MIT Develops Robots That Self-Assemble When Heated Up

MIT Develops Robots That Self-Assemble When Heated Up

Researchers have demonstrated the potential of printable components that automatically fold into 3D shapes.

Emma Hutchings
  • 4 june 2014

A team of researchers at MIT has developed some printable robotic components that fold into a specific 3D shape when they are ‘baked’ under heat. The group, led by Professor Daniela Rus, has introduced the “bakeable robots” in the hope that they lead to a variety of self-assembling designs that function on their own and fold together like origami.

Rus’ research team demonstrate the potential of these robotic components in two new papers. One details a system that takes a digital specification of a 3D shape and produces a 2D pattern which would enable a piece of plastic to create the shape by self-folding. The second paper presents designs that show how to build electrical components (such as resistors, inductors, capacitors, sensors and actuators) with self-folding laser-cut materials.

Rus hopes that these folded electronics will evolve into something of a “hardware compiler”, where different working devices can be generated for performing a variety of tasks such as cleaning the floor.


The MIT research team developed a technique for precisely controlling the angles at which a heated sheet folds. For example, a PVC sheet sandwiched between two films of rigid polyester featuring slits of different sizes contracts when it is heated, causing the slits to close. The PVC becomes deformed, creating different angles where the edges of the polyester films press against each other.

Producing the pattern of slits is quite a difficult process as every edge in the system moves at the same time, so it requires designing the edges in such a way that the right geometric structure is ultimately created.

These printable, folding designs could perform a variety of functions, both around the home and in different industries. You can check out some of the automatically folding robotic components in the video below.

MIT News Office


Fitness Advocate: Paving The Future of Workouts With Audio

Fitness & Sport
Innovation Yesterday

After The Initial Success Of AR Gaming, What Does The Future Hold?

With Pokemon GO earning up to $10m a day, R&D departments are busy searching for the next phase

Arts & Culture Yesterday

The Next Great Art Movement Will Come At The Swipe Of A Finger

An improved app, optimized digital display and monthly art discovery service round out Electric Objects' renewed commitment to democratizing the art world


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Retail Yesterday

A TV Streaming Service Is Designed Just For Kids

Toca TV is a new platform offering thousands of original and curated children's videos for a monthly subscription fee

Travel Yesterday

Bus Stop Transformed Into A Fitness Station For Commuters

Sports drink company Lucozade live-streamed an athletic trainer working out at a stop in Manchester to encourage travelers to get moving

Related Expert

Ara Katz

fashion ecommerce

Technology Yesterday

Shiseido And Microsoft Have Created A Makeup Filter For Women Who Telecommute

The Japanese cosmetic company built an augmented reality app that works alongside Skype for Business

Mobile Yesterday

Samsung Is Using AR To Help Beachgoers Stay Safe

Pocket Patrol utilizes a phone's camera to promote beach safety and educate people about hidden hazards

Design & Architecture Yesterday

500 Plastic Chairs Used To Create A Recyclable Pavilion

Design agency CODA built a grandoise art piece from simple lawn furniture


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed october 21, 2016

Health Expert: Nutritional Meal Replacements Are A Solution To Corporate Wellness

Ample Foods Founder Connor Young explains why supplements are the next food trend coming to the workplace

PSFK Labs Yesterday

The Keys For Exceptional Performance On And Off The Field

PSFK Labs' new report highlights five important insights for businesses to perform better than the competition

Retail Yesterday

Exchange Your Old Razors For New Ones At This Bartershop

The subscription-based shaving company lets customers trade their unwanted razors for Harry's brand steel at a temporary New York pop-up

Food Yesterday

A Brewer Has Created The Most Expensive Chips To Snack On

St. Eriks Brewery created crisps made from rare mushrooms to go with its artisan beer, donating all proceeds to charity

Op-Ed Yesterday

Marketing Experts: Millennials And The Power Of Cool

'Good Is The New Cool' Authors Afdhel Aziz and Bobby Jones share their 7 principles for branding with a social impact

Travel Yesterday

Melbourne Hotel Lets Guests Stay In Their Own Chrome Airstream Trailers

Notel is a luxury rooftop with six guest rooms made from vintage 1970s mobile homes

Infants Yesterday

Battery Powered Cradle Will Rock Itself

NoomiNoomi is a clever device that makes it easier to put babies to sleep

Sustainability Yesterday

Swedish Citizens Get A Tax Break For Repairing Old Goods

A sustainability initiative encourages people to fix, rather than replace, broken objects

Fitness & Sport Yesterday

How Precision Data Can Make Anyone A Better Performer

The Sports Debrief from PSFK Labs looks at how analytic tools are being developed to optimize human performance across all industries

Home Yesterday

You Can Now Buy Furniture From A Daytime TV Show

Home furnishing online retailer Wayfair is partnering with Lifetime to create a shoppable life improvement television program

No search results found.