NewsElectroVoxel robots reconfigure themselves using magnets

ElectroVoxel robots reconfigure themselves using magnets

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The power of magnetism to regulate is extremely powerful and serves as the base for large areas of technology today. Without electromagnetism, we probably wouldn’t have gotten into the digital age. In fact, we would not possess electric motors. Today, engineers at MIT CSAIL are using electromagnetism to create something completely innovative: reconfigurable robots.

ElectroVoxel Robots have cube-shaped components that self-assemble into more complicated forms. Every robot is equipped with electromagnet coils that are encircling the edges. The Arduino Nano with a wireless transceiver powers these electromagnets, permitting untethered operation. The power source is LiPo batteries, and the frames are 3D printed. By controlling the voltage and current of each electromagnet, robots can connect to one another. They also can move making use of an appealing edge connector as an axis of pivot and repulsion to trigger. It is possible to use this movement for basic motion or to transform into new designs.

Unfortunately, ElectroVoxel robots only work in microgravity. Earth’s gravity is too strong for their electromagnetic repulsion to overcome for a pivot motion. For that reason, the engineers were forced to test the ElectroVoxel robots in “vomit comet” parabolic plane flight, which creates a microgravity effect. In that environment, the robots successfully reconfigured themselves into a variety of shapes without any external manipulation.

Michal Pukala
Electronics and Telecommunications engineer with Electro-energetics Master degree graduation. Lightning designer experienced engineer. Currently working in IT industry.