Harvard and MIT scientists have built soft robot muscles with origami skeletons that can lift 1,000 times their own weight.
Soft robotics has made leaps and bounds as researchers experiment with different materials and designs to allow machines to move in ways that mimic living organisms.
But increased flexibility and dexterity has a trade-off of reduced strength, as softer materials are generally not as strong or resilient as inflexible ones, which limits their use.
Scientists from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering created origami-inspired artificial muscles that, among other feats, allow robots to lift objects 1,000 times heavier than they are, according to a report from CSAIL.
In a paper published today in the journal PNAS, researchers describe a new type of soft artificial muscle that could be used to build soft robots.
Each muscle consists of a sealed bag filled with air or fluid, containing a folding origami structure that functions as the skeleton.
The fluid is used to create a pressure difference. The origami compressible skeleton regulates the outward motion. And the strong force produced is due to the tension of the flexible material.
When the pressure inside the bag is reduced using an electric pump, the whole structure collapses and contracts, just like the muscles in your arm or leg.
It may not sound like a recipe for strength, but these artificial muscles are much stronger than their human counterparts, capable of lifting 1,000 times their own weight.
The muscles which take just 10 minutes and less than $1 to create which can be programmed to move in multiple directions and have been shown to flex uninterrupted for days at a time.
“Soft robots have so much potential, but up until now, one of the limitations has been payloads,” says professor Daniela Rus, CSAIL director and lead author of the research paper.
Soft robots can grasp irregular shaped objects much like a human hand is by simply conforming to the shape of the object. The scientists say that they can program these soft robots to carry out complex motions, including twisting actions.
Here take look at this video