MIT is leading a new five-year project to reinvent how robots are produced and designed, funded by a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The project, entitled “An Expedition in Computing for Compiling Printable Programmable Machines,” aims to develop technology that would enable people to design, customize and print a robot in 24 hours. The leader of the project, Professor Daniela Rus, said:
This research envisions a whole new way of thinking about the design and manufacturing of robots, and could have a profound impact on society. We believe that it has the potential to transform manufacturing and to democratize access to robots.
Currently, designing and producing a functioning robot takes years and is very expensive. This project would automate the process of creating 3D devices and allow anyone to design and build robots from materials such as paper. The researchers hope that their platform will enable individuals to choose from a range of blueprints at a local printing store and customize an easy-to-use robot that solves any problem they might have. In just one day, the robot would be printed, asssembled and fully programmed.
These robots could also have applications in manufacturing, education, healthcare, disaster relief and other areas. So far, the team has prototyped an insect-like robot that could be used for exploring a contaminated area and a gripper that could be used by people with limited mobility. Take a look at them in the video below: