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article imageSuper-fast origami-inspired robot

By Tim Sandle     Jan 21, 2018 in Technology
It's small but fast. Researchers have developed a miniaturized origami-inspired robot that can combine micrometer precision with high speed.
The new millimeter-scale robot comes from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard. The development could open up new avenues for microsurgery, microassembly and micromanipulation. The robot is a type of "Delta Robot", so-called because it has three individually controlled and lightweight arms. The key design feature is the use of parallelograms in the arms, which maintains the orientation of the end effector.
Officially called the milliDelta robot, but dubbed "Zippy" by the developers, the device integrates a different type of microfabrication technique (compared with equivalent developments) along with high-performance composite materials. These materials can incorporate flexural joints and bending actuators, making the device ideal for medical applications.
The milliDelta has been shown, in trials, to function with high speed, relatively great force, and micrometer precision. The idea is to apply these concepts to the various types of micromanipulation tasks required for surgery and also for different steps in manufacturing.
The new development was created by a team led by Dr. Robert Wood. Dr. Wood was inspired by pop-up books and origami. This led to the the assembly of robots from flat sheets of composite materials. In a statement the researcher explains: "The physics of scaling told us that bringing down the size of Delta robots would increase their speed and acceleration, and pop-up microelectromechanical systems manufacturing with its ability to use any material or combination of materials seemed an ideal way to attack this problem."
The key success is that the milliDelta utilizes piezoelectric actuators. This enable the device to perform movements at frequencies 15 to 20 times higher than those of other currently available Delta robots.
The robot has been discussed in the journal Science Robotics. The research paper is titled "The milliDelta: A high-bandwidth, high-precision, millimeter-scale Delta robot."
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