Awesome Folding Robots


I’ll join the buzz—this is awesome.

A crew from MIT and TU Munchen continues the work on self-folding, origami based robot design, with this cool little guy, presented at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) last week.

Checking most of the boxes (it doesn’t seem to fly), the robot folds into shape form a flat sheet, actuates by a magnetic propulsion and control system, walks, swims, hauls, climbs, etc., etc. Then it dives into a pool of acetone and dissolves.

The last part is especially desirable for medical applications where a tiny robot might be injected in the body, do its job, and then you want to flush it out cleanly.

Phew. What a demo.

There are many interesting points in this work. The powering scheme (controlled by external magnets) is clever, and appropriate for some cases, including the in vivo medical implant scenario.

The flat pack to robot to dissolved former-robot demonstrates a very useful complete life cycle. Evan Ackerman says “This is the first time that a robot has been able to demonstrate a complete life cycle like this”, I’ll take his word for it. I’m impressed—this is a fabulously complete conference demo. As Ackerman says, “the delivered”. Nice work.

And, naturally, the origami inspired fold up design is awesome. So called “4D printing” is all the rage these days, though I hate the term. It’s getting to be time for me to get on the ball and really learn some origami, by gum.

I would also note that the accompanying paper is full of useful stuff (as well as the ritually required equations). I’m still working through the reference section, which has a whole bunch of cool stuff that I really want to read now.  Highly recommended.

  1. Miyashita, Shuhei, Steven Guitron, Marvin Lundersdorfer, Cynthia R. Stung, and Daniela Rus, An Untechered Miniature Origami Robot that Self-folds, Walks, Swims, and Degrades, in IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). 2015: Seattle.


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