Analysts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have generated a variety of origami-inspired artificial muscles that can boost up to a thousand times their weight and still be dexterous enough to grasp and raise a delicate flower. The devices, detailed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, proposed a distinct way to give soft robots super-strength, which could be utilised entirely from inside our bodies to outer space.
Formerly, robots have been made of metal and different hard materials because it gives them durability. But robots also require being made out of soft, flexible parts to deal with hard-to-reach places, navigate the variable environment and securely interact with people. So experts have frequently tried to make robots with soft parts. In prehistoric times, those bits were relegated to a hard robot’s outsides, primarily as padding. But scientists are more building robots whose other significant parts are soft recently going so far as to create an octopus-inspired robot.
Roboticist Daniela Rus, director of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and Computer Science and the research’s senior writers, said that we’d been occupied in soft robots for a long time because they were safe, because they were submissive and because they can deal with uncertainty. They were stable and secure to control. But there’s been one significant disadvantage to soft-bodied robots that unlike robots made out of hard materials, they’re not individually power-lifters.
Rus stated that what we wanted is soft, safe, compliant robots that have strength, which have the properties that are now possible with hard-bodied systems. This way we had the best of both worlds. Rus and her colleagues resolved this difficulty by drawing upon origami methods, which have lately proved useful for making many kinds of robots. Origami techniques have the potential to design many complex designs at low cost because they utilize small amounts of material and surprisingly easy processes.
For this work, the specialists used origami techniques to produce muscle-like structures that could provide a limb flexibility but still enable it to move without needing any hard parts. They designed folded structures specifically meant to shorten, curl, twist or bend into specific shapes when they were compressed. The researchers sealed those extended folded structures in a bag of polymer “skin” and filled them with air or another fluid. When a vacuum sucked the liquid out, the origami structure squeezed together, contorting into the shape determined by its folding patterns.
The investigators found that some origami muscles could compress down to a tenth of their real size, or lift up to a thousand times their weight. They could generate approximately six times as much force per unit of area as mammalian muscle.
All fold patterns can only move in one way, but Rus declared many different models could be connected to a multifunctional robot, like an origami Swiss Army knife. These robotic limbs could be accepted at small scales, possibly to do repair work inside of our bodies. They could be beneficial at large scales, for manufacturing in outer space. They could allow wearable exoskeletons for lifting large objects or be sent to probe deep-sea environments. They could even do the various deceptively mundane tasks such as raising a heavy carton of milk or a bunch of grapes without crushing them. A more human-scale proof of concept could be next on the to-build list, the scientist said.