Robots Weave Fiberglass Structures

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Researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed swarm-based fabrication that automatically creates architectural-scale structures

The MIT research published in the journal Science Robotics on September 26, 2018, reports autonomous robots that wove fiberglass tubes to create large structures with minimal human input. The robot dubbed as ‘Fiberbot’ possess a winding arm that pulls fiber from a tank on the ground. It mixes the materials in a nozzle and winds the wetted fiber around itself. The robot later turns on an ultraviolet light to cook the fiber into a hard tube. It then deflates its body and with the help of a tiny motor and wheels, it inches itself up on top of the hardened fiber to repeat the process.

To vary the thickness and the direction of the tubes, Fiberbots are capable of tilting and using various winding patterns .The robots communicate with each other through a computer network to avoid collision with each other while performing the task. Moreover, the robots are capable of calculating the most efficient way to build a given structure. A team of 22 Fiberbots was able to build two treelike structures 4.5 meters tall in 12 hours. The researchers predicted that the two trees would meet in the middle to form a tentlike shelter. However, they found that the robots overcorrected their paths to avoid collision with each other. The structure was able to stand for 7 months in high winds, rain, and snow during the fall and winter. According to the researchers, Fiberbots could be used to build structures in remote environments with unfamiliar terrain as instructions about the task can be beamed wirelessly to the robots. Moreover, the robots can adapt the blueprint around any obstacles that might crop up in their path. The team suggested that further testing and developments could enable use of Fiberbots on other planets such as Mars.

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Cynthia Carrier is a graduate of Texas A&M, where she played volleyball and annoyed a lot of professors. Now as Plains Gazette's entertainment and Lifestyle Editor, she enjoys writing about delicious BBQ, outrageous style trends and all things Texas.