Modular multi-degree-of-freedom soft origami robots with reprogrammable electrothermal actuation

Shuang Wu, Tuo Zhao, Yong Zhu, Glaucio H. Paulino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Soft robots often draw inspiration from nature to navigate different environments. Although the inching motion and crawling motion of caterpillars have been widely studied in the design of soft robots, the steering motion with local bending control remains challenging. To address this challenge, we explore modular origami units which constitute building blocks for mimicking the segmented caterpillar body. Based on this concept, we report a modular soft Kresling origami crawling robot enabled by electrothermal actuation. A compact and lightweight Kresling structure is designed, fabricated, and characterized with integrated thermal bimorph actuators consisting of liquid crystal elastomer and polyimide layers. With the modular design and reprogrammable actuation, a multiunit caterpillar-inspired soft robot composed of both active units and passive units is developed for bidirectional locomotion and steering locomotion with precise curvature control. We demonstrate the modular design of the Kresling origami robot with an active robotic module picking up cargo and assembling with another robotic module to achieve a steering function. The concept of modular soft robots can provide insight into future soft robots that can grow, repair, and enhance functionality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e2322625121
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
StatePublished - May 14 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • electrothermal actuation
  • Kresling pattern
  • origami
  • soft robot


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