Robots — they grow up so fast. First, all they want is to be tethered and have roboticists and engineers put them together and tighten their screws. These days, robots are behaving like rebellious teenagers. They might as well being saying “Leave me alone, I can assemble myself.”
Researchers from Harvard and MIT recently teamed up too create a 3D-printed inchworm robot that can assemble itself. Shape memory polymers — materials that automatically fold into designated shapes — were used so that the robot can transform itself from a flat, two-dimensional object into an inch-worm-like robot, which folds along two hinges. The only human intervention needed used was to attach a motor and battery.
Sam Felton, a grad student in Harvard’s Microrobotics Laboratory, said his team is aiming to make robots that can be printed as quickly and cheaply as possible. “The goal of this specific project,” he said in this YouTube video, “is to design them so they can fold themselves, because often we have these complicated robots that can take up to an hour to fold.”
Felton went on to say that the next step will be building a more complicated robot that can build itself and walk away. Future generations of the robot, he says, will come pre-assembled with batteries and motors.
Researchers demonstrated the self-folding robot this week at the International Conference on Robots and Automation in Germany.
Credit: Harvard’s Microrobotics Laboratory