Georgia Institute of Technology has developed a breed of microscopic 3D printed robots deemed “micro-bristle-bots” barely visible to the human eye. These bots are controlled by minute vibrations, making them capable of transporting materials, and detecting changes in the environment.
The team is working on scaling up production to “hundreds or thousands” in a single build. Their research is expecting to have a positive impact on the biomedical sector, where micro-robots are becoming increasingly interesting for micro-assembly and maneuverability within the body.
“We are working to make the technology robust, and we have a lot of potential applications in mind,” comments Azadeh Ansari, assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Georgia Tech. “It’s a very rich area [we’re working in] and there’s a lot of room for multidisciplinary concepts.”
You can see a small video about the bot here.
Then bots have two parts to them – a piezoelectric actuator, and a 3D printed polymer body. The body has the legs that are activated by vibrations, the direction it goes in is determined by the angle of the legs. Ansari explains, “As the micro-bristle-bots move up and down, the vertical motion is translated into a directional movement by optimizing the design of the legs, which look like bristles.” Continuing “The legs of the micro-robot are designed with specific angles that allow them to bend and move in one direction in resonant response to the vibration.”
The next step is to increase the volume in which they can be produced to explore new applications. Ansari adds, “The process now takes quite a while, so we are looking at ways to scale it up to make hundreds or thousands of micro-bots at a time.”