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NIST and IEEE Challenge for MagPieR: The Fastest Mobile Microrobots in the World

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5 Author(s)
Ioan Alexandru Ivan ; FEMTO-ST Institute, Besancon, 25000, France ; Gilgueng Hwang ; Joel Agnus ; Nicolas Chaillet
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Recent advances in micro/nanotechnologies and microelectromechanical systems have enabled micromachined mobile agents. Highly dynamic mobile microrobots are believed to open the gate for various future applications. However, at the submillimeter scale, the adhesion effects dominate physics, especially in the air environment. Although many studies have been performed to avoid or reduce this effect, the sticking phenomena are still one of the biggest challenges in achieving highly dynamic micromobile robots. Subsequently, intrinsic challenges at the given scale (hundreds of micrometers) are the powering technique themselves. Although often designed from active materials, actuation may only be performed by means of various external fields that often require a lot of space around the scene. In this context, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the IEEE initiated an annual state-of-the art microrobotics challenge, boosting the development of novel mobile agents with precise and highly dynamic propulsion mechanisms and controllability. During our first participation in this competition in 2010, the French team Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) proposed a magnetic and piezoelectric mobile microrobot called MagPieR, which dramatically enhanced the propulsion speed to 28 ms for the so-called 2-mm dash task. It literally cut the former record to a quarter. In the meantime, during the 2011 challenge, MagPieR won the mobility challenge thanks to some optimized coil setup and control law. The continuous technical advances in terms of dynamic performance are now shifting, and the focus of the next challenge is more agile-demanding and controllable tasks. Combining different physical effects is a promising key for the future of highly dynamic mobile microsystems and associated applications in micromanipulation, microassembly, or minimally invasive surgery.

Published in:

IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine  (Volume:20 ,  Issue: 2 )