UPenn Continues to Develop Origami Robots
Tom Spendlove posted on June 28, 2018 |

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Cynthia Sung says that over the last two decades makerspaces and additive manufacturing have become more and more prevalent, but design tool innovation hasn't kept pace with the speed of production tools. Sung is an assistant professor in the department of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics in Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science, and her research focuses on building tools for robotics.

Adriana Schulz, Cynthia Sung, Andrew Spielberg, Wei Zhao, Robin Cheng, Eitan Grinspun, Daniela Rus and Wojciech Matusik published the article Interactive robogami: An end-to-end system for design of robots with ground locomotion in the 2017 International Journal of Robotics Research. The article focused on the Interactive Robogami tool developed by the MIT team. The tool allows a user to control the geometry and gait of a virtual robot while seeing a real time simulation of how the robot will move and act. Once the user is satisfied Robogami creates files that show how the robot can be created using 3D printer technology. The program has libraries of geometry pieces and mobility pieces for users to easily create a bot onscreen - the hope was that any person could easily understand the software basics while still allowing for creativity in design. The software internally computes speed, wobbliness, slip, angle of rotation, curvature, and variance to enhance the simulation on the screen. Each degree of freedom for the robot receives one Turnigy TGY-1370A servomotor - the servos are modified to emit a position signal in addition to providing motion. The system is controlled with an Arduino board and powered by a 3.7 Volt lithium ion battery.

Sung says that the next steps of her work involve new control systems and more advanced dynamics for the robots. For robots to become integrated into society we will need highly specialized functions and better accessibility, instead of the mass produced assembly line robots we're familiar with today.

The large variety of robots built by this tool is inspiring, and seeing finished products walk across the screen in front of Sung is a great representation of what the tool can do. The only issue I can see adopting the tools in our labs is the tendency for long thin 3D printed pieces to warp, which might affect construction and assembly. Another video posted on Penn's site also shows a robot built from folded aluminum sheet. We've covered Sung and this project when she was with MIT and it's great to see the progress that has been made over the past few years.

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