News and Reviews (May 2019)

Smallest legged robot ever made

University of Maryland_3D-Printed Legged Microrobot.jpg
Image: University of Maryland

Researchers from the University of Maryland recently developed one of the smallest and fastest legged microrobots ever, fabricated with one of Nanoscribe’s 3D printers. With dimensions of just 2.5 mm x 1.6 mm x 0.7 mm, the tiny quadruped robot is smaller than the size of an ant’s head and weighs only 1 mg. However, the agile microrobot achieves up to 37 mm/s which equals impressive 15 body lengths per second.

The aim of the study by the team around Ryan St. Pierre from Sarah Bergbreiter‘s lab was to gain insights into the dynamics of legged locomotion in the micrometer range. The researchers are also curious about the torque and mechanical power required to move the small-scale robots. Therefore, they developed a 3D-printed microrobot with legs shaped like a “C” providing a rolling contact with the ground. To facilitate movement, magnets were placed in the hip joints and secured with glue. With a rotating magnetic field, a torque is applied to each hip joint.

Watch below video in which Ryan St. Pierre and Sarah Bergbreiter explain the world of legged microrobots:

The most immediate application of these robots is as an experimental tool to understand the underlying dynamics of the locomotion of insects as they walk very differently to humans due to their low body mass. Moreover, the team is positive about more future applications. Small legged Robots manufactured by Nanoscribe’s 3D Microfabrication technology can take advantage from the unique physics of their scales and perform tasks that larger robots can hardly handle. For example, microrobots could be used to inspect bridges avoiding collapse or they could be deployed in search scenarios after natural disasters. Ant-sized robots could go where humans can’t: for example, accessing tight spaces or operating under various weather and safety conditions. Even more applications could be in the medical field.

Read more about this outstanding investigation here (PDF):

A 3D-Printed 1 MG Legged Microrobot Running at 15 Body Lengths per Second