Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have made a soft robot that can crawl like a snake without having any rigid parts.
Kirigami, an ancient Japanese papercraft that relies on cuts to change the properties of a material, as compared to the folds of origami, have been used to make the soft robotic scales.
When the robot stretches, the flat kirigami surface will be transformed into a 3D-textured surface and it will grip the ground just like snakeskin.
Snakes are actually capable of slithering up to 14 miles per hour They can also squeeze into a tight space, climb trees and swim. This is all possible because of the scales they have.
These all-terrain soft robots could one day travel across difficult environments for exploration, inspection, monitoring and search and rescue missions or perform complex, laparoscopic medical procedures.
Experiment with various cuts
The researchers have started making the robot skin with a simple flat plastic sheet. They have placed in a line of centimeter-scale cuts, using a laser cutter. The researchers then wrapped the sheet around an elastomer actuator which was like a tube once the cuts were made.
Opens door for new soft robots
The researchers have built a fully independent robot. It has integrated onboard control, sensing, actuation and power supply in a small tail. The robot has been tested crawling throughout Harvard’s campus.
The team experimented with various-shaped cuts, which included triangular, circular and trapezoidal. They found out that trapezoidal cuts gave the robot a longer stride because they most closely resemble the shape of snake scales.
“We show that the locomotive properties of these kirigami-skins can be harnessed by properly balancing the cut geometry and the actuation protocol,” said Rafsanjani.
“Moving forward, these components can be further optimized to improve the response of the system,” said Katia Bertoldi, the senior author of the paper. “We believe that our kirigami-based strategy opens avenues for the design of a new class of soft crawlers.”
Source Credit: Interesting Engineering