Untethered control of functional origami microrobots with distributed actuation

Larissa S. Novelino, Qiji Ze, Shuai Wu, Glaucio H. Paulino, Ruike Zhao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

180 Scopus citations


Deployability, multifunctionality, and tunability are features that can be explored in the design space of origami engineering solutions. These features arise from the shape-changing capabilities of origami assemblies, which require effective actuation for full functionality. Current actuation strategies rely on either slow or tethered or bulky actuators (or a combination). To broaden applications of origami designs, we introduce an origami system with magnetic control. We couple the geometrical and mechanical properties of the bistable Kresling pattern with a magnetically responsive material to achieve untethered and local/distributed actuation with controllable speed, which can be as fast as a tenth of a second with instantaneous shape locking. We show how this strategy facilitates multimodal actuation of the multicell assemblies, in which any unit cell can be independently folded and deployed, allowing for on-the-fly programmability. In addition, we demonstrate how the Kresling assembly can serve as a basis for tunable physical properties and for digital computing. The magnetic origami systems are applicable to origami-inspired robots, morphing structures and devices, metamaterials, and multifunctional devices with multiphysics responses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)24096-24101
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number39
StatePublished - Sep 29 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


  • Magnetic actuation
  • Multifunctional systems
  • Origami
  • Origami computing
  • Untethered actuation


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