October 5, 2015

Many hands make light work

"Wong-Foy, a senior research engineer at SRI, has built an army of magnetically steered workers to test the idea that “microrobots” could be a better way to assemble electronics components, or to build other small structures.

Wong-Foy’s robotic workers have already proved capable of building towers 30 centimeters (two feet) long from carbon rods, and other platforms able to support a kilogram of weight. The robots can work with glass, metal, wood, and electronic components. In one demonstration, they made a carbon truss structure with wires and colored LEDs mixed in to serve as the lab’s Christmas tree."

"Wong-Foy also thinks his approach might be useful for assembling devices that combine electronic and optical components, for example to interface with fiber optic cables. Because silicon and optical components can’t be processed in the same step, that industry often uses manual assembly to put them together. “In the field of optical electronics people have not found a good way to integrate indium phosphide lasers with silicon components,” says Wong-Foy. “The scale of those things is the size of carbon rods we’re using here.”


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