By Andy Choi
Did you think the traditional Japanese art of Origami was just about folding paper? Think again as new ‘Origami robots’ that are powered by air can entertain you by bending and twisting into different shapes. They can even make a grip and lift more than 100 times their own weight.
These Origami robots are made from paper and silicone rubber and may not have the advanced pneumatics that their metallic counterparts do but these soft robots are still a fine example of electronics. The imaginative robots were funded by Darpa for a project where a soft bot may be the best tool for the job.
The creators of these soft robots include Xin Chen, a chemist from the Boston University, who said that if you want to go through a winding tube or rubble or some other tough environment that’s difficult to reach, you need to be flexible. Soft robots can go a lot of places where hard robots cannot go.
Led by Professor George Whitesides the team has encased paper inside an airtight silicone elastic material. One side of the paper has tiny air channel that allow the rubber material to bend as the air goes through them.
The structures can be likened to a balloon but more complex due to the constraints that the paper imposes on the design. Folded and glued in the right spots the soft robots can be made to perform a specific action. The team showed how a crinkled clump of silicone-soaked paper was able to lift up a 2-pound weight.