k11_origami_experience_kyotoA collaboration between researchers at Harvard SEAS, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Wyss Institute has led to the development of a self-assembling robot.

The new design was detailed in a study, called ‘A method for building self-folding machines’, reported in the journal Science .

It relies upon the power of origami – the ancient Japanese art whereby a single sheet of paper can be folded into complex structures.

They used computer design tools which facilitate the optimal design and fold pattern.

After about 40 prototypes, they found one that could actually fold itself up and walk away. The sheet was then fabricated using a solid ink printer, a laser machine.

The robot cost just $100, and was manufactured from batteries, motors and a microcontroller. Once the circuitry, batteries and microcontroller are integrated, the microcontroller sends signals to circuits within the design’s hinge regions.

The heat emitted from the circuits then triggers the shape-memory polymer to fold along the predetermined hinge regions. After the material cools, the robot is then free to carry out its primary function of walking.

“We started with a flat sheet, to which they added two motors, two batteries and a microcontroller – which acts like the robot’s brain,” Sam Felton, lead author from Harvard University’s school of engineering and applied sciences (SEAS), said.

It is expected that these machines will one day lead to development of more advanced robots that can be deployed at disaster zones.

The researchers see the robots proving useful as “on-demand” machines that could detect gas leaks and provide aids during other emergencies. This small lightweight type of robot could explore outer space and other dangerous environments, and get into cramped places for search-and-rescue missions, researchers said.

Source: News Tonight