Robot Self-Assembly by Folding: A Printed Inchworm Robot

Samuel M. Felton, Michael T. Tolley, Cagdas D. Onal, Daniela Rus, and Robert J. Wood

IEEE Int. Conf. on Robotics and Automation (ICRA)

 Abstract—Printing and folding are fast and inexpensive methods for prototyping complex machines. Self-assembly of the folding step would expand the possibilities of this method to include applications where external manipulation is costly, such as micro-assembly, mass production, and space applications. This paper presents a method for self-folding of printed robots from two-dimensional materials based on shape memory polymers actuated by joule heating using embedded circuits. This method was shown to be capable of sequential folding, angle-controlled folds, slot-and-tab assembly, and mountain and valley folds. An inchworm robot was designed to demonstrate the merits of this technique. Upon the application of sufficient current, the robot was able to fold into its functional form with fold angle deviations within six degrees. This printed robot demonstrated locomotion at a speed of two millimeters per second.