A research team has created folding origami-looking robots that do not rely on semiconductors.
In the past this has been a difficult balance to find, as
rigid semiconductors cannot be placed on foldable devices. Similarly, regular computer chips are too heavy to be placed on lightweight devices. Advanced robot capabilities like analysing, sensing and responding to the environment can traditionally only be performed by these computer chips.
The team at the University of California (UCLA) got around some of these issues with innovative technology. Electrically conductive and flexible semiconductor materials embedded into a pre-cut thin polyester film sheet act as a network of transistors. Then, sensors and actuators can be integrated in.
Once the materials were cut, folded and assembled, the sheet became a robot able to sense, analyse and respond to its environment.
The UCLA Samueli School of Engineering group made three versions of the ‘OrigaMechs’ (Origami MechanoBots):
· A walking robot that can reverse if its antennae
sense an obstacle.
· A ‘Venus flytrap-like’ robot that can enclose its
‘prey’ when its jaws detect an object.
· A two-wheeled robot that can move along pre-designed
paths of geometric patterns, and can be reprogrammed.
The team hopes to make the robots autonomous with an
embedded thin-film lithium battery power source in the future. For the demonstration they were connected to a power source.
There are high hopes for the OrigaMechs and their successors in the future, since small lightweight robotics could have a wide range of uses. Its potential uses include situations involving strong magnetic or radiative fields, high electrostatic discharges, or intense radio frequencies.
These environments are usually unsuitable for regular semiconductors. The OrigaMechs can also be specially designed for functions and manufactured quickly.
The team are especially hopeful that the robots could be
used for future space missions. Weight and size are two vital factors in space cargo, so these essentially flat-pack robots could be endlessly useful.
Enter the fold
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Disclaimer: This blog is purely for informational
purposes and is not instructional.