Market Overview

KIST: 3D Soft Robots Animated Like Living Creatures


- A new 3D soft robot created by automatically cutting and folding
plastic films
- Moving smoothly according to the rhythm of operas
songs and/or the dialogue of movie scenes
- Expecting a new
application of animatronic soft robots in the art and culture industry

Soft robotics is an emerging field to use compliant materials such as
silicone, cloth, balloons, and paper for enhancing the flexibility and
adaptability of robots and achieving smooth and natural movements.
Recently, Dr. Sehyuk Yim in Korea Institute of Science and Technology
(KIST) and his colleagues in US developed a new technology to make 3D
soft robots from plastic paper designed by geometric algorithms, and
showcased audio-animatronics using world famous opera songs and movie

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A soft robot developed through additive folding (Photo: Business Wire)

A soft robot developed through additive folding (Photo: Business Wire)

The underlying philosophy of this research is to democratize future
robot technologies for every people. When developing one robot, even
experienced roboticists need at least several weeks for designing
required mechanisms and robot structures and configuring a number of
mechanical and electrical devices. Even though 3D printing technology
has significantly reduced the manufacturing time and cost, all we still
have to print dozens of individual parts, and then assemble them
one-by-one. Above all, this is very expensive in cost.

Dr. Yim's team investigated how to more simplify the entire process with
the design paradigm of soft robotics. To this end, they invented a new
3D fabrication mechanism called ‘additive self-folding' and design
process for the 2D fold pattern to connect all slices of the robot.
Finally, they implemented smooth, natural and lifelike motion of the
soft robots using embedded tendons.

Dr. Yim stated that "This result is very impactful, because soft
robotics now widens its application areas beyond wearable robots and/or
medical robots to the art and culture technologies in which the film and
entertainment industries are interested. Also, merging the soft
animatronics with emerging artificial intelligence will bring forth a
wide range of changes on personal robots as well as human-robot
interaction field, we think."

This research was conducted in collaboration with robotics groups in
MIT, UPENN and Univ. of York (UK). The paper is published online on ‘The
International Journal of Robotics Research'(IF : 5.30, JCR top : 5.76 %).

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