Essentially, tiny robots can now be built by slightly bigger robots. Designing how all of the layers will fit together and fold, however, is still a very human task, requiring creativity and expertise. Standard computer-aided design (CAD) tools, typically intended for either flat, layered circuit boards or 3D objects, do not yet support devices that combine both.
Once the design is complete, though, fabrication can be fully automated, with accuracy and precision limited only by the machining tools and materials.
"The alignment is now better than we can currently measure," says Sreetharan. "I've verified it to better than 5 microns everywhere, and we've gone from a 15% yield towell, I don't think I've ever had a failure."
The full fabrication process will be described in the March issue of the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering. Co-authors and collaborators, beside Whitney, Sreetharan, and Wood, include Kevin Ma, a graduate student at SEAS; and Marc Strauss, a research assistant in Wood's lab.
The Harvard Office of Technology Development is now developing a strategy to commercialize this technology. As part of this effort, they have filed patent applications on this work and are engaging with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and companies to identify disruptive applications in a range of industries.
|Contact: Caroline Perry|