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Reconfiguration Mechanism Design. Mark Yim Associate Professor and Gabel Family Associate Professor Dept. of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics, University of Pennsylvania. There are two fundamental electro-mechanical components to self-reconfiguring robot systems

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Reconfiguration mechanism design

Reconfiguration Mechanism Design

Mark Yim

Associate Professor and

Gabel Family Associate Professor

Dept. of Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics,

University of Pennsylvania

Reconfiguration mechanism design

Costs of micro scale device pessimistic view
Costs of micro-scale device self-reconfiguring robot systems(pessimistic view)

  • Module: 1mm x 1mm x 1mm MEMS (silicon)

  • Silicon cost ~ $1/sq inch

    • 2003 Revenue $5.7billion / 4.78 billion sq inch silicon

    • $200 / 12” diam, $30 /8“ diam wafers

    • 100um-2000um thick (choose 1mm)

  • Assume processing costs ~$9/sq inch

  • Modules cost 1.6¢

  • Synthesize human shape

  • Mark weighs 65 Kg -> 65,000 cm3

    • Assume density of water (1kg = 1000 cm3 )

  • 65,000,000 modules

    • 1000 modules per cm3

  • Cost: $1,007,502.025

Costs of micro scale device optimistic view
Costs of micro-scale device self-reconfiguring robot systems(optimistic view)

  • In mature systems, cost goes by the pound.

    • E.g. Xerox machines

    • Optimization in space/volume

  • The process cost can be reduced. Ultimately to near the cost of silicon (factor of 10 savings)

  • Fill factor of modules does not need to be 100% (factor of 10 savings)

  • Find a smaller person to synthesize (factor of 2 savings)

  • Cost $5,037

Outline self-reconfiguring robot systems

  • Review of Motion mechanisms

    • Chain style reconfiguration

    • Lattice style reconfiguration

  • Review of Latching mechanisms

  • Discussion

Three classes of existing self reconfigurable robots
Three Classes of Existing self-reconfiguring robot systemsSelf-Reconfigurable Robots




Telecube g1

Lattice Self-Reconfiguration self-reconfiguring robot systems

Telecube G1

Proteo never built

Proteo self-reconfiguring robot systems

Proteo (never built)

Rhombic Face

(Edge length = 5 cm)

Reconfiguration mechanism design

I-Cube, Cem Unsal @ CMU self-reconfiguring robot systems

Metamorphic, Chirikjian @ Hopkins


Molecule: Kotay & Rus self-reconfiguring robot systems

Crystal: Vona & Rus


Satoshi murata lattice
Satoshi Murata (lattice) self-reconfiguring robot systems

  • Fracta

  • 3D fracta

Reconfiguration mechanism design

Molecube, Lipson @ cornell self-reconfiguring robot systems

ATRON, Ostergaard, et. al @ U. S. Denmark

Reconfiguration mechanism design

Inoue, Pnumatic self-reconfiguring robot systems

Riken, Vertical

Stochastic graph grammars
Stochastic/Graph Grammars self-reconfiguring robot systems

  • No main actuation (external)

    • Klavins

    • Lipson

  • Latching

    • Magnets

    • Pressure differential in oil

Chain self reconfiguration polybot generation 2 g2 and 3 g3
Chain Self-Reconfiguration self-reconfiguring robot systemsPolyBot Generation 2 (G2), and 3 (G3)

Reconfiguration mechanism design

Polypod self-reconfiguring robot systems

UPenn superbot

Reconfiguration mechanism design

Conro, Shen/will @ ISI self-reconfiguring robot systems

Mtran, Murata et al

Nilsson dragon
Nilsson, Dragon self-reconfiguring robot systems

Lattice vs chain

1 DOF motion docking self-reconfiguring robot systems

Local self-collision detection

Higher stiffness dock

No singularities,

No mechanical advantage

Discrete motions

GeneralManipulation difficult

Unstructured environments difficult

6 DOF motion docking

Global self-collision detection

Lower stiffness dock


Complicates control

Arbitrary motions

Lattice vs Chain

Lattice is easier for self-reconfiguration

Chain is easier for locomotion/manipulation

Main drives
Main drives: self-reconfiguring robot systems

  • Geared DC motors (most popular)

  • Magnetic

  • Pneumatic

  • None

    Not shown yet:

  • Combustive: easier if modules are large

  • Thermal (nuclear?): perhaps in space

  • Mechanochemical: does this exist?

  • Electrostatic: ok if small? High voltages

  • Molecular motors: if very tiny

Latching mechanisms
Latching mechanisms self-reconfiguring robot systems

  • Magnetic – issue: strength

  • Mechanical – issue: actuator (size (strength/speed))

  • Pneumatic – issue: valves, supply

  • Hydraulic – issue: valves, supply

    Not shown yet:

  • Electrostatic: ok if small? High voltages

  • Dry Adhesive: attach/detach motion?

Reconfiguration mechanism design

Stolen from: self-reconfiguring robot systems

Esbed Ostergaard


U. Southern Denmark

Questions self-reconfiguring robot systems

  • What are the important parameters for the motion part? What are the tradeoffs?

    • DOF?

    • Shape?

    • #of attachments

    • Workspace?

  • What are the important parameters for attaching/detaching mechanisms?

What on earth are we going to do with these robots
What on earth are we going to do with these robots? self-reconfiguring robot systems

  • NASA program

    • It’s going to be more robust to send specialized machine per task

    • Multifunction cost savings vs capability

    • Space station repair

    • Mars exploration

    • Moon station (selfreplication)

  • Construction

    • Locomotion with manipulation

    • E.g. mine sensor support w/shoring

    • Building construction

    • Architecture

  • Exploration

    • Search and rescue

    • Undersea mining

    • Planetary mining

  • Shape only

    • Structures

    • Telepario

    • Shady robots

    • Programmable antennae

  • Research contribution for itself

  • On microscale

    • Self assembling chips (self-walking chips?)

    • Mechanical RSA (tiles form shapes to open locks)

    • Mechanical FPGA

Reconfiguration mechanism design

  • Shape vs function self-reconfiguring robot systems

    • 3 people do shape only

  • Fundamental assumptions(?)

  • Self

    • Organizing

    • Reconfiguring

    • Repairing

    • Funding 

  • Communities to relate to?

    • Complexity systems community

    • Nanoscience community (foundations of nanoscience)

  • Availability of low cost reliable hardware helps to enable robotics research

    • Common platform, (e.g. mote like)

  • Sources of funding?

    • DARPA, NSF, Europe, (Brad has money)

    • Japan Aist/TiTech last