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Engineering Materials

Video: Robotic Cubes Self-Assemble

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cool robot parts
Ann R. Thryft   10/22/2013 5:17:07 PM
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I think you're right, Rob. And this particular R&D team is quite talented and persistent.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cool robot parts
Ann R. Thryft   10/22/2013 5:15:11 PM
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Elizabeth, isn't this fun? I thin k Jim's suggestion for how magnetic connections can be amplified with other types is interesting.



Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Instant bridge in a natural disaster
Ann R. Thryft   10/22/2013 4:58:35 PM
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Jim, interesting point about cost in your earlier post. One thing that will affect cost is whether all of the cubes are identical, so can take advantage of economies of scale in production, or some of them have specialized functions, which will of course obviate same. This basic and simple difference is a major point in robotic self-assemby.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: Instant bridge in a natural disaster
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   10/22/2013 1:20:37 PM
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Right – only a PoC, but a very well-engineered and demonstrated PoC. I can visualize the magnets mounted on pinion-driven brackets, and after initial magnetic connection, a pinion drive physically engaged the magnetic pins into recess on the mating block. Lots of very cool potential on this idea, as autonomous building blocks.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Instant bridge in a natural disaster
Ann R. Thryft   10/22/2013 10:58:58 AM
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Jim, the bonds are magnetic, so they're not all that strong. This is a proof of concept, barely even a prototype. Notice how the researchers say that bridge repair and structures built with them would be temporary. I'm really interested to see what other means of fastening/connecting can be applied.



JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Re: Instant bridge in a natural disaster
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   10/21/2013 11:00:26 PM
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Of course, economical price is less important for emergency, disaster & recovery, but to truly become commercially viable, each block cost will have to be "reasonably" priced.  Considering that in its present configuration that each block contains a flywheel, brake, brushless motor, PCB with controller, modem and a battery, they are still quite costly from a pure BOM standpoint, but certainly low-priced compared to other robots today.  Maybe if 1,000's were used to collectively "build a bridge" as speculated, there could be some advancement in the way they share components as a group.

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Instant bridge in a natural disaster
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   10/21/2013 10:51:04 PM
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That is fascinating.  Imagine the future where they might air-drop several thousand of these over an earthquake site, and watch them autonomously build a bridge over rushing flood water. I didn't catch any details on the strength of the elements-to-element bond, in that type of scenario where overall group strength, as a finished colony of blocks into a single structure, would be critical.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Cool robot parts
Rob Spiegel   10/21/2013 4:10:19 PM
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This could be an odd little breakthrough, Ann. While it looks toy-like, the idea of parts coalescing could be the beginning of new robotic applications.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Imaginative
Ann R. Thryft   10/21/2013 1:11:50 PM
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Thanks, Greg, for that play on words! It gave me a chuckle.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Cool robot parts
Ann R. Thryft   10/21/2013 1:11:33 PM
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Well, yes and no, Chuck. Transformers re-configure themselves. These cubes self-assemble first and then reconfigure themselves. In robotics, these are considered different problems to solve, mechanically and algorithmically.

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