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USA: Robotics Slithering Robots Inspired by Kirigami

| Editor: Alexander Stark

A team of researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (Seas) has developed a soft robot that uses those same principles of locomotion to crawl without any rigid components. The soft robotic scales are made using kirigami — an ancient Japanese paper craft that relies on cuts, rather than origami folds, to change the properties of a material.

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This soft robot is made using kirigami — an ancient Japanese paper craft that relies on cuts, rather than origami folds, to change the properties of a material.
This soft robot is made using kirigami — an ancient Japanese paper craft that relies on cuts, rather than origami folds, to change the properties of a material.
(Source: Ahmad Rafsanjani/Harvard Seas)

Cambridge/USA — With their sleek bodies, snakes can slither up to 14 miles-per-hour, squeeze into tight space, scale trees and swim. How do they do it? It’s all in the scales. As a snake moves, its scales grip the ground and propel the body forward — similar to how crampons help hikers establish footholds in slippery ice. This so-called friction-assisted locomotion is possible because of the shape and positioning of snake scales.

Ahmad Rafsanjani, a postdoctoral fellow at Seas and first author of the paper, 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.”