Robotic arms are extremely effective in the production of larger goods, like cars, but making smaller electronics is still done mostly by hand. This is partly because smaller robots are difficult to manufacture and control. But SRI International, a non-profit research institute based in California, has developed a magnetic technology that might be the answer.
Lots of other companies have used magnets to control tiny robots, but what makes SRI’s work different is their ability to control lots of moving robots at once. They use a circuit board that the robots operate on top of, and the magnetic fields on the board can be localized very precisely – so much so that other tiny robots nearby aren’t affected by another robot’s field.
These robots move with accuracy and speed, and they are lightweight enough to work anywhere with a magnetic field. This means they could simultaneously assemble a small electronic and continue to work on the inside.
SRI International’s patented technology is called Diagmagnetic Micro Manipulation, and they hope to one day create entire assembly lines that employ thousands of micro-robots.