A team of researchers from Harvard University were inspired by a slithering snake and designed a robot using kirigami skins, which can slither the same way.
The crawling robot is made from soft, highly deformable materials which the researchers further improved using the ancient Japanese technique of kirigami.
Kirigami is a three-dimensional paper cutting method. It was used to cover a tube-like actuator made out of rubber-like material which can expand like a balloon.
The researchers then tested various kinds of cuts, including triangular, circular and trapezoidal. The trapezoidal cuts, which bear the closest resemblance to the shape of snake scales, made the robot cover the most ground.
“We designed highly stretchable kirigami surfaces in which mechanical instabilities induce a transformation from flat sheets to 3D-textured surfaces akin to the scaled skin of snakes,” the study published on Robotics Science magazine read.
According to Katia Bertoldi, professor of applied mechanics and senior researcher of the paper, “these all-terrain soft robots could one day travel across difficult environments for exploration, inspection, monitoring and search and rescue missions or perform complex, laparoscopic medical procedures.”