Origami inspires technique to ‘clone’ robo-insects

February 17th, 2012 - 5:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 17 (IANS) Elegant pop-up books and origami are inspiring a new technique to ‘clone’ tiny robo-insects by their dozens from a single sheet.

Designed by Harvard engineers, the flexible hinges allow the product, just 2.4 mm tall and as big as a US quarter, to assemble in one movement, like a pop-up book.

“These microbots are built out of a single sheet of composite materials comprising 18 layers of carbon fibre, kapton (plastic film), titanium, brass, ceramic and adhesive sheets, laminated in a laser-cut design,” the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering reports.

“This takes what is a craft, an artisanal process, and transforms it for automated mass production,” says Pratheev Sreetharan, who co-developed the technique with J. Peter Whitney, doctoral candidates at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

Sreetharan and Whitney along with their colleagues have been working for years in the Harvard Microbiotics Lab at SEAS to build bio-inspired, bee-sized robots that can fly and behave autonomously as a colony, according to a Harvard statement.

Appropriate materials, hardware, control systems, and fabrication techniques did not exist prior to the “RoboBees project”, so each must be invented, developed, and integrated by a diverse team of researchers.

“Our new techniques allow us to use any material, including polymers, metals, ceramics, and composites,” says principal investigator Rob Wood, associate professor of electrical engineering at SEAS.

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