Researchers involved in robotics have always been fascinated with the idea of tiny robots. These robots are generally inspired by tiny insects and bugs who have amazing mobility prowess and can get in and out of very tiny spaces.
While the advancements in science has let to the development of some pretty tiny robots, when compared to actual bugs, they’re still pretty large.
Now researchers from the University of Maryland have found a way to reduce the size gap by experimenting with 3D Printed Robots, which have magnetically actuated legs.
By replacing regular motors with magnetic technology, the researchers are not only able to reduce the size of the robot, but also experiment with different gaits.
These quadrupedal robot are just 20 mm in length, with a hip height of 5.6 mm and weight of about 1.6 gram. The four edges of the design are embedded with 2-mm neodymium cube magnets which can be rotated through a big magnet placed nearby.
This orientation not only makes it easier for the robot to be moved, but by changing the dipole orientation of the leg magnets in different combinations, it also makes it possible to cause the robot to move with different gaits, including trotting, waddling, bounding, and pronking.
This ability to change gaits at will helps the robot maneuver more efficiently on all sorts of terrains, thus giving them the advantage that regular insects and bugs enjoy.
This robot is just a test of a concept though. The researchers hope that this tweak to the robot’s engine and design will make it possible to create even smaller robots with even an even larger range of movement. We will just have to wait and see how small they can go.