The Printed Robots of Tomorrow

Posted on June 26, 2006

An interesting article on OhmyNews looks at the concept of printable robots. These futuristic functional robots could be printed out using a personal computer and printer.

So when will we be able to swap out the ink cartridges in our home printers and print out our own robot? How close are we to being able to print out a robot on a flat sheet of paper, fold along the dotted lines and have it move under its own power?

"Such a capability is somewhat years away and it is difficult to predict how soon. Someone is going to be the first to make such robots and I am not sure if it is not already being investigated," Dr. Bar-Cohen said.

If under development, it is certainly being done behind closed doors and under a tight veil of secrecy to gain an edge on the competition.

And when printable robots do become available there will likely be an open source community to help you design and program your origami robot. Creating the design for the robot requires not only some knowledge of paper folding techniques but also the ability to engineer paper forms capable of locomotion once the power, control and drive elements are printed onto it. If the creation just lies on its back and moves its legs in the air, it is not much of a robot.

The article explains how developments in 3-D printing, flexonics and EAP materials science could lead to a world where printed robots are reality. Once it is a reality the idea of being able to log onto a website where people are exchanging codes, ideas and schematics for different types of robots sounds very likely.

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