The NanoWalker micro-robotics
The NanoWalker Project is a large scale effort, spanning several years, headed by Sylvain Martel of École Polytechnique of Montreal in conjunction with BioInstrumentation Lab at MIT. The goal of the project is to develop a tiny robot to manipulate or scan individual atoms.
The robot moves using three piezoelectric actuators arranged in a pyramidal fashion around the robot. Each leg has the ability to deflect in multiple directions. Sub-micron omni-directional positioning can be achieved by actuating these legs in various deflection directions and frequencies. I worked on the early stage development of this robot, including designing the complex folded flex circuits. The robot, measuring only 25mm cubed, has close to 500 components. Careful attention was paid to the folded joints in order to allow the 8-layer flex to bend into position.
I created the Super Invar structural frame of the device using a Wire EDM. Invar was used due the need to control thermal expansion of the robot when in operation.