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A group of construction robots can build large structures

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These tiny robotic workers are still in the training phase. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who have designed a set of construction robots, believe they have the potential to assemble large structures in the future.

Scientists hope that their robots will be able to build things bigger than themselves, like vehicles or giant robots. Their latest studies show that they can even build deformed components, such as an airplane wing, for example, or a functional racing car.

The principle of this construction method is to combine multiple small identical parts. Different built elements can therefore be assembled in this way, just like robots. In short, it’s like Lego robots can play with Lego themselves. They can work in teams and independently build large structures quickly. These results were published in the journal Nature Communications Engineering.

Note though: if these small workers have this potential according to studies, they are far from realizing it already. “ A fully autonomous, self-replicating robot assembly system capable of assembling large structures, including large robots, and planning a perfect build sequence… will still be years away. “says Neil Gershenfeld, one of the authors of the study A press release from MIT.

However, according to scientists, apprentice robots are making significant progress. For example, they can now know when to build more robots to progress on a task. Scientists worked out how to make the structures efficiently and arrange them into groups of different sizes without colliding.

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Voxels as building units

The key to the operation of these robots are “voxels”. All these are identical building units. These are the famous “Legos” that are used to build robots and are also used to build them. However, these voxels do more than shape a construct. They directly transmit data and energy to perform the required functions.


« As we build these structures, we must integrate intelligence “, explains Neil Gershenfeld. ” Earlier versions of assembly robots were connected to their power source and control systems via wire harnesses. The concept of structural electronics emerged: building voxels that transmit power and data. “. In this new system, “there are no sons. There is only structure”.

The robots themselves are made up of a network of many voxels. They can capture another voxel using the attachment points at their ends. They then “crawl”, like a caterpillar, to the desired position, attaching the new voxel structure.

In this process, there comes a time when the journey to the fixation point is very long. The robot can then decide to build another robot of the same size or larger if it feels that manufacturing can be done more efficiently this way. Many studies have been conducted on the use of robot builders, the scientists point out. ” But the next step, the robot has to decide to build another robot or a different type of robot, which is new. “. According to MIT, this method can open new perspectives in the field of construction.

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Source: Nature Communications Engineering

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