Origami robots: the future of the flat-pack? © Getty Images

Origami robots: the future of the flat-pack?

Self-assembling shelves, coffee tables morphing into bedside cabinets – the future might build itself...

While the Transformers have dazzled young and old across decades with their shape-shifting abilities, real-life robots have so far been unable to master the art of self-assembly – up until now, that is. Scientists in the US have built a robot that’s capable of morphing from a flat sheet into an origami-like structure in a matter of minutes.

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To build the robot, the team, from Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, layered together paper, copper and a special ‘shape-memory’ polymer that’s able to change form when heated. A laser was used to cut the materials into a specific pattern set out by origami design software, ensuring that the robot flexed in all the right places. Heat-generating circuits could then trigger parts of the polymer to fold and act as hinges.


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