Robotics

Wheels do more than go round and round

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Science  09 Jun 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6342, pp. 1041-1042
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6342.1041-e

A variable-diameter origami wheel in prolate spheroid configuration

PHOTO: NU SOFT ROBOTICS RESEARCH CENTER

Travel on stepped, bumpy, or rocky terrain can require oversized wheels and independent power delivery to each wheel, which can necessitate a larger vehicle. Lee et al. turned to ideas from origami to design a variable-diameter wheel. By using a folded, patterned sheet, they avoided the need for complex assembly or a large number of parts. The wheels are a combination of a stiff polymer film glued to a flexible mesh, so that the difference in stiffness controls the shape change. The wheel can double in diameter, with a corresponding reduction in thickness that allows a two-wheeled robot to climb steps, pass under a low ledge, and go through narrow gaps.

Soft Robot. 10.1089/soro.2016.0038 (2017).

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