Researchers design flat sheet that can fold itself into a robot, walk away

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Seth Kroll, Wyss Institute As if a brain-like processing chip weren’t bad enough news for us humans, this week’s edition of Science also describes a robot that, after being laid out as a flat sheet, can fold itself into the appropriate shape to take its on-board electronics for a walk. Why would we possibly want self-assembling, flat-packed electronics of this kind? The authors of the Science paper, who are part of a Harvard/MIT collaboration, offer two reasons. First, it’s much easier to assemble something as a planar surface. With the right layers in place, it’s simple to cut them into the appropriate shapes and then embed the electronics where they’re needed, since there’s no awkward internal spaces to deal with. The second reason is that it’s easy to transport things when they’re shaped like a sheet. Since the devices can assemble themselves, they can be shipped to any destination and used without any hassle or high-level technical knowledge. Of course, having a good idea and actually knowing how to create a self-assembling device are two different things. Fortunately, the ability to construct elaborate three-dimensional items from a flat sheet is a solved problem, thanks to origami. Software like  Origamizer  can even determine how to cut and fold a sheet in order to produce a specified three-dimensional structure. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Researchers design flat sheet that can fold itself into a robot, walk away

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