Researchers Make Robots Out of Paper


Aug 29, 2017

A team of researchers from the University of Illinois Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering has made a pair of crawling robots, Peri and Poly, out of little more than a sheet of paper, a few 3D printed parts, and a handful of screws.

The researchers used origami paper folding to create cheap robots that move like earthworms.

Poly is 51 mm wide and uses a pair of origami towers that expand and contract when twisted to make the worm robot crawl forward. The robot has directional feet made of hard plastic and rubber. The 3D-printed toes allow the robot to slide forward while the rubber heal stops it from backsliding. This particular example of bio-mimicry was inspired by the setae on earthworms.

Peri is more than twice the size, and fully mobile. Peri is 106 mm wide and runs on batteries unlike the Poly, which is tethered to the power source. Peri also uses on-board controllers to navigate.

Now, this isn't your run of the mill paper-folding. The team used a laser cutter to cut out the origami towers and external bellows. The faceplates were 3D printed as well, but the team essentially proved that you can make a simple, autonomous robot out of little more than sheet of paper.

The team is working to expand into new forms of locomotion, as well as new materials, perhaps cardboard, or construction paper, so they can add a splash of color. Maybe something in blue and orange.