Dexterous robot conquers art of origami
The flimsy and flexible nature of paper is a big challenge for robots (Image: Devin Balkcom)

A robot that can make delicate paper models using the ancient Japanese art of origami has been developed by a US student.

Origami involves folding and sometimes tearing paper to build three dimensional models of animals, people and other objects. It may be relatively simple for a skilled human to make such paper structures, but origami is a new challenge for robots.

This is because robots are normally required to manipulate rigid materials, not flimsy and flexible paper. Modelling the creation of an origami model is also mathematically and computationally complex.

But Devin Balkcom, a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, US, designed and built a robot capable of making simple origami objects, such as planes and hats, as part of his research into robot dexterity. The robot holds the paper using a suction cup and creates folds by pushing the paper into slots.