AI News, Swarm of Origami Robots Can Self Assemble Out of a Single Sheet

Swarm of Origami Robots Can Self Assemble Out of a Single Sheet

Even if the robots are relatively small and relatively simple, you’re still dealing with a whole bunch of them, and every step in building the robots or letting them loose is multiplied over the entire number of bots in the swarm.

The sheet itself consists of six layers, which are all automatically laser machined: A pre-stretched polystyrene, or PSPS, layer (a kind of shape-memory polymer) in the center, sandwiched between layers of copper circuits etched into polyimide sheets, with paper substrates for support.

Otherwise, eachrobot consists of some discrete electrical components that have to be placed by hand, but according to co-author Michael Tolley, “we foresee straightforward ways to automate these steps.” Self-folding robots that use shape-memory polymers have been done before, but the challenge with them is to accurately control the folding.

To address that issue, the Harvard researchers came up with a clever feedback-controlled assembly technique byusingphototransistors and infraredLEDs to precisely measure the fold angles, “greatly improving the repeatability of self-folding,” says Tolley, whonow leads UC San Diego’sBioinspired Robotics and Design Lab.

Martin Nisser, first author on the paper, explains how it all happens: To expedite the manufacturing process of large robot collectives, the robots are fabricated as part of a single connected composite by bonding together layers of structural material, flexible circuit boards and shape memory polymer (SMP) that connects individual robots in the collective.

group of four robots (left) are fabricated on a single composite sheet held together by a layer ofshape memory polymer (SMP).The robots autonomously detach from one another (middle) by heating the SMP layer with an electrical current, andthen self-fold their “legs,” standing up in the process.