Cool Jumping Robot

An interesting jumping robot from Nicholas Bartlett and colleagues at Harvard and UCSD. Is this “biomimetic” locomotion? Probably.

But the authors are more interested in the skeletal material, which is a continuous gradient from rigid to flexible. As they note, “many animals employ stiffness gradients to join rigid materials and soft structures”, or as Evan Ackerman put it, “This kind of flexibility gradient is something that animals have been doing since there were animals, but it’s new to robots”.

I.e., biomimetic design.

This effect is achieved in nature by self assembly. The roboticists used multimaterial 3D printing, which is a bit fancier than most hobbiest printers, but basically the same idea. The parts were printed out in layers with different degrees of squishiness, letting the base of the feet be soft, while the top of the body is rigid, with no sudden discontinuity between.

Of course, the locomotion itself is cool, pushing off with the sudden inflation of a membrane, driven by a small explosion of butane.

I’m not at all clear on what the target use case or environment would be for this locomotion, but it’s interesting. Simple. Not many moving parts.


  1. Bartlett, Nicholas W., Michael T. Tolley, Johannes T. B. Overvelde, James C. Weaver, Bobak Mosadegh, Katia Bertoldi, George M. Whitesides, and Robert J. Wood, A 3D-printed, functionally graded soft robot powered by combustion. Science, 349 (6244):161-165, July 10, 2015 2015.


Robot Wednesday

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