STATES CHRONICLE – NASA developed small folding robots which will be tested and prepared for Mars exploration or other alien worlds. These mini rovers were built by NASA engineers. The Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot (PUFFER) is a lightweight and small robot which is capable of flattening and folding up by itself, climbing steep slopes and squeezing into tight areas.
The folding robots are able to reach tight place
The folding robots might explore locations which are otherwise off-limits to the parent rovers of these PUFFERs. When designing these machines, project managers were inspired by the design of origami. Jaakko Karras, the project manager of PUFFER at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, stated that the new robots could do parallel science with their parent rover, increasing the amount of data processed per day.
These folding robots are bound to be used in unreachable places, where they can squeeze under ledges to capture pictures and gather data. Karras was the one who came up with the main idea which lies at the foundation of PUFFERs’ body while using some origami designs as models. He together with his colleagues folded paper for printed circuit boards.
They can roll and crawl to gather data and capture photos
Christine Fuller, a mechanical engineer at JPL and a team member of PUFFER project, argued that the circuit board includes both the body and the electronics, making it more compact. In the beginning, these folding robots were equipped with four wheels. However, their design evolved, using only two wheels which could be folded over the body of the robot, permitting the rover to crawl and roll.
PUFFER was also equipped with a tail for stability reasons, and it also has solar panels on the belly and a high-resolution camera. When the device needs to be charged, it only needs to flip over. The team of scientists has already developed a PUFFER prototype, and they are currently testing it. NASA officials stated that over the last 18 months, PUFFER performed several field tests in the southernmost active volcano on Earth, on Mount Erebus, Antarctica, in Colorado and Big Bear, California.
Officials claimed that the small robot is not yet ready to start a mission. The nest stage is to implement scientific instruments and to offer the rover more autonomy when moving. Now, the device is controlled via Bluetooth. This type of robots may change scientists’ view of Mars exploration.
Image source: wikipedia