D printing is used to make versatile robotic arms and hands capable of more dexterous movements than would otherwise be possible.
Gesture-Controlled Arduino Arm
Gesture controlled robotic arms seem incredibly futuristic and complex, but the designer of this Arduino Arm has made sure to make it an accessible and freely available project for anyone eager to learn more about remote-operated 3D printed robots.
The glove is designed to fit an average adult male’s hands, but since you’ll want it to be as accurate as possible, it’s worth noting that you may need to alter the design in your slicer software to fit your own hand size.
- Learn More: How To Mechatronics
Another 3D printed robot arm that you can make at home today is the SCARA arm. Using a mix of PLA and PLA+, the total print time was around 120 hours at 60mm/s, but the designer has suggested that this can be shortened depending on your filament and printer capabilities.
The arm itself requires quite a few extra pieces to fully assemble, which creator Dejan has listed out along with the instructions to make sure you have everything you need to print and program this 3D printed robot arm yourself.
In the 3D printing manufacturing sector, companies like Ai build have commercialized the service of 3D printing using robotic arms. They offer a service for printing anything using a range of different materials in a quicker and more cost-effective way than ever before.
The process works in two combined aspects. Ai Sync is a cloud platform that allows clients to upload CAD designs, then automates the entire production process. These monitoring capabilities include detecting imperfections in the part, to the robot’s efficiency and more. Alongside this is the Ai Maker, which is a series of multi-dimension robotic arms with built-in 3D printing technology that uses artificial intelligence to program the system to print.
Ai Build claim that not only is their process cheaper than traditional manufacturing methods, but even cheaper than other forms of 3D printing, while producing next to zero waste material or human labor. It also reduces production times dramatically.
Their technology has seen applications in the defense, aviation, construction and energy sectors, and they list a number of case studies that demonstrate the benefits of the process over other methods. They are able to use nearly any 3D printable material, from plastics to metals and even concrete for varied applications, and they even offer a subscription service for frequent orders.
3D printed robot animals and pets have fascinated and delighted households for years. They can be fun, educational, and even handy to have around the house if programmed with enough skill.
Here are a few 3D printed zoomorphic robots inspired by animal movements to further develop maneuverability.
Strandbeests are designed to move along with the wind and even store energy so they can still move temporarily in lower breezes. Naturally, it didn’t take long for people to start looking for ways to 3D print robotic versions of these mechanical marvels.
Because of the relatively simple shapes, a 3D printed robotic strandbeest is a great way to teach the importance of mechanical accuracy, balance, and deceptively simple engineering practices.
- Learn More: Jacobs School of Engineering
Flexoskeletons were a breakthrough for miniature robotics. Inspired by the agile movements of insects, the University of San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering created the method to make smaller, cheaper, and more articulate 3D printed robots.
The process involves 3D printing small, interchangeable parts that are attached to a soft body instead of a rigid one to allow for more fluid movements. Each part takes less than $1 worth of filament with a 10-minute printing time, and can be achieved on home printers.
- STL Files: Google Drive
Robotic pets have been the dream of many households, providing all of the companionship and fun with none of the mess or allergies. This open-source 3D printed robot cat is a fun project that anyone can undertake to print and assemble their own rudimentary robot cat that moves and even lies down like a real kitten.
It’s printed using PLA and can be made on any household printer, and the electronic components are designed to work with a Bluetooth controller to remotely manipulate the kitten’s movements.
- Learn More: GitHub
It may only be the googly eyes that make this arachnid 3D printed robot cute, but you can’t deny its simplicity makes it an accessible model for anyone who wants to 3D print their own mini walking robot to shamble around their home.
It’s an easy design that’s built to be solid and survive a little abuse, making it a great toy for children that doubles as an educational tool for teaching basic robotics and movement programming.
- Learn More: Vorpal Robotics
Vorpal Robotics specializes in cute 3D printed robot octopi that move fluidly and are perfectly safe for children to play with.
They’re perfect for either the home or classroom, as the kits are available for sale and are targeted towards learners and 3D printing veterans alike as a new and cute introduction to 3D printed robotics.
If you want to 3D print your own robopet but find those we’ve looked at so far to be a little too complex, you can instead try your hand at 3D printing one of the many easier robopets available online.
The Boston Dynamics-inspired pet above is a simple print for anyone to try out, while the robot dog featured in the video below is a slightly more complex print for those of you looking for a larger project.
In any case, you’ll find plenty of high- and low-tech 3D printed robopets out there to try out today regardless of your 3D printing experience.
Small-Scale 3D Printed Robots
3D printing robots on smaller scales is made increasingly more possible with miniature programming tools like Raspberry Pi boards and Arduino technology. Here are some of the coolest (and cutest) of these miniature 3D printed robots you can print and program yourself today.
- Learn More: Hackaday
Called the ‘world’s cutest spider robot’, the Xpider is a mini 3D printed arachnid robot weighing only 5.3oz. It’s also designed to be fitted with a camera so you can monitor the world from a point of view you never otherwise get to see.
The 3D printed mini spider navigates to objects automatically and can be programmed to include pathfinding or even free roam so you can see how a robot navigates your house and even use your coding knowledge to teach and improve it over time.
- Learn More: Instructables
3D printed miniature robots don’t get simpler in design than the LittleBot, a fun and educational toy robot that acts as an introduction to electrical engineering and 3D printing robot chassis.
You will find all the information and assembly instructions you need in the Instructables link above, including any extra components you will need to source. But unfortunately, the original LittleBot website no longer exists, so you will have to find or write the code yourself.
The cutest robot on this list since Buddy, the SMARS miniature 3D printed robot takes advantage of the Arduino Uno microcontroller board to create a tiny robot companion that’s as adorable as it is impressive. The code includes pathfinding and obstacle identification, so it can roam free around your home and learn as it travels.
SMARS is a modular 3D printed robot, meaning it’s designed to be added to and improved at your own discretion. This makes it a fantastic project for anyone who wants a solid base on which to build and test out their skills in 3D printing, robotics modification, and programming.
5-in-1 Arduino Robot
Learn More: Instructables
One of the smallest and most versatile 3D printed robots is the 5-in-1 Arduino Robot that uses the updated ATmega328P microcontroller to balance 5 different functions in one tiny package. These functions include following, obstacle detection, drawing, tracking, and SUMO. The last of those involves pitting two different models against each other Robot Wars style.
It can be printed on any FDM printer with just about any filament, though if you plan on using SUMO mode more often then I recommend using a strong filament like PETG to avoid excess damage.
The History of 3D Printed Robotics
The first modern robots were invented in the 1950s by American inventor George C. Devol. His earliest prototypes for the ‘Unimate,’ a programmable system of transporting objects, used crude vacuum tubes and digital switches.
In the decades since, with improvements in production methods and computing, we have reached a point where not only are robotic systems used on an industrial scale, but artificial intelligence allows them to run without human input.
How 3D Printing is Helping Modern Robotics
In recent years, 3D printing has become a crucial component in the robotics industry. 3D printing can produce far more accurate parts for robotics projects with less wasted material. Using Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) or Directed Energy Deposition (DED), metal products can be produced much cheaper than with traditional manufacturing methods.
By fitting their own FDM technology to an industrial 8-axis motion arm, they were able to use deposition 3D printing to produce some of the largest parts ever made on 3D printers. This also had the added benefit of allowing freeform manufacturing with more intricate designs much quicker than with existing 3D printers.
And the increasing availability of 3D printing to hobbyists has made previously exclusive robotics more accessible than ever before. Open source robot projects like InMoov and Poppy are available for anyone do download and print on a desktop 3D printer, bringing robotics into the home like never before.
With 3D printing becoming an ever-greater fixture of the industry, here are the two main areas of robotics in which 3D printing has made the most difference:
The Main Forms of 3D Printed Robotics
Hard robotics are robots that are made with strong, rigid structures, able to move only through actuators, a component that facilitates mechanical movement, at joints between parts.
Most of today’s robots are made using hard robotics, including the recently landed NASA Mars Rover Perseverance. They are much easier to construct and program, as well as being much stronger.
NASA has stated that 3D printing has helped to reduce the mass of these components by three or four times, which has helped to reduce fuel consumption, both of the lander and the Rover.
Almost all 3D printing on Earth focuses on metals and plastics. These are relatively easy to mold materials, and they are extremely strong and durable. Hard robotics relies on these materials and the precision 3D printing allows makes complex components far easier to produce.
Many 3D printed robotics projects use 3D printing to produce both the metal skeleton as well as plastic covering using a more targeted and customizable process than with other methods.
Engineers can now design and print their models with microscopic accuracy, reducing waste material and making parts lighter.
Comparatively, soft robotics is a much younger industry, but no less promising. It differs from hard robotics as it uses more flexible materials with actuators built throughout the structure, allowing animal-like free movement.
Already we are seeing designs and prototypes for robotic shoe insoles for helping those who struggle to walk by aiding with balance and reducing discomfort for those with flat feet, and even life jackets with mechanical components built in to help the wearer stay afloat.
Synthetic plastics like silicone are perfect for this but are very difficult to mold in a way that withstands stress by traditional methods.
Professors at Oregon State University conducted a study in 2018 to compare silicone 3D printing in soft robotics to traditional molding, and found that 3D printing greatly reduced deficiencies in human error, manual handling and multistep fabrication.
The Future of 3D Printed Robotics
A major area 3D printed robotics could revolutionize is 3D printing robotics in medicine.
While 3D printing has been previously used in the construction of prosthetics, combining this with robotics could allow amputees to have robotic limbs connected to their nervous system, allowing them to move as if they were a real limb.
Early experiments into 3D printed soft robotic prosthetic hands, which would look more realistic, have shown them to be functional and lightweight, yet not quite ready to handle the rigor of regular use, although hard robotics hands are becoming more common, with robotic surgical arms similar to those used in manufacturing.
This could change the way we treat internal injuries, broken bones, or even diseases like cancer.
Wearable robotics could also help to augment the human body and improve lifting or movement strength, particularly useful for an aging population.
Updated October 23rd 2023
Here at 3Dsourced, we strive to provide our readers with the most current information on developments in 3D printing.
- New humanoid robot examples like Poppy, Eddie, and Aspire V2 demonstrate the impressive capabilities enabled by 3D printing.
- Zoomorphic robots section added inspired by nature and animals.
- Small-scale 3D printed robots section added highlighting mini bots leveraging Arduino/Raspberry Pi.
- More details provided on how 3D printing helps modern robotics – accuracy, less waste, cost savings.
- Soft robotics section expanded covering robotic prosthetics and research improvements with 3D printing.