Researchers develop crawling robot inspired by origami technique

The team used origami paper folding principles to construct and actuate mechanisms and machines for small, scalable, and cheap robots.

0 September 21, 2017
Staff

Illinois robot origami

Assistant professors Aimy Wissa and Sameh Tawfick, along with graduate student Alexander Pagano and undergraduates Tongxi Yan, and Brian Chien helped on the project. Photo courtesy of University of Illinois College of Engineering

Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed the latest crawling robot inspired by origami paper folding techniques.

The student-professor team used this origami method to construct and actuate mechanisms and machines for possible integration with small, scalable robots that can be produced cheaply.

Assistant professors Aimy Wissa and Sameh Tawfick, along with graduate student Alexander Pagano and undergraduates Tongxi Yan, and Brian Chien, were inspired by nature’s flexible plants and creatures that are able to move their bodies in fast, snapping motions. The team beleives that this enables them to save energy while moving at fast pace needed to survive.

“The robot uses origami building blocks to mimic the gait and metameric properties of earthworms and directional material design to mimic the function of the setae on earthworms that prevents backward slipping,”  Wissa said.

The team explored the concept of using the Kresling crease pattern of origami, which is a chiral tower with a polygonal base. This origami tower couples its expansion and contraction to longitudinal and rotational motion, similar to a screw, and they used buckling instabilities to accomplish a large-stroke snapping motion from small inputs.

In order to put this concept into action the team designed a skeleton structure made from the buckling origami tower as a mechanism to transform motor rotation to fast expansion and contraction of the worm robot, enabling a crawling gait. It can go forward and turn left and right using repeated expansion and contraction.

“The ability to produce a functional and geometrically complex 3D mechanical system from a flat sheet introduces exciting opportunities in the field of robotics for remote, autonomously deployable systems or low cost integrated locomotion,” they wrote.

The team believes the design can also be used in manipulations, booms, and active structures.

“The work presented in this paper leverages the team’s expertise in the design of architectured materials and bio-inspired robotics,” Wissa said. “We plan to continue to build on our findings to design, model, and test bio-inspired modular robots capable of multiple modes of locomotion.”

The research was published as an invited paper in Smart Materials and Structures.

engineering.illinois.edu


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