Developments to watch: Mobile microrobots

Future robots much smaller than Lincoln’s smile on a penny may locate cancer cells, enter, and deliver anti-cancer agents, or self-assemble into a structure, providing science-fiction-like advances in medicine, manufacturing, and other industries. At present, power and control remain two significant challenges, according to Dr. Igor Paprotny, assistant professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, speaking at Sensors Expo on June 25.

07/02/2014


Untethered mobile microscale robotic system research began in the 1980s and continues with a growing number of researchers involved, according to Dr. Igor Paprotny, assistant professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, speaking at Sensors Expo on June 2Untethered mobile microscale robotic system research began in the 1980s and continues with a growing number of researchers involved, according to Dr. Igor Paprotny, assistant professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, speaking at Sensors Expo on June 25. Progress is slow as power and control remain significant hurdles, but the prospect of micro electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) microrobots has significant potential in manufacturing, biomedicine, and surveillance. And navigation is improving, he suggested.

Paprotny, discussing current trends and future directions in microrobots, also reviewed the progress of his team, showing images and an amusing video of moving microrobots set to the "Blue Danube" waltz, including a "docking" procedure where two link.

Disruptive technology

Dr. Igor Paprotny, assistant professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, spoke at Sensors Expo on June 25, explaining how “MicroStressBots” use a powered substrate for motion. Slide shows the rectangular shape (160 x 60 microns) with a leg with a circleMicrorobotics "will be disruptive technology," Paprotny said; applications include surveillance, imaging and sensing, assembly, biomedicine, and smart structures, as robots collaborate.

Microrobots, by definition, operate within a 1 mm cube. Autonomous flight is proven in the insect world within that size range, he noted, showing an image of a flying butterfly parasite about 130 microns in size that appeared as a speck on the head of a butterfly.

Motive force from substrate

Paprotny's team's "MicroStressBots" use a powered substrate for motion; they're rectangular (160 x 60 microns) with a leg with a circle on the end adding 100 microns to one corner for 260 microns total. Movements are similar to those of an inchworm-scratch-drive propulsion, he called it. Dragging the arm can create a turn.

Challenges include:

  1. Fabrication integration of a complete system at a micro scale.
  2. Power; at present, off-board electrostatic power delivery is used.
  3. Control; off-board control is used; it's a massively under-actuated system. At present, the robots only turn one way, although they can be made to turn with a tighter radius.

Dr. Igor Paprotny, assistant professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, spoke at Sensors Expo on June 25, about microrobots, including these “Microflyers.” Courtesy: Control Engineering, Mark T. HoskeIn a separate effort, a small flying robot also is under development. The microflyers, which appear like a small fan blade, 1.5 micron thick with a 300-micron wingspan, actually have a small jumping action traveling 126 microns. They use the same motive principle as a spinner solar radiometer. Paprotny acknowledged that eight students also working on this research.

Differing motive approaches are being used by other researchers, including magnetic forces (most common), biological (modified bacteria or sperm), or catalytic (with rolled-up tubules).

- Mark T. Hoske, content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering, mhoske@cfemedia.com. 

ONLINE extra

www1.ece.uic.edu/~paprotny/

http://www1.ece.uic.edu/~paprotny/MSL_index.html

www.controleng.com/robotics 

See other robotic posts below. 



No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Hannover Messe 2016: Taking hold of the future - Partner Country status spotlights U.S. manufacturing; Honoring manufacturing excellence: The 2015 Product of the Year Winners
Inside IIoT: How technology, strategy can improve your operation; Dry media or web scrubber?; Six steps to design a PM program
World-class manufacturing: A recipe for success: Finding the right mix for a salad dressing line; 2015 Salary Survey: Manufacturing slump dims enthusiasm
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Warehouse winter comfort: The HTHV solution; Cooling with natural gas; Plastics industry booming
Managing automation upgrades, retrofits; Making technical, business sense; Ensuring network cyber security
Designing generator systems; Using online commissioning tools; Selective coordination best practices

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
click me