News / Science & Technology

'Origami Robot' Folds Itself to Life

'Origami Robot' Folds Itself to Lifei
X
August 08, 2014 12:45 PM
Scientists at Harvard University are taking the art of paper folding to a new dimension, with origami-inspired designs that robots can follow to assemble themselves. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
[mayoung] Robot Self Assembly Web_Central News 16x9 WGhost impo
Rosanne Skirble

Origami can turn a flat sheet of paper into complex 3-D shapes like birds and flowers and frogs. Scientists at Harvard University's Microrobotics Lab are taking the art of paper folding to a new dimension with origami inspired designs that robots can follow to assemble themselves.

Graduate student Sam Felton's latest project is a six-legged creature with a body about 18 cm wide and 15 cm long that looks like a tiny crab. He explains that the goal was to make robots as quickly and cheaply as possible.

"And so we looked to origami in order to find ways to create a very complex and functional machine. Mathematically, origami can create almost anything you want. But the trick is to actually get it to happen in real life with real materials.”  

To make that happen, Felton starts with shape memory polymers. These are flat plastic sheets that change shape in response to heat.They combine that with other materials, including paper, which provides extra stiffness and stability as the process unfolds.

Electronics embedded between the layers are programmed to kick the folding action into gear, triggered by an on-board battery.  

Felton explained, “we supplied these with current, much like you would supply a light bulb with current, and that heats up that local area to above 100 degrees Celsius. Once it hits 100 degrees Celsius, the shape memory polymers shrink and that pulls on the paper causing it to fold over.”  

The operation starts within ten seconds

“And as soon as that brain is told to start running, it goes through the process of telling each circuit to turn on or off and once it knows it’s assembled, it tells the robot to walk forward.”

The whole process takes four minutes.

This is the first time that the robot is doing everything on its own, Felton says.

“What we’ve shown here is that you can embed all these systems onto an autonomous robot and cause it to control its own folding. In previous examples there has always been an operator behind to flip the switch to supply the electricity.  In this case it’s flipping its own switch.”  

Writing in the journal Science, Felton says the process allows researchers to quickly produce complex robots that are scalable to different sizes and strong for their weight.  The ability to be shipped flat in large quantities makes them especially valuable.

Felton sees applications for the self-assembling robots in confined spaces, such as collapsed building, where they could be used in search and rescue missions. He also sees possibilities in outer space.

“I like to think about assembling in space. If you could send a ream of flat sheets up, that then turn themselves into satellites or even send that ream to another planet and have it turn itself into a new base.”

Here's a video showing the robot at work:

 

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: riano baggy from: ina
August 17, 2014 4:38 AM
so cool, we product mass robot like automobile used line system, it is easy because use mirror system. Maybe used nano materials for fold any degrees. But it is problem when not symmetry shapes.
It is easy to carry materials, like experiment robot in spacecraft
because not used big room and will build itself when arrive another planets.

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
August 12, 2014 7:57 PM
How cool!

by: Anonymous
August 08, 2014 3:35 PM
What a time to be ALIVE!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs