An untethered miniature origami robot that self-folds, walks, swims, and degrades

Shuhei Miyashita, Steven Guitron, Marvin Ludersdorfer, Cynthia Sung, Daniela Rus

IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation 2015

Abstract: A miniature robotic device that can fold-up on the spot, accomplish tasks, and disappear by degradation into the environment promises a range of medical applications but has so far been a challenge in engineering. This work presents a sheet that can self-fold into a functional 3D robot, actuate immediately for untethered walking and swimming, and subsequently dissolve in liquid. The developed sheet weighs 0.31 g, spans 1.7 cm square in size, features a cubic neodymium magnet, and can be thermally activated to self-fold. Since the robot has asymmetric body balance along the sagittal axis, the robot can walk at a speed of 3.8 body-length/s being remotely controlled by an alternating external magnetic field. We further show that the robot is capable of conducting basic tasks and behaviors, including swimming, delivering/carrying blocks, climbing a slope, and digging. The developed models include an acetone-degradable version, which allows the entire robot’s body to vanish in a liquid. We thus experimentally demonstrate the complete life cycle of our robot: self-folding, actuation, and degrading.