Machine Design

Micromanipulating micromachines

Engineers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have developed a 1-sq-cm tool that will help build microscopic-sized machines.

Micromanipulating micromachines

Micromanipulation stations can assemble "micromachines" made of parts as small as 39 millionths of an inch or even to the nanoscale.

Future microscopic-sized machines will use tiny, agile "fingers" to grip, lift, and do assembly work.

Four microfingers within a chiplike micromanipulator station grasp and move micron-sized particles.

Laxman Saggere, assistant professor of mechanical and industrial engineering, and graduate student Sandeep Krishnan developed algorithms that coordinate the fingers. The researchers used the device to grab spheres 15 µm in diameter.

A major obstacle in developing microscale machines is the assembly process. "If we want to make a micromotor, we need to assemble it with microgears, shafts, and other components at microscale. We can't do that today," says Saggere. Future designs, the engineers say, will likely employ piezoelectric actuators to refine movements.

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