Robot Lamp Assembles Itself (Via 3D Printer)

Harvard's Microrobotics Lab has created a printable self-assembling lamp. I'm looking at you, IKEA!


(3D printed lamp assembles itself)

The sensors are the big news here: they come straight out of the printer, just like the structure of the lamp itself as well as all of the self-folding elements and most of the wiring.

The mechanical switch is a hinged four-bar linkage that can be repeatedly twisted (hundreds of times) to open or close printed electrical contacts. The touch sensor (which can capacitively sense applied force) can be used to switch the lamp on and off, or to adjust the brightness of the LED.

The thing that comes out of the printer (it's a rather special sort of printer) is a flat multi-layer sandwich of shape-memory polymers (they take care of the actual folding, triggered by heat), thin layers of copper, layers of paper and foam for structure, and double-sided tape to keep it all stuck together.

One of the earliest direct science-fictional references to the idea of a self-assembling robot can be found in The Witches of Karres, a 1966 novel by James Schmitz.

The Sheem Robots were modeled after living animals of various worlds, and the Spider is considered to have been the most perfect of them all. This is the last specimen still in existence. You asked whether I had assembled it recently... Yes, I have. It's a most simple process...

The captain swung the gun up, pointed it at Yango's chest.

"What are you hiding?" he asked.

"Why, the activating mechanism," Yango frowned puzzledly. "I understood you wished to see it assembled. You see, the Sheen Robots assemble themselves when the signal to to it is registered by them."

I should also include a nod to Philip K. Dick's autofac which could have built the lamp, in addition to fully assembling it.

Via IEEE Spectrum.

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