Origami is a Japanese art of paper folding. And rightfully taking inspiration from it, MIT researchers presented an Origami Robot that is foldable and can be driven around by creating magnetic fields on water or land.

The robot is made from strategically laser-cut paper and weighs just 0.31 g. Like any human being, the Origami Robot has a complete lifecycle and its life is over when you deem its work is done. When the time comes, command it to land in a drum full of acetone and it will dissolve.

Foldable Origami Robot:

Foldable Origami Robot

MIT researchers presented the idea at ICRA 2015 under the title, ‘An Untethered Miniature Origami Robot’ and delivered what they all promised. It is the first time ever that a robot has lifecycle and is a miniscule version.

The robot is made of PVC and magnet. When placed on a heating element, the structural layers of PVC start contracting and folding. Within a minute, you have a robot raring to go at the speed of 3 and 4 cm/s.

The electromagnetic coil system within the layers drives the machine. The motor is in two parts: a cubic neodymium permanent magnet that drives the robot to fold and as four electromagnetic coils in the surface that provide the electromagnetic ambience the robot needs to drive itself on land and water.

The magnetic field created by the coils stays on and off, which directs the robot to oscillate and drive forward. While a magnet could have oscillated like that in a magnetic field, a robot can perform task in a better way.

Foldable Origami Robot 3

You can configure as many folding processes as you want. All you have to do is to turn up the heat on the heating pad and you can see different folding stages being unfolded in front of your eyes.

Upon the completion of the task or when you are done toying with it, the acetone will dissolve it barring the magnet. The researchers have confirmed that it is possible to create a water-soluble robot too in the coming years. They also have indicated that the idea of a robot with self-folding sensors and capable of autonomous operation inside a human’s body is not entirely impossible.


The research paper “An Untethered Miniature Origami Robot That Self-folds, Walks, Swims, and Degrades,” was presented by Cynthia R. Sung, Daniela Rus, Marvin Ludersdorfer, Shuhei Miyashita and Steven Guitron from TU Munich and MIT at ICRA.


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