Folding Robot: Battery-free, Wire-less and Paper-thin
Robots will no longer look bulky occupying ample of space, says a new breakthrough, in July 2017, made in field of robotic designing involving the traditional Japanese art of origami.
A team of researchers Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) at Harvard University have taken inspiration from the origami art which transforms paper into 3D shapes with specific folds and crimps, to design a new robot. They have created folding robots that are battery-free, capable of complex, repeatable movements functioning without wires. These robots are controlled by a magnetic field, which is generated by basic passive electronic components as part of the structure of these robots.
These robots are flat and thin, similar to a paper use in the art of origami. They have plastic tetrahedrons, with three outer triangles hinged to the central triangle, while the central triangle has a small circuit. Coils made of shape-memory alloy (SMA) are attached to the hinges, enabling the recovery after deformation by heating them to a certain temperature. When the robot is bent, the hinges lie flat stretching out the coil in the deformed state. When an electric current passes through the circuit, the coils get heated and springing back to the original state, folding the outer triangles towards the center. Similarly, when the current flow is stopped, the SMA coils are stretched back out as the hinges get stiff, causing the outer triangles to lower down.
A resonator was built inside each coil unit tuning it to respond to only a specific range of electromagnetic frequency. The robot was able to bend and grasp objects independently, by simply changing the frequency of its magnetic field which was generated by the external coil.
“Not only are our robots’ folding motions repeatable, we can control when and where they happen, which enables more complex movements,” explains lead author Mustafa Boyvat.
These battery-free, wireless, paper-thin robots can replace the uncomfortable process of endoscopy in the near future. Micro-robots could be swallowed by patients instead, which would help in tissue holding and filming, all functioning with the help of a coil outside the body. Thus advantaging the future of medical surgery.
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