In June GFR reported on robots that use shape-changing origami wheels to get around, and in the past few weeks, researchers have made even greater strides when it comes to integrating the art of folding into their robots. Scientists from Harvard and MIT (of course) have created an origami robot that can self-assemble from a flat pack and then run away.
As anyone who’s decent at origami knows, you can actually devise a pretty sophisticated structure via folding. The scientists used this potential, along with inspiration from natural systems (flower petals, proteins and amino acids, etc.) to create their robot. They laser-printed flat composites of the design, which can be punched out of paper and folded. They program the composite, basically telling it where, how, and how much to hinge and fold, and then battery power allows it to assemble itself in roughly four minutes. The same research group previously devised robots that could self-assemble from similar materials when heated, but this model delivers heat to the robots’ folding parts via electricity, not an oven.