A presentation at this week's IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation in Germany showed off a self-assembling printed robot.
As the video below shows, the printed robot can self-assemble using the “shape memory” characteristics of the polymers in its construction.
The result is something that starts flat and – with just a little human intervention to add the battery and motor – ends up in a shape that's able to move, inchworm-style, by bending and straightening its body.
The researchers, Samuel Felton, Michael Thomas and Robert Wood from Harvard and Cagdas Onal and Daniela Rus from MIT, explain in the abstract of the ICRA presentation that with a current applied to the two-dimensional structure, it was able to to fold itself “into its functional form with fold angle deviations within six degrees”.
Their method demonstrated sequential folding, angle-controlled folds, slot-and-tab assembly, and mountain-and-valley folds.
Fortunately, it won't be hard to escape our inchworm robot overlords. This demonstration can only manage “locomotion at a speed of two millimetres per second.” ®