A research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering has developed a robot that assembles itself within four minutes from a flat sheet into a 3D (three-dimensional) moving structure. Unlike previous self-folding machines, the robot can function autonomously. Science published the study this Friday.
Also on Friday, Science published a report of a Cornell University-led research team on applications of origami in design of programmable metamaterials.
As The Guardian reported, MIT–Harvard team lead author Sam Felton, a Harvard University Ph.D. candidate, priced the manufacturing equipment for the robot at $3,000, which could then make each individual unit — a 13cm-long, Transformer-like robot — for about $100.
As described by MIT researchers, the initially flat sheet consists of five layers: copper wires in the middle, then two layers of paper (above and below), and two outer layers of shape memory polymer. The embedded heating circuits activate the robot’s self-folding by heating shape memory polymers at the hinges. The parameters defining the fold pattern which determines the final 3D shape are placement of the self-folding hinges, and the order of their triggering. Felton told about creation of the pattern: “Cyclic folds are used by a software program called ‘Origamizer’ as building blocks to create any polyhedron. We’ve discovered that we can […] create a wide variety of structures and machines.”
Once the battery is attached to the design, the robot folds itself into the pre-determined shape and walks away, with motion of the four-legged robot controlled by the included microprocessor and two small motors synchronised by it. Each of the four legs has eight “linkages” which convert the force applied by a motor into motion. “It lets you transfer just one degree of freedom into a whole complicated motion, all through the mechanics of the structure,” says coauthor Erik Demaine, MIT professor of computer science and engineering.
Read more: wikinews.org