Research has shown that robots that use the jump-gliding method for transportation are more energy-efficient and are able to travel further. These robots are equipped with origami-like structured wings with the addition of linkages, springs, and actuators to help them fly. The problem is these make the robot heavier and bulky, affecting their travel distance. Engineers from Seoul National University have developed new lightweight wings inspired by ladybird beetles.
Kyu-Jin Cho, director of the soft robot research center and lead researcher for the study, and his colleagues came up with a design strategy for jump-gliding robots based on the strength and speed of ladybird beetle wings. Ladybirds can rapidly flap their folded wings within 0.1 seconds, shorter than a blink of an eye. Their wings are also highly resistant and sturdy, ensuring they don't fold or buckle at such a high frequency.
"We developed a novel origami structure that is rapidly self-deployable and resilient under large forces," Sang-Min Baek, the first author of the study, explained. "We then applied this novel origami structure to the wing frame of the deployable wing module. Based on this deployable wing module, we were able to build a jump-gliding robot with a lightweight, foldable, but sturdy wing."
To create the wings, the researchers built them around a uniquely shaped tape spring-like vein. This mocks a similar structure on the ladybeetle; when it folds its wings, the tape spring-shaped vein deforms and allows elastic energy to be store in it. This energy is what enables the wings to move at a high frequency. This tape-spring shaped was applied to the origami structure to give it energy storage and self-locking capabilities without using additional components.
The team also developed a different origami approach based on the integration of curved geometries into facets. Traditional origami methods are made up of flat and rigid facets, which proves to be limiting for storage and locking abilities in robotics applications.
The new wings were tested on a single jump-gliding robot with successful results. The robot was able to easily glide and flap its wings for efficient travel. Though the wings were made for jump-gliding robots, the engineers believe they could be used to create other robots. Next, they will study the performance and capabilities of the robot using their new origami structure.