A new soft robot developed at Harvard can slither at up to 14 miles per hour after engineers were inspired by the movement of snakes.
A team from the university’s John A Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) used the Japanese paper crafting skill kirigami to create synthetic, robotic scales used for grip and to propel the robot forward, in much the same way the reptiles do.
Kirigami relies on a range of small, precise cuts to create the desired pattern, rather than the folds used in origami.
The result is a set of scales that, as the robot stretches turn from a flat surface into a textured one, able to grip the ground like snake skin.
Author of the paper and postdoctoral fellow at SEAS Ahmad Rafsanjani said: “There has been a lot of research in recent years into how to fabricate these kinds of morphable, stretchable structures.
“We have shown that kirigami principles can be integrated into soft robots to achieve locomotion in a way that is simpler, faster and cheaper than most previous techniques.”
For their project, the researchers used a plastic sheet and a laser cutter to create their kirigami scales, then wrapping the sheet around an elastomer actuator, which expands and contracts air like a balloon.
A wireless robot was then built into the tail of the bot, which was tested around the Harvard campus.
The research is published in Science Robotics.