assembly robots

Scientists are getting closer to robots that can build almost anything, including other robots

Self-replicating bots are considered the holy grail of bots. Imagine a future where robots can build almost anything, including copies of themselves, and then build other things. While this concept remains in science fiction, MIT scientists have developed an assembly system that brings us closer to such a future.

in a new job Published in the journal Nature Communications Engineering, researchers at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA) have built an assembly system that uses multiple robots that can move independently to build large objects using lightweight, identical pieces called “voxels,” the 3D equivalent of a pixel. Apart from these pixels, the system also uses actuators and knobs to build other robots.

While the new system is still far from complete independence, it is making important steps towards this goal. This includes the system’s ability to work on complex tasks to decide when it needs to build more robots or build a particular structure, and for how big. It can also organize swarms of robots of different sizes to build a structure efficiently, without crashing into each other.

“Not only can a robot assemble structures, but it can also assemble other robots, even larger robots than it is,” said Amira Abdel Rahman, lead author of the paper. Indianexpress.comvia video interaction. Abdul Rahman is a PhD student at CBA. The hexahedron is a polyhedron with eight triangular faces and six square faces.

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This work builds on years of CBA studies, including research into using such identical pieces to build things like deformable aircraft wings and functional race cars. The robots in the latest study consist of chains of cube-shaped voxel surfaces about three inches long connected end-to-end using magnetic couplings.

These previous systems have already demonstrated that they can use this principle to build large structures until they reach a certain size relative to the robots, which means they require a larger robot to build. But at this point, the new system’s bots will decide it’s time to build a larger version of themselves, so they can build the structure more efficiently.

“The system has to make decisions every step of the way. It can either build a structure, or build another robot, or a larger robot. It can build iteratively and it can ‘reproduce’ into a hierarchical robot system that can build larger structures,” said Amira Abdelrahman. much.

assembly robots The new study shows that assembly robots and the structures they build can be made from the same units. (Image credit; MIT)

Self-replicating robot applications

One of the most tantalizing applications of this technology is space exploration – autonomous robots that can build large-scale solar power, communications and habitat systems for Mars. The ability to independently assemble such structures, rather than pre-assemble and send them, will be critical to sustainable deep space exploration.

“We can build almost anything with these cube-shaped pixels. CBA has been building cars with Toyota, planes with Airbus, and even ships through its partnership with Oldendorf,” Abdurrahman added.

The cubic anthropomorphic structures used in the current version of the system are made of injection-molded plastic, but can be swapped out with pixels of other sizes and combinations. Currently, CBA researchers are working on building voxels from more sustainable biocomposites. Apart from that, CBA also improves the interface mechanism between pixels, motors and other mechanical components for better performance.


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