Felton added that "traditional manufacturing requires expensive machinery, and 3D printing is too slow for mass production, but planar composites can be rapidly built with inexpensive tools like laser cutters and etch tanks, and then folded into functional machines. Such manufacturing methods would be ideal for producing 100-1000 units."
"These robots are inexpensive and [their] layered composites can be built faster than equivalent 3-D printed structures," Felton continued.
The researchers, who collaborated with colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, created their robot by using parts and materials that are readily available, such as a shape-memory polymer and self-folding hinges. The hinges feature embedded heating circuits that created the heat necessary to activate the folding. The placement of these hinges in the composite, and the order in which they are triggered create a fold pattern that determines the final shape of the 3-D structure, the study reports.
3-D design software that generated detailed crease patterns in the polymer material automated the folding process. It formed creases that became connected in cyclic folds, or a collection of creases.
"Cyclic folds are used by a software program called 'Origamizer' as building blocks to create any polyhedron," explained Felton. "We've discovered that we can [use this approach] to create a wide variety of structures and machines."
In this case, the stiffness and type of the folds raised the robot's body, which propelled the legs to angle downward.
Potential uses for these self-folding, functional machines incl
|Contact: Natasha D. Pinol|
American Association for the Advancement of Science