Wong-Foy has written software to choreograph the movement of over 1,000 tiny robots in a complex circulating pattern. That shows it should be possible to have them work in large teams, he says. SRI’s microworkers are simple: just small magnetic platforms with simple wire arms on top. They can move only when placed on a surface with a specific pattern of electrical circuits inside. Sending current through the coils beneath exerts a force on the magnets and steers the robots around.
Wong-Foy, a senior research engineer at SRI, has built an army of magnetically steered workers to test the idea that “microrobots” could be a better way to assemble electronics components, or to build other small structures.
Wong-Foy’s robotic workers have already proved capable of building towers 30 centimeters long from carbon rods, and other platforms able to support a kilogram of weight. The robots can work with glass, metal, wood, and electronic components. In one demonstration, they made a carbon truss structure with wires and colored LEDs mixed in to serve as the lab’s Christmas tree.
The devices can move at 35 cm/second (1.2 feet per second).
Rod robots, Glue robots and ultraviolet light for curing the glue work together.
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