Equal parts origami and electrical engineering, each robot “has 137 folding joints,” PopSci explains. “The assembly scaffold, which has folds of its own, performs 22 origami-style folds, resulting in a fully formed robot you can pop out and turn on.”
The system, developed at Harvard, “works by combining all the robots’ component layers, [and] sandwiching each piece of metal or carbon fiber into a single sheet. First each layer is laser-etched into the proper design, and the sheets are laminated together. The end result is a hexagonal sheet with a small assembly scaffold, with the whole thing the size of a U.S. quarter.”
On a wildly different scale, and relevant only for reasons of formal resemblance, I’m reminded of Bernard Khoury’s B 018 project in Beirut, a nightclub that “comes to life in the late hours of the night when its articulated roof structure constructed in heavy metal retracts hydraulically. The opening of the roof exposes the club to the world above and reveals the cityscape as an urban backdrop to the patrons below.” Prior to that moment of retraction, Khoury’s “building” is more like a highly compressed 2D surface.
The point of this comparison being to wonder aloud what sorts of pop-up architecture might be possible using the sandwiched components technique described above. What might “soon allow clones of robotic buildings to be mass-produced by the sheet,” if we could export and scale this up to the world of spatial design? 2D surfaces that pop-up—or pull down—into functional buildings.
Buildings that pop up out of city sidewalks; robots that pop up out of those buildings’ floors; smaller buildings that pop up out of those pop-up robots; tiny, insect-sized robots that pop up out of them.