A team from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the USA has created a new type of 3D-printed robot that is as the size of the world's smallest ant.
A range of applications is envisioned for the tiny bot including moving materials and perhaps repairing injuries inside the human body.
The prototype robots are approximately two millimeters long and can move four times their own length in one second. That movement is the result of being able to harness vibrations from piezoelectric actuators, ultrasound sources or tiny speakers.
They respond to different frequencies depending on their configurations. At the moment the microbots have a piezoelectric actuator glued to their polymer bodies which are printed using two-photon polymerization lithography.
The actuators are powered externally to generate vibrations because there aren’t batteries small enough to fit on the robots. These vibrations cause the springy legs to go up and down and this, in turn, propels the bot forward.
“We are working to make the technology robust, and we have a lot of potential applications in mind,” said Azadeh Ansari, an assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “We are working at the intersection of mechanics, electronics, biology and physics. It’s a very rich area and there’s a lot of room for multidisciplinary concepts.”
A paper describing the microbot research has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering.
Microbots in Action
To see the tiny robots in action watch the video below.