Rapid Multi-Physics Simulation for Electro-Thermal Origami Robotic Systems

Origami principles let to create robotic systems that can self-assemble to complex 3D configurations. Nevertheless, kinematics-based methods are usually used and the abilities of other domains of physics, such as electro-thermal actuation.

A recent paper proposes a new simulation framework to capture multi-physics of electro-thermally actuated origami.

An example of a possible nanobot structure. Image credit: Walterdenkens via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

It relies on the bar and hinge model and can capture electrically generated local heating, thermally induced crease curvature, thermomechanically coupled large folding, contact-induced panel interaction, and other loadings such as gravity.

The framework is shown to be effective and efficient in simulating, designing, and optimizing electro-thermal or thermally actuated origami robotic systems. Its applications include the simulation of an origami crane pattern and optimization of an origami robotic gripper.

Electro-thermally actuated origami provides a novel method for creating 3-D systems with advanced morphing and functional capabilities. However, it is currently difficult to simulate the multi-physical behavior of such systems because the electro-thermal actuation and large folding deformations are highly interdependent. In this work, we introduce a rapid multi-physics simulation framework for electro-thermal origami robotic systems that can capture: thermo-mechancially coupled actuation, inter panel contact, heat transfer, large deformation folding, and other complex loading applied onto the origami. Comparisons with finite element simulations validate the proposed framework for capturing origami heat transfer with different system geometries, materials, and surrounding environments. Verification against physical electro-thermal micro origami further demonstrates the validity of the proposed model. Simulations of more complex origami patterns and a case study for origami optimization are provided as application examples to show the capability and efficiency of the model. The framework provides a novel simulation tool for analysis, design, control, and optimization of active origami robotic systems, pushing the boundary for feasible morphing and functional capability.

Research paper: Zhu, Y. and Filipov, E. T., “Rapid Multi-Physics Simulation for Electro-Thermal Origami Robotic Systems”, 2021. Link: https://arxiv.org/abs/2102.10078

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