Pop-up dragonfly robot could be the future of business cards

Engineers trying to be memorable at a job interview would be wise to pull one of these pop-up robots out of a wallet. This marvel of engineering uses a laminate construction technique to build a robot as a pop-up assembly. You can see the base used during the process, it’s a hexagon that serves as a scaffolding during the laminating process, and includes mechanical linkages that facilitate assembly.

The design calls for multiple layers of materials to be laser-cut to exacting specifications. Once all parts are completed, they are stacked using rods to align them, then fused together. One more trip through the laser cutter finishes the milling and the machine is ready for assembly. But with parts this small, you’ll want a solid method for putting everything together. The linkages we mentioned before allow for this when two parts of the scaffolding are separated. The only thing that makes this impossible as a business card is the need for a trip through the solder bath to cement the pieces in place. But perhaps some type of clasping mechanism could remove this need in the future.

Don’t miss the video after the break that explains the entire process. You’ll even get to see the little guy flap his wings. That’s all that it does for now, there isn’t any steering mechanism available as of yet.

Comments

  1. Stripe says:

    As far as I understood, it’s some sort of piezo-like actuator connected to a simple lever that flaps the wings back and forth.

    If this was a proper flying robot, or an attempt at such, you’d need more than one degree of freedom for the wing, which means you’d need to manufacture a more complicated joint, and all I see in this demo is a simple hinge being made by sandwiching materials, like nailing two blocks of wood to a strap of leather.

    It’s impressive, but still seems a bit limited for real applications.

    • austin says:

      lets not forget that actual insect wings dont have that many degrees of freedom, the wings flap as a result of the thorax contacting and expanding, the wings sit on a lever. the insect’s wing is not like a bird’s wing which has a much more elegant movement to it.
      indirect flight can be achieved using only 2 muscles in many insects, they are fast twitch so a piezo is a good substitute.

      • Stripe says:

        Still, if you want something like a dragonfly wing, you need more degrees of freedom.

        The wings move up, down, back, forward and pivot. The joint is more like a rowlock than a simple hinge. Simply flapping them up and down may get you lift due to the flex of the wing, but you have little control.

      • Drake says:

        You are seeing a combination of material flex (Like a thin plastic) plus something you consider a complex motion is not.

        Consider this. How many degrees of freedom does a piston in an engine have? It moves up and down, but the net output is rotational (due to the offset and piviot on the crank and at the cylinder itself.

        One motion can produce many different degrees of freedom.

        Also consider this. Imagine an old time steam powered train, where the drive pistons were attached to the outside of the wheel. The piston moves forward and back with its pivot and wheel system producing a net rotational force. Now do you think that is the only motion that is involved? Yes the train is a rigid structure, but with enough force, or even a properly places small force, can cause any structure to deform. When the pistons push against the wheel the entire axle will acutally bend as does the entire frame of the train engine. Of course this is much more visible in more pliable or smaller structures such as the dragonfly.

  2. James says:

    The second to last step of soldering multiple joints to secure the device structure seems pretty laborious, if they were to make it with some sort of contact cement where they permanently attach when unfolded that would be better. As a whole project I’m not sold on the concept, as a stage for an overall larger project that needs small complicated 3 dimensional parts then I’d buy that idea. In summary: as a manufacturing process for components it’s cool. But the finishing steps (laser cutting and soldering) I think exclude it from being a piratical monolithic process unless they can solve the solder point issue. Laser cutting I’m actually fine with.

    On soldering alone, since you cant use a wave table it would have to be a manual or robotic process. Unless they could add into the process of adding paste or some 3 dimensional solder structure or solder paste then bake it. Though then the whole project would have to be able to withstand baking.

    • MusashiAharon says:

      I thought they said to dip the thing in a solder bath to lock the shape in place. That seems pretty simple to me.

      The laser cutting is also pretty easy for a machine to do, provided that there aren’t any obstacles to the laser. This can be resolved by designing gaps in obstructing materials to allow passage for the laser beam.

  3. richard Mathie says:

    Well It flies! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgR-mH6X5VU&feature=related

    though a little uncontrolled, this is just a demonstrator of the manufacture technique. Id doesn’t take much imagination to see that when they build it with an another set of wings and sets of pizo elements to control wing twist it will become controllable, then all its missing is a pin hole camera RC gear, gyro and a lipo battery

  4. nikescar says:

    So very cool. From the layering to the locking joints. So cool.

  5. vonskippy says:

    Business cards have a future?

    Seems doubtful as more and more people just use a smartphone to transfer contact info.

    • Sam says:

      Something sizzed to the right of him. A commercial, made by Theodorus Nitz, the worst house of all, had attached itself to his car.

      “Get off,” he warned it. But the commercial, well-adhered, began to crawl, buffeted by the wind, toward the door and the entrance crack. It would soon have squeezed in and would be haranguing him in the cranky, garbagey fashion of the Nitz advertisements,

      He could, as it came through the crack, kill it. It was alive, terribly mortal; the ad agencies, like nature, squandered hordes of them.

      The commercial, fly-sized, began to buzz out its message as soon as it managed to force entry. “Say! Haven’t you sometimes said to yourself, I’ll bet other people in restaurants can see me! And you’re puzzled as to what to do about this serious, baffling problem of being conspicuous, especially–”

      Chic crushed it with his foot.

      — Philip K. Dick, “The Simulacra” (1964)

  6. markS says:

    simply brilliant…!!!

  7. h4x says:

    really awesome! I can’t wait to see the RC-controlled version, though I can’t see how this would change business cards (it seems too costly for that).

  8. jack says:

    As a manufacturing process for small mechanical parts, its brilliant!

  9. blue carbuncle says:

    Only 6% of jerbs are filled through interviews. Seems like a waste if they are just gonna promote the guy internally from the mail room ;)

    /neat build all the same

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