Origami Robot

Origami and Robots – two things that I love.

Put them together and we seem to be on the verge of having our very own real life transformers (my preference resides with the original, not Michael Bay’s modern day efforts).

Ok, not quite as spectacular as Optimus Prime, nor does it function as much other than a flat sheet when not in robot form, but we now have something that can not only assemble itself but then walk away to do its job… without any human input!

Origami can produce stunningly complex shapes and geometry from a single sheet of paper, it’s even used more often than you might realise in science such as arranging sensors or amplifiers in particularly tight spaces, or understanding 6-dimensional spaces in Cosmology.

Inspired by the 1980s hit toy Shrinky Dinks (I remember making numerous keyrings and magnets) that, when heated, shrink to a hard finish without altering their colour or shape, scientists from Harvard and MIT now have a full electro-mechanical system.

The system consists of a flat polystyrene sheet, a flexible circuit board across each carefully designed hinge, two motors, a microcontroller and two batteries.  The microcontroller instructs the circuits to heat up which folds up the sheet, then, once cooled, the polystyrene hardens and the robot crawls off as tasked.

origami robot

The team from Harvard believes that future versions of this could help with activities from the mundane in helping people sweep leaves off their driveway to launching flat pack satelites that self-assemble into space.

Time and transport costs could also soon cost a fraction of what they are now if functional products can be shipped around as flat sheets and auto-assembled on site (a shelter for disaster zones is a perfect example).

In emergency situations or hard-to-reach places—under a crevice or pile of rubble, let’s say—the ability to deploy a compact robot that can then rearrange itself into a functional one could be a godsend.

There are still many obstacles to overcome, such as the frequency with which these prototypes catch fire due to the heat generated in folding, or the fact that the assembly alone completely drains the battery, but the future holds almost unlimited possibilities for these little guys, and all for materials that cost less than $100 (~£60).

A flat sheet of material is still a long way away from a 1967 Camaro SS or a Western Star truck cab, but given how those films usually end up that’s probably a good thing.

Read the full scientific journal here.

 

 

 

 

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3 Responses to “Origami Robot”


  1. 1 ginjuh August 10, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    I saw that online recenty – amazing.

  2. 2 Musher's August 19, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    It’s a very nice post! I always love how technology and art work together! Cool!


  1. 1 Happy Birthday Inspirational Geek! | Inspirational Geek Trackback on July 13, 2015 at 7:00 pm

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