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NASA’s Little Rover Companion Was Inspired By Origami

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Ariel Tallman

Dec 7, 2023, 7:03:42 PM12/7/23
The Perseverance rover did not travel by itself to Mars, it brought a small companion. Attached to the rover's belly was a small helicopter. Named Ingenuity, the little rotorcraft was the first of its kind to fly on another world.

NASA hopes that Ingenuity will serve as a pathfinder mission for future rotorcraft, just like the Sojourner rover did in the 1990s. That first little rover paved the way for Perseverance and all the other rovers that came before it.

NASAs little Rover companion was inspired by origami

Another category of robots that exhibit shape- and/or size-changing properties are Origami-like robots. Origami has been used in many engineering areas (Okuzaki et al., 2008; Ma and You, 2013) and is increasingly feasible for robotics due to improvements in fabrication and actuator technologies. Examples of origami-like robots include robotic sheets that can be folded into different morphologies (Hawkes et al., 2010) and a set of programmable triangles which can create different patterns (Belke and Paik, 2017). Origami robots offer several advantages, including the elimination of redundant materials used in separate tasks, reducing the amount of materials needed overall, and their foldable designs may often serve dual purposes, such as providing a robot chassis with built-in protection [e.g., as in origami-inspired mechanisms for aerial robots (Kornatowski et al., 2017; Sareh et al., 2018; Shu and Chirarattananon, 2019)]. To date, most research on Origami robots has focused on physical design and actuation (Lee et al., 2013; Onal et al., 2014; Vander Hoff et al., 2014; Miyashita et al., 2015) or on using smart materials to create self-folding robots (Paik et al., 2010; Paik and Wood, 2012; Tolley et al., 2014; Firouzeh and Paik, 2015). Recently, researchers have also explored Kirigami structures, an extension of Orgami that supports cutting in addition to folding, for deployable robot design (Sedal et al., 2020).

Sometimes, I just have to shake my head.
(PUFFER Robot [Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robots])PUFFERs (Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robots) utilize a folding printed circuit board (PCB) as the rover chassis, which enables the platform to fold into a minuscule, palm-sized volume. With this feature, many PUFFERs can be integrated into future spacecraft or packed into Earth science experiments at low cost.The multitude of PUFFERs would then be used to carry out science investigations that specifically require a distributed, multi-unit approach, such as entering cave formations on Mars or conducting spatially-distributed topographic mapping of ice on Earth. In addition to small packing volume, PUFFER's folding chassis provides unique mobility benefits; PUFFERs can collapse into a low-profile "crouch" to crawl beneath tight terrain features, such as overhung rocks, and to lower their center of gravity for ascending steep inclines. The highly-flexible origami-inspired chassis also provides impact-absorbing capabilities, allowing PUFFER to survive great falls.The units would recharge themselves using solar energy, allowing them to operate for months and possibly years at a time...
(PUFFERs acting like screamers)Fans of sf great Philip K. Dick recall the claws from his 1953 short story Second Variety:"It doesn't take them long. Not after the first one gets in. It goes wild. You know what the little claws can do. Even one of these is beyond belief. Razors, each finger. Maniacal."Off to the right something scuttled, something round and metallic. A claw, going lickety-split after something. Probably after a small animal, a rat. They got rats, too. As a sort of sideline.The claws got faster and they got bigger. New types appeared, some with feelers, some that flew. There were a few jumping kinds...Some of the little claws were learning to hide themselves, burrowing down into the ash, lying in wait.And they started getting into bunkers, slipping down when the lids were raised for air and a look around. One claw inside a bunker, a churning sphere of blades and metal - that was enough. And when one got in others followed.This short story was the inspiration for the 1995 film Screamers.
(Claws - or Screamers - from the 1995 movie)Via PhysOrg.
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