Might as well jump. Engineers at Harvard University have printed a bot that can leap about six times its own height.

The secret to its success? It’s made from a combination of soft and rigid parts.

Soft robots are more adaptable, safer, and more resilient than stiff metal machines, say the researchers, led by Robert Wood. But they also tend to take longer to produce.

3D printing lets us cheaply and quickly produce things that combine the advantages of rigid and soft materials. The former could help power and control bots; the latter make them better at withstanding stress.

To jump, this bot inflates a number of its pneumatic legs, which will control the direction it will travel in once the legs “fire”. Then, a mixture of butane and oxygen is ignited in a central chamber, setting off an explosion that sends it flying. The inflated legs help cushion the landing.

In resilience tests, one bot performed more than 100 jumps without breaking, and another survived dozens of drops from a height of about 1 metre. A hard bot could jump higher but shattered after just five jumps.

Previously, Wood’s group has worked on other innovative robots, such as swarms of mechanical bees and a bot that folds up like origamiMovie Camera.

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