Feeds

Harvard boffins cause buzz with robot bee

Our new insect overlords will come in a flat pack

The next step in data security

Instead of building a robot, why not print it? That’s more-or-less the approach demonstrated by Harvard engineers with an ingenious and attention-grabbing miniature robot bee.

The process, which allows fixed and flexible joints to be created by layering materials in fabrication rather than assembling them, and allowing them to unfold like, as Harvard puts it, a pop-up book or an origami piece?

In their prototype of the Harvard Monolithic Bee (Mobee) – shown in the video below – the engineers put together 18 layers of carbon fibre, the plastic film Kapton, titanium, brass, ceramic, and adhesive sheets – incorporating the flexible hinges that allow the 2.4 mm tall product to “pop up” after assembly.

Harvard’s Pratheev Sreetharan said: “This takes what is a craft, an artisanal process, and transforms it for automated mass production”. Instead of working with tiny quantities of materials under a microscope to assemble the bee-sized robots that are the focus of his work (with Peter Whitney) at the Harvard Microbotics Laboratory, the two doctoral candidates want to create a repeatable machine process for the robots.

As Sreetharan said, the result is that one robot can be built, Autofac-style, by another.

Harvard's flat-pack robot bee - detail

A detail of the flat-fabricated robot bee, showing

the device's transmission. Source: Pratheev Sreetharan

The process puts a premium on the ability to design the interplay between the flexible and rigid components of the finished product, before handing it over to machines to cut the materials, assemble the layers, and finally dip-solder the assembly before unfolding it.

Sreetharan says he has verified the alignment of components in his RoboBees to within 5 microns, and hasn’t et seen a failure – compared to a yield of only 15 percent in hand-assembled designs.

The larger aim of the Harvard project, supported by the NSF, the Wyss Institute and the US Army Research Laboratory, is to create bio-inspired robots that can “fly and behave autonomously as a colony”. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.