Harvard's Origami Robot Moves So Fast A Camera Can't Even Catch It


Named the milliDelta, the robot could be used to correct surgeons' hand tremors. Harvard

Meet the world's smallest – and cutest – new member of the robot family.

The milliDelta is also the fastest and most precise robot of its kind and boasts high speed and precision. It moves so quickly – up to 75 motions a second – that on camera it’s just a blur.


What sets the milliDelta apart is the engineering behind it. Industrial robots have motors located in the joints, but delta robots are controlled by motors in a central base station. Their arms are shaped like a triangle, are extremely lightweight, and don’t require much force.

Reported in Science Robotics, the little guy was developed by Robert Wood’s team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

The team was inspired by origami and pop-up books after it developed a micro-fabrication approach in 2011. Pop-up MEMS, as they’re now known, are essentially robots made from flat sheets of composite materials that use dynamic engineering to move around, walk, or even fly away.

“The physics of scaling told us that bringing down the size of Delta robots would increase their speed and acceleration, and pop-up MEMS manufacturing with its ability to use any material or combination of materials seemed an ideal way to attack this problem,” said Wood in a statement.


Delta robots were invented way back in the 1980s and were used for “pick and place” work which, just like it sounds, involved picking things off of a conveyer belt and putting them in a place.

Like its predecessors, the milliDelta can also do pick and place tasks but on a much smaller scale. The milliDelta is about the size of a penny, measuring just 15 millimeters by 15 millimeters, making it ideal for putting together computer boards.

Because of its high speed, force, and micrometer precision, researchers say they can also assist in delicate medical operations, like a tremor-counteracting end-effector for eye surgery. It could be placed on the end of a surgical tool and use its movements to cancel out the natural wobbles of a surgeon’s hand.

The researchers think the robots could be added to existing robotic devices or be developed as standalone devices.


Aw, isn’t it cute?



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