Researchers from the University of California and Harvard University have designed a 3-D printed robot that combines the durability of its soft parts with the stability of its harder pieces. The UFO-shaped tiny robot can leap 30 times without help from a computer or external power supply and can jump up to six times its body height.
Engineers explained that the combo between soft and hard in the robot’s bodywork is the secret that makes it such an efficient jumper. The designers said that they were inspired to make the robot by nature.
Soft robots are extremely popular nowadays especially because they last longer, are scratch-resistant, and are less likely to damage the objects, animals, and humans around them.
Yet, you cannot made a robot entirely out of soft material and expect it to be stable enough to obey your every command. The jumper robot’s internal motor, sensors and batteries are made of hard parts, engineers noted. The team explained that although soft robotics aims at creating an entirely soft robot, “for practical reasons” current soft robots have also rigid material within them.
Nevertheless, this soft robot manages to “marry the hard and soft” in the most organic way to date. It is not just another prototype designed to mix the two materials until a better prototype comes in. It is designed to get the best of both worlds, its makers argued.
Harvard engineers also explained that they drew their inspiration from mussels. The tiny animals gradually turn their bodies rigid when they try to push against an object. Otherwise they remain as squishy as they can get. The robot jumper also turns from soft to hard when performing a jump, the team noted.
The bot is made of two hemispheres. The upper one is more rigid and can go from soft to stiff within nine stages of stiffness around a solid center. The bottom, on the other hand, is soft and acts like a balloon when the oxygen and butane that fuel the robot ignite and make the bot leap. The upper hemisphere helps the jump to be more efficient and the sturdier the device is the most effective jumper it could become. But softness plays a crucial role because it shields the tiny root from dangerous collisions.
Additionally, the bottom part helps the robot land so softly that you can virtually hear it saying ‘boop!”
Image Source: Atmel (blog)