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

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.

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