The Self-Assemble Revolution
By Alex 24-09-2020
Self Assembly has sparked hype with much focus still circulating around the 3d printing end of additive manufacture, many are already looking beyond towards the emerging world of self-assembling devices….
Whilst the big talking point of the time in technological innovation still lies around 3d printing manufacture, there’s a revolution quietly taking afoot elsewhere. The field of self-assemble devices has seen a huge leap in interest in recent times, with the benefits of autonomous assembly offering a wealth of benefits for many areas of society. The basic premise for the development of such technologies lie within their adaptability to assemble structures that are not pre-defined. Take for example the task of bridge building.
A number of factors ranging from length and weight to structure and climate have a direct affect upon the design and construction of it, meaning there’s no set definition of what the structure will be. There’s also the issue of location, with a need to get the various materials and manpower to the construction site. These issues may not appear too much of an issue in some parts of the world, but for those countries that lack a developed infrastructure, the task can become significantly more complicated. There are also instances where there is an urgent need for access for humanitarian and military purposes, where solutions are limited to what they can cater for. Self assembling device research is looking to provide an alternative solution to such situations, completely changing the way in which we approach such problems.
Research at the Distributed Robotics Laboratory at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory department have been developing what they term as the M-block. The device, which moves internally through a flywheel mechanism at its centre with no external parts, has the ability to connect to others around it through magnets embedded around its faces. With adaptability at its heart, the M-block has no pre-determined characteristics for connectivity, being able to move to wherever required and form an assembled structure with its counterparts.
The M-Blocks are currently controlled by computer transmission signals through wireless radio, however the researchers hope to see the prospect of control moving to algorithms which will load onto the blocks directly, making them entirely autonomous. The researchers also believe the introduction of sensors and cameras into the device which would allow it to work out how to accomplish specific tasks in combat or emergency situations will eventually emerge, adding further potential commercial opportunities to develop the device for use.