Self-Folding Robots May Open New Doors
As a student, roboticist Robert Wood became fascinated with developing a flying bee machine that could monitor hazardous environments without risking human lives.
Wood developed a system to cut materials into shapes and fold them into insect-sized parts, but because the structures were so small, the folding was tremendously difficult and imprecise.
Then he thought ‘Why not get the bees to fold themselves?’ Inspired by the engineering in pop-up books, he began investigating ways to get the pieces to swing into place on their own.
Wood and his colleagues have since developed a number of prototypes, combining layers of rigid materials and electronics that self-fold into miniature aerial machines.
And applications for their research go far beyond flying machines. Scientists are investigating ways to use self-folding to add surgical robots to catheters to remove polyps or cauterize tumors and self-folding also holds promise for delivering drugs into the human body.