DARPA iFAB Vision for Open Source Foundry Fabrication and DARPA Autonomous Robot Program

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1. DARPA has the iFAB program to develop “foundry-style manufacturing capability.” By which they mean microchip foundries – the generic, build-any-chip-for-any-designer factories that churn out microchips for every application you can imagine, and which are the dominant mode of manufacture for most of the silicon in use today.

The specific goals of the iFAB program are to rapidly design and configure manufacturing capabilities to support the fabrication of a wide array of infantry fighting vehicle models and variants. Parallel efforts titled vehicleforge.mil and Fast Adaptable Next-Generation Ground Combat Vehicle (FANG) seek to develop the infrastructure for and conduct a series of design challenges (termed Adaptive Make Challenges) intended to precipitate open source design for a prototype of the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle (GCV).

The iFAB end vision–to be developed in the second phase of the program which will be solicited under a separate BAA at the conclusion of the present effort–is that of a facility which can fabricate and assemble the winning FANG designs, verified and supplied in a comprehensive metalanguage representation with META/META-II tools.

2. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has launched the Autonomous Robotic Manipulation program. ARM seeks to provide future robots with enough autonomy so they will require only occasional high-level supervision by human operators. According to DARPA, this will simplify human control, potentially improving how tasks such as bomb disposal are carried out and allowing individual robots to carry out a variety of missions.

The four-year program’s goal is to develop software and hardware that allows robots to autonomously grasp, manipulate and perform complex tasks with minimal human direction. DARPA has tapped a number of research teams to tackle various parts of the program. These areas of work include developing designs for a multifinger hand emphasizing robust design and low cost and software that allows robots to perform several tasks.

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