The Popular Edge, Pop-Up and Book Arts News

February 22, 2012

Pop-Up Inspired Micro-Robotics

Filed under: paper engineering, pop-up books — Tags: , , — popularkinetics @ 8:43 pm

Pratheev Sreetharan and his team of engineers at Harvard’s Microbiotics Lab had a problem. They were trying to produce very small flying micro robots (about the size of a bee). However, building such miniscule pieces of technology was fraught with difficulties. “You’d take a very fine tungsten wire and dip it in a little bit of superglue,” explains Sreetharan. “Then, with that tiny ball of glue, you’d go in under a microscope like an arthroscopic surgeon and try to stick it in the right place.”

The solution to their dilemma was inspired by a study of origami and pop-up books. They constructed a flat sandwich of 18 layers of different materials (plastic film, carbon fiber, titanium, etc.). Then, utilizing a series of movable hinges, they folded the tiny circuit board to “pop” the robot into three-dimensional form. To watch a film of the process, go to

The robots might be used in the future for weather observations, traffic monitoring, emergency rescue, and more disturbingly, surveillance. Let’s hope this interesting pop-up application “does no evil.”

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