Durability + Design
Follow us on Twitter Follow us on LinkedIn Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram Visit the TPC Store
Search the site

 

Advertisement

Keim Mineral Coatings


D+D News

Main News Page


MIT Develops Robots to Build

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

More items for Maintenance + Renovation

Comment | More

Simple, cube-shaped robots developed by MIT scientists may be able to self-assemble structures, raise scaffolding for building projects, or temporarily repair buildings and bridges during emergencies.

The modular robots, called M-Blocks, have no external moving parts, but they are capable of climbing over and around each other, spinning, jumping and snapping together, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

MIT News announced the technology Friday (Oct.4).

M-Block
M. Scott Brauer / MIT

The M-Block, shown here with its interior exposed, is powered by a flywheel that spins at a speed of 20,000 revolutions per minute.

The researchers said the colorful acrobatic blocks can also travel while suspended upside down from metallic surfaces.

The team—led John Romanishin, a research scientist at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL)—plans to present its findings next month at the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Tokyo, Japan.

Long Time Coming

“It’s one of these things that the [modular-robotics] community has been trying to do for a long time,” Daniela Rus, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science and director of CSAIL, said in a statement.

“We just needed a creative insight and somebody who was passionate enough to keep coming at it—despite being discouraged.”

Rus was referring to Romanishin, who began working on the project in 2011, as a senior at MIT.

Cube Design

In describing the technology, MIT said each M-Block is equipped with a flywheel that spins at a speed of 20,000 revolutions per minute. When the flywheel is braked, it reports its angular momentum to the cube, the team said.

“On each edge of an M-Block, and on every face, are cleverly arranged permanent magnets that allow any two cubes to attach to each other,” MIT relates.

MIT News Office / YouTube

The team further describes the robot and demonstrates its abilities in this MIT News video.

Rus said researchers who study reconfigurable robots have long relied on a technology called the “sliding-cube model.” In that model, if two cubes are facing each other, one of them can slide up the side of the other and, without changing orientation, slide across its top.

The sliding-cube model simplifies the development of self-assembly algorithms, but the robots that implement them tend to be much more complex, according to MIT.

Giving up on Stability

Instead, the team wanted a more simple design.

They were able to do that by giving up on the principle of static stability, MIT said. Existing modular devices are statically stable, meaning that “you can pause the motion at any point, and they’ll stay where they are,” according to postdoc Kyle Gilpin, who also worked on the project.

“There’s a point in time when the [M-Block] is essentially flying through the air,” Gilpin said. “And you are depending on the magnets to bring it into alignment when it lands. That’s something that’s totally unique to this system.”

This technique was also what made Rus skeptical about Romanishin’s initial proposal.

A Self-Assembled Future?

Currently the team is sending commands to the M-blocks via a radio signal, Gilpin explains in the MIT News video.

But ultimately, the team wants to put the algorithms on the modules themselves, which would allow them to autonomously accomplish tasks.

“We want to be able to take a large group of cubes and tell them ‘form this shape’ and give those instructions at a very high level, and then have the cubes decide on their own how to go about accomplishing that task,” Gilpin said.

Potential Applications

While a focus of the ongoing research is on miniaturization, the scientists believe that a more refined version of their current system could prove useful in a variety of applications.

“Armies of mobile cubes could temporarily repair bridges or buildings during emergencies, or raise and reconfigure scaffolding for building projects,” MIT reported.

The robots could also be used to assemble furniture and equipment or even go into hostile environments or those inaccessible to humans, to diagnose problems and reorganize themselves to provide solutions, the team said.

MIT scientists aren't the only ones researching robot technology and its use in the construction industry. For example, a student from Sweden's Umeå Institute of Design, developed  ERO, a concrete deconstruction robot, which may hold the future for building demolition and recycling.

   

Tagged categories: Building materials; Engineers; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Research

Comment Join the Conversation:

Sign in to our community to add your comments.

Advertisements
 
CONSTRUCT (by CSI)
 
Free Expo Pass to CONSTRUCT 2017
 
CONSTRUCT is the only dedicated national trade show and educational conference for the commercial building teams that spec and source building products. CONSTRUCT links thousands of industry leaders to procure real-world, practical knowledge for building success.
 

 
Pratt & Lambert Paints
 
Trusted Performance with Proven Results
 
Pratt & Lambert’s finest, Accolade® Premium Paint & Primer, applies flawlessly with superb hide and long-lasting durability for great results, every time.
 

 
Atlas Material Testing Technology
 
Helping You Put Your Products To The Test
 
  • Outdoor Accelerated Weathering
  • Laboratory Testing Services
  • Accelerated Weathering Instruments

  • www.atlas-mts.com
    atlas.info@ametek.com
 

 
RCI, Inc.
 
RCI Building Envelope Technology Symposium
 
November 13-14, 2017 | Orlando, Florida | Learn valuable design and repair insights from 20 leading design experts. RCI, Inc. is an AIA LU provider. Learn more.
 

 
PPG Paints
 
PURE PERFORMANCE® Interior Latex Paint
 
PPG PAINTS™ Pure Performance interior latex paint delivers a durable finish. Its zero-VOC,* low-odor formula makes it ideal for schools, hotels, hospitals, office buildings, retail spaces, home residences and more. *Colorants added to this base paint may increase VOC level significantly depending on color choice.
 

 
A&I Coatings
 
Vitreflon – the hallmark of colour stable protective coatings
 
Vitreflon two pack fluoropolymer coatings display unsurpassed colour and gloss retention making Vitreflon the coating of choice for high value infrastructure and architecture. Contact us today to find out how Vitreflon can outperform on your next project. Vitreflon distributorships available.
 

 
 
 

Technology Publishing Co., 1501 Reedsdale Street, Suite 2008, Pittsburgh, PA 15233

TEL 1-412-431-8300  • FAX  1-412-431-5428  •  EMAIL webmaster@durabilityanddesign.com


The Technology Publishing Network

Durability + Design PaintSquare the Journal of Protective Coatings & Linings Paint BidTracker

 

© Copyright 2012-2017, Technology Publishing Co., All rights reserved