This Tiny Self-Folding Origami Robot can Walk, Swim and Degrade
A miniature robotic device that can fold-up on the spot, accomplish tasks, and disappear by degradation into the environment promises a range of medical applications but has so far been a challenge in engineering.
This work presents a sheet that can self-fold into a functional 3D robot, actuate immediately for untethered walking and swimming, and subsequently dissolve in liquid.
In the video below you can see this remarkable robotic breakthrough in action.
“An Untethered Miniature Origami Robot That Self-folds, Walks, Swims, and Degrades” by Shuhei Miyashita, Steven Guitron, Marvin Ludersdorfer, Cynthia R. Sung, and Daniela Rus from MIT and TU Munich, was presented last week at ICRA 2015 in Seattle.
ICRA is the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society’s flagship conference and is a premier international forum for robotics researchers to present their work. The 2015 conference was held from May 26-30, 2015 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, Washington, USA.
The developed sheet weighs 0.31g, spans 1.7 cm square in size, features a cubic neodymium magnet, and can be thermally activated to self-fold.
Since the robot has asymmetric body balance along the sagittal axis, the robot can walk at a speed of 3.8 body-length/s being remotely controlled by an alternating external magnetic field. [source]
The robot is controlled using an external magnetic field exerted by embedded coils underneath the robot. Equipped with just one permanent magnet, the robot features a lightweight body yet can perform many tasks reliably despite its simplicity.
The minimal body materials enable the robot to completely dissolve in a liquid environment, a difficult challenge to accomplish if the robot had a more complex architecture. [source]
The robot is capable of conducting basic tasks and behaviors, including swimming, delivering/carrying blocks, climbing a slope, and digging. This study is the first to demonstrate that a functional robotic device can be created and operated from the material level, promising versatile applications including use in vivo.
The team’s future work involves combining the conductive robot body with self-folding sensors to achieve a higher level of autonomy and more versatility in function. [source]