Robot Production Takes a Simplified Turn with MIT’s Interactive Robogami
Richard Adefioye posted on September 06, 2017 |
Intuitive system allows non-experts to design robots easily, quickly and cheaply.

Robotics is certainly not a new topic in the engineering world. Various individuals, groups and governments have been investing huge amounts of time and money into several research projects aimed at enhancing our ability to effectively produce robots.

However, robot production has remained a difficult and dreary process, despite the varied research efforts over the years. The whole procedure, from design to modelling, and eventually to fabricating and testing, has been known to be slow and expensive – until now! With the advent of Interactive Robogami, these limitations are sure to become history.

A full set of robots. (Image courtesy of EurekAlert.)
A full set of robots. (Image courtesy of EurekAlert.)

The Interactive Robogami is an intelligent interface that allows for the design of a robot in a matter of minutes – a feat which can be achieved even by casual users with no robotics expertise. The system contains over 50 predesigned bodies, legs, wheels and peripherals, which can be selected and combined differently based on the user’s preferences.

The system also allows for the selection of the robot’s motion patterns (gait) and overall shape (geometry), something we don’t see in other design systems, where those features are separated.

Once the preferred parameters have been enabled, the system analyzes the design and assesses its feasibility. It considers factors such as speed, weight and stability, and then makes recommendations that will ensure the proper functioning of the robot.

When the design process is complete, the robot undergoes fabrication. The fabrication process is inspired by origami. The different 2D parts are 3D-printed (as flat surfaces) and then assembled into the final shape via various joints. Two-dimensional patterns come with lightweight structures and can be produced quickly, while 3D printing offers rigidity. Thus, the printed surfaces come as very strong but lightweight materials.    

The printing and assembly of the parts can be done in less than 4 hours which is certainly a giant leap in robot manufacturing. The “print and fold” technique also resulted in a 73 percent reduction in traditional printing time and showed a 70 percent reduction in material usage.

The Interactive Robogami was presented by MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in a paper being published by International Journal of Robotics Research.

For more MIT research, learn about Modeling Fluid Flow Inside the Body.

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