Soft robot “muscles” draw inspiration from origami

December 11th, 2017 / By: / Out There

Wyss Institute, Harvard University

Researchers from the Wyss Institute, Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed origami-inspired robot muscles that can lift up to 1,000 times their own weight.

According to TechCrunch, the researchers say that the new, soft, robotic artificial muscles can be constructed in as little as 10 minutes and are made with readily available materials that can cost less than a dollar.  “Now that we have created actuators with properties similar to natural muscle, we can imagine building almost any robot for almost any task,” Rob Wood, professor of engineering said.

The robotic muscles are encased in a plastic or textile outer skin, aiding their flexibility. The origami-like design means the muscles fold into programmable patterns, which creates space-efficiency. System controls use air or water pressure to give the muscles’ actuators strength enough to lift up to 1,000 times their own weight. The actuators may prove to be a simpler framework for a robot by concentrating on a limited number of movements rather than imagining infinite possibilities.

Potential applications for the technology are broad including for medical assistance devices, industrial robotics, space exploration and various wearable exoskeletons.