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 news.harvard.edu

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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