Biomimicry has been around for some time in robot design. Boston Dynamics was one of the early pioneers by studying not only how land animals looked, but mimicking how they move, as well. They also developed a robot cheetah before MIT did:
Rob, The intended product use of the designer and how the end user applies it to their application is what makes Disruptive Technology so fascinating. You never known how the customer will use your product. The field of robotics is an area of technology that is quite receptive to disruption.
OK, now it has a reasonable name: Bio MImimicry, which explans it all in the name. Very good. It will be quite interesting to see what uses come up for this technology.
And it is an interesting engineering direction, since good engineering proactice is to start with something that works if you can make it fit your application. So just copy the animals that most closely follow the motions that you are looking for.
Now, how can they produce that octopus with 3D printing?
There are two other robotic jellyfish we've written about: one from Virginia Tech that incorporates soft materials, although with a hard structure http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1386&doc_id=262067 and one from Harvard/Caltech that incorporates engineered tissue and silicone, which is a soft robot:
A new service lets engineers and orthopedic surgeons design and 3D print highly accurate, patient-specific, orthopedic medical implants made of metal -- without owning a 3D printer. Using free, downloadable software, users can import ASCII and binary .STL files, design the implant, and send an encrypted design file to a third-party manufacturer.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.