Origami microbots: Art form guides cutting-edge advances in tiny machines

By | July 31, 2020
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A new generation of micro-robotics inside Evgueni Filipov's lab at the G.G. Brown Building on North Campus. (Photo by Robert Coelius/Michigan Engineering)
A new generation of micro-robotics inside Evgueni Filipov’s lab at the G.G. Brown Building on North Campus. (Photo by Robert Coelius/Michigan Engineering)

U-M engineers create centimeter-sized robots capable of more than ever before.

Origami principles can unlock the potential of the smallest robots, enhancing speed, agility and control in machines no more than a centimeter in size.

U-M researchers have demonstrated that behavioral rules underpinning the Japanese art of folding can expand the capabilities of these machines, creating potential for greater use in fields as diverse as medical equipment and infrastructure sensing.

Their bots can form one shape, complete a task, then reconfigure into a second shape for an additional task, and so on.

To date, most microbots have limited movements, which hampers their ability to perform useful tasks. To increase their range of motion, they need to be able to fold at large angles. U-M’s team has created microbots that can fold as far as 90 degrees and more. Larger folds allow microbots to form more complex shapes.

U-M’s unique approach enables their microbots to complete their range of motion up to 80 times per second, a faster pace than most can operate.

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