April 4th, 2013 by
By Andy The
There has been a robotics resurgence in the industrial automation world. And Within robotics, self-assembling devices is one segment with the potential to revolutionize manufacturing.
Many of us have seen Lego Mindstorm projects where a simple robot is built by combining simple components and by programming the CPU (NXT) to perform simple motorized tasks. Now imagine 2x of these Mindstorm robots working independently. Suddenly when the two robots come in contact with one another, the robots automatically reassemble and reconfigure themselves to become a single, larger and more powerful robot. This is essentially what self-assembling/self-configuring robots are, self-assembling and self-reconfiguring robotic modules.
These modules are prebuilt, with the intelligence to operate individually, or to work in unison communicating with other robotic modules. If other robotic modules are found, then individual units can self-assemble and self-configure themselves to work on larger and more complicated tasks.
Here is a fascinating article from DesignNews that talks about these new types of robots and how they could revolutionize manufacturing. Also, I recommend this intriguing video from Cornell University of a self-assembling/self-configuring robot in action.
If these advancements continue, I can only imagine the possibilities in store for industrial automation. Entire manufacturing floors could be retooled by simply introducing the presence of new robotic appendages. The existing robots would then sense the presence of the new appendage, take it, attach it, and reprogram itself to perform a new task.
Eerily this gives me childhood flashbacks of watching episodes of the “Transformers”. Very cool.