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The Harvard Ambulatory MicroRobot (HAMR) Moves Super Fast

DFRobot Jun 24 2013 493

For most of us, insects are not particularly adorable. However, make a tiny insectoid robot, and suddenly the cute is off the charts. The Harvard Microrobotics Lab is working on a design for micro-bots called the Harvard Ambulatory MicroRobot (HAMR). Not only are these prototypes small, they’re deceptively fast, covering up to 8.4 body lengths per second.

Harvard PhD candidate Andrew Baisch has been working on the HAMR designs for the last five years. They are not assembled in the way larger robots are, but are fabricated on a Printed Circuit Microelectromechanical System (PC-MEMS). Using this method, materials are laid out in 23 microscopic layers and cut into precise shapes using lasers. The patterns can be folded into three-dimensional shapes with flexible materials serving as hinges. They’re like little electronic origami creations.

The HAMR has been getting progressively more petite as time goes on. By scaling the design template, Baisch has managed to get the robot down to just 0.27 grams, which works out to be about the size of a penny.

HAMR has more in common with insects than a visual resemblance — it can carry more than its own body weight like insects. Its legs are operated by tiny piezoelectric ceramic actuators that swing back and forth 70 timer per second. These actuators eat a lot of power, so the fastest HAMR prototypes are tethered to an external power supply.

A slightly heavier (1.7g) HAMR3 with built-in battery has been developed, but it’s slower because of the added weight. It’s a crazy little robot that will only get more interesting as battery technology improves. For the time being, even the wireless version can’t go far without a charge.