Self-organizing micro robots may soon swarm the industrial IoT

Masses of ant-like, self-organizing, microbots could soon perform tasks such as push objects in factories, swarm industrial production-line trouble-spots, and report environmental data.

Self-organizing micro robots may soon swarm the industrial IoT
Marc Delachaux / 2019 EPFL

Miniscule robots that can jump and crawl could soon be added to the industrial internet of things’ arsenal. The devices, a kind of printed circuit board with leg-like appendages, wouldn’t need wide networks to function but would self-organize and communicate efficiently, mainly with one another.

Breakthrough inventions announced recently make the likelihood of these ant-like helpers a real possibility.

Vibration-powered micro robots

The first invention is the ability to harness vibration from ultrasound and other sources, such as piezoelectric actuators, to get micro robots to respond to commands. The piezoelectric effect is when some kinds of materials generate an electrical charge in response to mechanical stresses.

Researchers at Georgia Tech have created 3D-printed micro robots that are vibration powered. Only 0.07 inches long, the ant-like devices — which they call "micro-bristle-bots" — have four or six spindly legs and can can respond to differing quivering frequencies and move uniquely, based on their leg design.

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