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Apr 29, 2021

A modular building platform for the most ingenious of robots

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, robotics/AI

A team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems (MPI-IS) have developed a system with which they can fabricate miniature robots building block by building block, which function exactly as required.

As one would do with a Lego system, the scientists can randomly combine individual components. The blocks or voxels—which could be described as 3D pixels—are made of different materials: from basic matrix materials that hold up the construction to magnetic components enabling the control of the soft machine. “You can put the individual soft parts together in any way you wish, with no limitations on what you can achieve. In this way, each has an individual magnetisation profile,” says Jiachen Zhang. Together with Ziyu Ren and Wenqi Hu he is first author of the paper entitled “Voxelated three-dimensional miniature magnetic soft machines via multimaterial heterogeneous assembly.” The paper was published in Science Robotics on April 28, 2021.

The project is the result of many previous projects conducted in the Physical Intelligence Department at MPI-IS. For many years, scientists there have been working on magnetically controlled robots for wireless medical device applications at the small scale, from millimeters down to micrometers size. While the state-of-the-art designs they have developed to date have attracted attention around the world, they were limited by the single material with which they were made, which constrained their functionality.

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