By ROB WAUGH
Harvard scientists have invented a method of mass-producing robot insects – creating ‘sheets’ of tiny robot bees that pop up ready for action. When activated, a 2.4 millimetre-tall robot insect ‘pops up’ out of the sheet. The scientists say they aim to create ‘swarms’ of independently flying robot insects.
The entire product is approximately the size of a U.S. quarter, and dozens of the microrobots could ‘pop up’ out of a single sheet. The scientists say they were inspired by origami and pop-up books.
The sheets consist of carbon fibre, plastic film, titanium brass and ceramic, laser cut into a sheet.They are assembled by robots and can be mass-produced rapidly. The 18-layer structure incorporates flexible hinges that allow the three-dimensional product—just 2.4 millimeters tall—to assemble in one movement, like a pop-up book.
The Harvard Microrobotics Laboratory has been working for years to build bio-inspired, bee-sized robots that can fly and behave autonomously as a colony.
‘We can generate full systems in any three-dimensional shape,’ says Professor Robert Wood. ‘We’ve also demonstrated that we can create self-assembling devices by including pre-stressed materials.’
‘In a larger device, you can take a robot leg, for example, open it up, and just bolt in circuit boards. We’re so small that we don’t get to do that.’ Pointing to the ‘bee’s body, Wood says, ‘Now, I can put chips all over that. I can build in sensors and control actuators.’
The Harvard Office of Technology Development is now developing a strategy to commercialize this technology. As part of this effort, they have filed patent applications on this work. The Harvard Office of Technology Development is now developing a strategy to commercialize this technology. As part of this effort, they have filed patent applications on this work.