Modern industry is already widely using robots to produce things such as cars, electronic devices, etc. And each robot takes a strictly defined place in the technological process, performing only one job assigned to it. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created small assembly robots that can create large structures from the very beginning to the end, while the robot can erect the structure independently and slowly, or by working with other similar robots, which speeds up the process several times.
These tiny robots, dubbed BILL-E (Bipedal Isotropic Lattice Locomoting Explorer), can be used in the future in aircraft and construction, including the construction of space base buildings on the surface of other planets.
BILL-E robots are a “hand” with several degrees of freedom and grips from both ends. They can manipulate these grips with the simplest three-dimensional blocks-blanks, voxels, from which large structures are erected. The robot program already includes the basic principles of building structures from voxels, the robot already knows how to select voxels, move them, install them in a chosen place and connect with already installed elements.
At the same time, BILL-E robots do not need complex navigation systems, they determine their position by the position of neighboring voxels. “By this, BILL-E robots are distinguished from other robots,” the researchers write, “they only need to know where to take the next step”.
Working as a group, the number of which can vary, small robots can build large objects with maximum speed and efficiency thanks to specialized software that optimizes the whole process. In addition to the construction of new buildings, BILL-E robots can repair, remove or replace damaged parts of buildings using the same principles as in construction, they can add new elements and sections to existing buildings, changing their purpose or function. And of course, the field of activity of BILL-E robots is not limited only to land according to the original idea.
“On a space station or on a lunar space base, such robots can be constantly on the surface of buildings, supporting and rebuilding them as needed,” said Kenneth Cheung, a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working on a NASA project called ARMADAS.