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Amazing Bug-Sized Robots Can Build Microstructures


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One of SRI International's tiny robots.

Researchers have developed tiny robots that can manufacture microstructures too small and complex to be built by hand.

Credit: Martyn Williams

Researchers at SRI International, with funding from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, have developed tiny robots that can manufacture microstructures that are too small and complex to be built by current machinery or by hand.

The robots range in size depending on their complexity, but the smallest is just 2 millimeters square and can move around a board so fast it is almost difficult to see. In a recent demonstration, one tiny bot moved over a distance about 100 times its length in one second. Another robot, about a centimeter square, had a tiny set of arms that can be used to pick up small components or drops of liquid. Built atop tiny magnets and propelled electromagnetically, the robots can work on surfaces at all angles up to vertical.

Current fabrication technology has struggled to keep up as electronics and medicine move toward smaller and smaller devices. SRI International's Allen Hsu says the researchers already have used one of the robots to build a microstructure and envisions that as a key use for the technology.

From IDG News Service
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