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. 



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.
Each year, a panel of Control Engineering and Plant Engineering editors and industry expert judges select the System Integrator of the Year Award winners in three categories.
Pipe fabrication and IIoT; 2017 Product of the Year finalists
The future of electrical safety; Four keys to RPM success; Picking the right weld fume option
A new approach to the Skills Gap; Community colleges may hold the key for manufacturing; 2017 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Control room technology innovation; Practical approaches to corrosion protection; Pipeline regulator revises quality programs
The cloud, mobility, and remote operations; SCADA and contextual mobility; Custom UPS empowering a secure pipeline
Infrastructure for natural gas expansion; Artificial lift methods; Disruptive technology and fugitive gas emissions
Power system design for high-performance buildings; mitigating arc flash hazards
VFDs improving motion control applications; Powering automation and IIoT wirelessly; Connecting the dots
Natural gas engines; New applications for fuel cells; Large engines become more efficient; Extending boiler life

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.
The maintenance journey has been a long, slow trek for most manufacturers and has gone from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance.
This digital report explains how plant engineers and subject matter experts (SME) need support for time series data and its many challenges.
This digital report will explore several aspects of how IIoT will transform manufacturing in the coming years.
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me