OK, this is awesome plus-plus, awesome squared!
I was agog at the magnetic micro assemblers from Penn, now I’m double agog over SRI’s “Diamagnetic Micro Manipulation”. They use the same idea of maneuvering small magnets, but they have added two useful features.
First, the magnets are operated by running on printed circuit boards—which can be custom built to any purpose.
Second, the little robots have “tools”, a tiny hook or fork, or whatever. Furthermore, the magnetic robots can fabricate their own tools. So you can have a swarm of generic robots, and custom fit them with tools to do whatever task you want.
Evan Ackerman explains the video:
“The micro robot with the probe picks up a droplet of the curable liquid, and then sticks it onto the corner of a waiting micro robot, where it hardens. Then, the micro robot zips over to the blue cylinder to daintily rinse its probe off to prevent unwanted build up of the curable liquid. This process is repeated over and over again until you’ve got the tool you need (a hook or a fork). It’s an additive manufacturing process that’s in some ways similar to 3D printing, in that over time, small bits of material come together to create something useful.”
This work will be reported in a paper later this year.
- “Self-Assembly of Milli-scale Robotic Manipulators: A Path to Highly Adaptive, Robust Automation Systems,” by R. Pelrine, A. Wong-Foy, A. Hsu, and B. McCoy, will be presented at the International Conference on Manipulation, Automation, and Robotics on Small Scales (MARSS) in Paris this July.