Robots Making Smaller Robots Making Smaller Robots

In his excellent 1937 short story A Menace In Miniature, Raymond Z. Gallun writes about two intrepid space explores who fight a deadly, tiny enemy. How can they possibly engage this enemy on its own microscopic turf?

They use their miniature robot Scarab - just a quarter of an inch long - to build an even tinier version of the Scarab robot. And so on.

With the Scarab as big as a beetle, I could make a Scarab as big as a sand grain. This second Scarab could build a miniature of itself, as big as a dust grain. The third Scarab could construct a fourth, bearing the same proportions as the first to the second, or the second to the third. And so on, down, to the limit imposed by the ultimate indivisibility of the atoms themselves.
(Read more about ultra-microrobots)

But that's science fiction. How can you manufacture very small objects in the real world? Robotics Online had an interesting article this week about robots used for manufacturing. It turns out that one of the limits on the size of a manufactured item is the size of the smallest part that a human being can manipulate and position during assembly. Anything smaller than that, and you will need to have a robotic system for assembly.

Here are some examples of products that are not just better made by robots, but which cannot be built without robotic manipulators:

  • Nanotechnology robots are used for manipulating contacts, which are 100 nanometers in length and getting smaller. Robot operators are able to position a finely etched tungsten probe on the metal contact to achieve good electrical contact. Nanotechnology robots are used for manipulating contacts, which are 100 nanometers in length and getting smaller. Robot operators are able to position a finely etched tungsten probe on the metal contact to achieve good electrical contact.
  • Typically, mass spectrometers are large and very expensive laboratory instruments. Using [the] nano-assembly approach, high-precision robotics are building miniaturized mass spectrometers... Smaller mass spectrometers are deployed at airports for security.
  • Miniature robotic production consists of disk drives, cell phones, and photonics. Micro-assembly gets down into the level of sub-semiconductors, placing subassembly components onto the chip themselves, and applications where tolerances are within a micron... Nanotechnology robotics has expanded into biological systems, where companies are manipulating cells within fluids.
One of the experts contacted in writing the Robotics Online article, Dr. John Randall, Chief Technology Officer at Zyvex Corporation, says that high technology can bring jobs back to places where human labor is costly.

"Products can operate that are a lot smaller than humans can manipulate. Manufacturers are afraid to make products any smaller because humans cannot handle them," Randall says. "Robotics come in by picking up and positioning parts that are a lot smaller than human hands can. This will lead to a new revolution in miniaturization, where things that have gotten very small can get a lot smaller. This could bring jobs back to the United States."

If you are interested in some of the speculations on nano robotics, take a look at Bush Robots - , fractal branching ultra-dexterous robots.

Update 09-Feb-2009: Also, take a look at this entry for the Christmas bush robot from Robert Forward's 1985 novel Rocheworld. End update.

Read more about Nanotechnology robotics at Robotics Online.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/12/2006)

Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.

| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 5 )

Related News Stories - (" Robotics ")

I Can't Resist Worm Robots
'Seen close it was not completely flexible...' - Harry Harrison, 1962.

TinyMobileRobots Are Sewer Sentinels
Every movie monster gets its start someplace.

Flying Dragon Robot Transforms In Mid-Air
Terrific prototype video.

MXene Hydrogel Skin For Robots Flexes And Senses
'The plastex swam and whirled like boiling toothpaste...' - JG Ballard, 1962.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

 

Current News

North Focals Smart Glasses Provide Augmented Reality In Style
'The world ... is drenched in unfamiliar information all the way to the horizon.'

Tesla Driver Caught Napping Behind The Wheel
'Mary Risling settled back for a little nap...'

Hayabusa 2 To Begin Asteroid Mining
'We must dig down, and then doubtless we shall find the metal.'

Ionocraft Drone Powered By Electrohydrodynamic Thrust
'He saw one hiss by him as he rounded the corner, trailing a short whip antenna...'

Purdue Pharma Ready To Profit From OxyContin Use Or Addiction Recovery
'It may be organic damage. It may be permanent. Time'll tell, and only after you are off Substance D for a long while.'

BloxVox Mutes Cellphone Convos
It's the polite thing to do, and has been the polite thing to do for about four generations.

Superfast Replicator: Volumetric Additive Manufacturing
I can't wait. Bring it on.

DNA May Contain Malware
'You were told to embed the logical pathogen.'

I Can't Resist Worm Robots
'Seen close it was not completely flexible...'

Rplate Digital License Plates Now Legal In Michigan
'Gragg's digital ink license plates ...'

Can Musk Starship Astronauts Use Magnetic Boots?
'Walking awkwardly in the magnetic boots that held him to the black mass of meteoric iron...'

Giant Dolphin Spotted On Jupiter!
'Now at last he could appreciate its real size and complexity...'

Musk's Starship An SF Fan's Dream Come True
Perfect for testing, perfect for fans!

TinyMobileRobots Are Sewer Sentinels
Every movie monster gets its start someplace.

Fishy Facial Recognition Now Possible
'Palenkis can identify random line patterns better than any other species in the universe.'

Spicy Tomatoes Created With Genetic Engineering
How about mashed potatoes and brown gravy?

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.