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Soft Robotic Structures Fold Themselves ­p in Hot Water


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Self-folding three-dimensional models of a tuna and a starfish.

University of Pennsylvania researchers have developed additive self-folding, a new approach for making compliant, controllable robotic structures.

Credit: MIT/University of York/KIST

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have developed additive self-folding, a new approach for making compliant, controllable robotic structures.

The origami-inspired technique involves creating three-dimensional (3D) shapes made out of a long strip of self-folding two-dimensional material that reacts to hot water.

The user first takes a 3D model of an object and then uses software to divide the model up into many different layers, with each layer attached to the layer above and below it with a little folding flap. The design is then printed out on a sandwich of mylar and PVC, producing a long, skinny strip consisting of connected cross sections of the 3D object. When the strip is dropped into boiling water, the PVC heats up and then shrinks wherever the mylar has been cut out.

The researchers say this technique could be used to create relatively complex robots, and it has the potential for fully autonomous fabrication.

From IEEE Spectrum
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