This origami is no ordinary folding for aesthetics. In 2015, a group of MIT researchers developed a printable origami robot that folds itself up from a flat sheet of plastic when heated. It is extremely small, measuring only about one centimeter and weighing only a third of a gram. It can execute a variety of tasks, such as swimming, carrying and clearing objects.
The magic is the magnet embedded in the center of the origami robot. With preprogrammed magnetic field, the robot can move on a designated trajectory and complete tasks. And as the researchers put it, the robot has "external programmable actuation".
A year later the group refined the technology and put origami robot into actual application. Now the robot is able to unfold itself from an ingestible capsule, and remove foreign objects, patch wounds, and deliver medicines to designated areas in human body. The researchers settled on dried-pig intestine used in sausage casing as the structure material for the robot, allowing it to harmlessly degenerate in human body after use. Programmed magnetic field will guide the robot to accurately execute its path and tasks.
The team demonstrated in a simulation how the origami removes a button battery stuck on the wall of esophagus/stomach, as swallowing a button battery is not a rare occurrence in the United States where hospitals on average report 3,500 cases a year. It safely retrieves the accidentally swallowed item and enables incisionless surgery.