After unveiling miniature robot bugs that were able to fly just like real insects earlier this year, Harvard scientists have now revealed a new bug prototype that can move around at an impressive speed of over 14 inch (37cm) per second.
The robot bugs are called HAMR, short for Harvard Ambulatory MicroRobot and they mark a significant advancement in the field of microrobotics, due to the way they can move and the technology used in their construction.
The manufacturing method used by Harvard Microrobotics Lab is known as PC-MEMS (Printed Circuit Microelectromechanical Systems), which makes the robot prototypes very easy to assemble.
More specifically, the HAMR is made of 23 microscopic layers of different materials that are sandwiched together. These materials – flat carbon fiber, ceramics and polymers-, are then cut into patterns with a laser.
The laser cut materials are put together into a 3D shape, according to a technique very much like the one used in children’s pop-up books: the flexible materials that are already included in the pattern act as hinges and allow the construction to fold. Some other components need to be put together manually, however.
By employing this method, Harvard researchers obtained a 1.7 inch (4.4.cm) long and 0.045 oz (1.3 grams) heavy robot that acts, measures and weighs as much as some actual insects. The robot bug can carry more than its body weight, like any insect, but it is not strong enough to carry a hydraulic system or an electric motor to support its movement. This is why the legs of the HAMR are powered by six tiny but powerful piezoelectric ceramic actuators.
The actuators however need a lot of power to work properly and because of the robot’s small size, a battery added to the frame would slow it down considerably. The HAMR is therefore tethered to a power source for the time being. It is able to move at a speed of up to 8.4 body lengths – 14 inch total, per second.
Harvard scientists will continue to improve the prototype and expand their research into microrobotics, with the ultimate goal of creating high-performance ambulatory and flying microrobots that would be able to perform various tasks including environmental monitoring, exploring dangerous areas, assisting in search and rescue missions, and many more.
What do you think of the new robot bug? See it in action in the video below and share your thoughts:
[Images via Gizmag]