Desktop Rapid Prototyping Millirobots

The goal of the NSF supported Desktop Rapid Prototyping Millirobots project is to develop a system that would provide the user with the ability to fabricate millimeter-sized mechatronic devices in an automated fashion.  This envisioned automated assembly would include the construction of the 3-D structure (the robot's body) and the attachment of actuators, sensors, and any necessary wiring.

Our current focus has been on automating the building of the 3-D structure and the attachment of strain gages (as an example of a sensor).  We accomplish this through the use of  a kit of parts, customizable pallets, and the Ortho-tweezers system which is the main component of the desktop rapid prototyping system for dextrous manipulation (developed by Eiji Shimada and Jeff Thompson).

Overview of the Rapid Prototyping Procedure for Automated Construction of Millirobots

overview of the prototyping system
The kit of parts is assembled using the Microlaze system although the stainless steel triangles require additional assembly using the folding mechanism we developed.  Once the kit of parts has been established the user can select the needed parts from this kit (step 1 in the picture above) and assemble them on a customizable pallet and insert this pallet into the Ortho-tweezers for the assembly into the 2D pattern (steps 2 and 3).  (Because the Ortho-tweezers can manipulate rectangular parts well, we extend its capabilities to other shapes by attaching a rectangular handling block to the object to be manipulated.)  This process is shown below.  Once the 2D pattern has been assembled it is folded into the 3D structure (step 4).  (This step is done by hand since at this stage we are no longer dealing with micron sized parts).

Customizable Pallet and Manipulation of Parts by the Ortho-tweezers (details of steps 2 and 3 above)

manipulate part with ortho-tweezers

  1. This figure shows a sample pallet containing (from left to right) the handling blocks, low melting point wax, needed kit parts, and final configuration location.
  2. The Ortho-tweezers are picking up a handling block and dipping it in the low melting point wax.
  3. The handling block is being attached to one of the parts that need to be manipulated.
  4. The Ortho-tweezers are reorienting the part and placing in its final configuration.

Final Product Examples

4 Bar Mechanism 1 DOF Wrist
4 Bar Mechanism (made with carbon fiber and polyester parts) 1 Degree of Freedom Wrist (made with stainless steel and polyester parts)

This research is sponsored by the NSF DMII Program.

``This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DMI-0115091. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).''