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Origami Robot Folds Itself Up, And Walks Away

Watch this amazing device in action!

Michael Cruickshank
Origami Robot Folds Itself Up, And Walks Away© 2023 Wyss Institute Harvard

We’ve seen tiny robots before, and we’ve even seen robotic 3D printers build new robots, but we have never seen a robot build itself. Until now that is…

A team of researchers from the Wyss Institute at Harvard have created a tiny robot which has the unique ability to fold itself up, and then walk away. Drawing inspiration both from the Japanese paper folding art Origami, as well as from the natural world, this robot transforms itself from a flat sheet into a form capable of walking, in less than 5 minutes.

Image: © 2014 Wyss Institute Harvard

In order to build this unique robot, the team used traditional printing and laser cutting to fabricate an electrical system directly onto a flat sheet of material. The material in question was a specialised form of plastic used in childrens toys which shrinks and folds up when exposed to heat. In this way, when a charge is applied to the structure, the robot folds itself up into a predetermined form, looking something like a cross between a spider and a crab.

This milestone comes on the back of increasing interest from scientists in the field of self-assembling structures and so-called ‘4D printing’. "Getting a robot to assemble itself autonomously and actually perform a function has been a milestone we've been chasing for many years," said senior author Rob Wood. These sort of structures would be incredibly useful in extreme environments, such as in outer space, or on the battlefield.

Watch the video below of this amazing process in action!

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