In Brief: MIT Origami Robot Walks Away from Laser Cutter

By Norman Chan

Just add batteries.

MIT roboticists have had a storied history with experimental transforming robots. There are the tiny caterpillar-like robots with a motorized design inspired by proteins, as well as the self-assembling M-blocks that use flywheels to spin into place. Even the concept of origami robots have their origins at MIT's labs. But the latest folding robots--with parts all cut from a laser cutter--actually self-fold and can walk right off the laser bed (after a battery is connected to the single motor, of course). Developed in conjunction with Harvard University, the origami robot assembles and moves using a principle called the "one-degree-of-freedom-structure," in which one crank moves the system of linkages to enact the walking movement, much like a Strandbeest design. The self-folding is made possible by use of shape-memory polymer in its joints, which fold when heated. And the electronics of the robot are all embedded in the robot's five layers of materials, including a network of copper leads sandwiched between two layers of paper and the memory polymer.