Design overview: robotics in miniature; Micro 3D printing; Automation redesigned
Robotics in miniature
Robots are not always large, stationary muscle machines. There is a whole branch of the field devoted to microrobotics, such as a recent Machine design article notes.
Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore have developed miniature robots that can be controlled using magnetic fields to perform very maneuverable and dexterous manipulations. Millimeter-sized robots, or unattached actuators, have been designed with magnetic microparticles embedded in biocompatible polymers (non-toxic materials that are harmless to humans).
The advantage, as one researcher notes, is their use in areas where a small factor may be crucial, such as medicine. Miniature robots are about the size of a grain of rice, making them suitable for reaching confined and enclosed spaces. Another use is in the biomedical field for applications such as the assembly of lab-on-a-chip devices that can be used for clinical diagnostics by integrating multiple lab processes on a single chip.
Another great application for small tech is the miniaturization of 3D printing. A new white paper from Machine design and Boston Micro Fabrication examines a unique technology that produces parts faster and more precisely than standard methods with the repeatability needed for today’s applications.
Regardless of the opportunities and challenges that arise in a more automated work environment, the first step is still the most difficult: getting started. Businesses still don’t know where to start when it comes to system considerations or upcoming challenges, except that maintaining a skilled workforce will continually be a part of their needs. A new white paper from Machine design and Siemens includes a survey to help companies better understand what might be needed in their transition to automation and how to assess and select the right supplier for them.