The birth of every technology is the result of the quest for automation of some form of human work. This has led to many inventions that have made life easier for us. Fractal Robot is a science that promises to revolutionize technology in a way that has never been witnessed before.
The principle behind Fractal Robots is very simple. You take some cubic bricks made of metals and plastics, motorize them, put some electronics inside them and control them with a computer and you get machines that can change shape from one object to another. Almost immediately, you can now build a home in a matter of minutes if you had enough bricks and instruct the bricks to shuffle around and make a house! It is exactly like kids playing with Lego bricks and making a toy hose or a toy bridge by snapping together Lego bricks-except now we are using computer and all the work is done under total computer control. No manual intervention is required. Fractal Robots are the hardware equivalent of computer software.
What are Fractals?
A fractal is anything which has a substantial measure of exact or statistical self-similarity. Wherever you look at any part of its body it will be similar to the whole object.
A Fractal Robot physically resembles itself according to the definition above. The robot can be animated around its joints in a uniform manner. Such robots can be straight forward geometric patterns/images that look more like natural structures such as plants. This patented product however has a cubic structure. The figure below shows a collection of such cubes.
Fractal Robots start at one size to which half size or double size cubes can be attached and to each of these half size/double size cubes can be attached respectively. This is what makes them fractal. So a fractal cube can be of any size. The smallest expected size is between 1000 and 10,000 atoms wide. These cubes are embedded with computer chips that control their movement. Thus they can be programmed to configure themselves into any shape. The implication of this concept is very powerful. This concept can be used to build buildings, bridges, instruments, tools and almost anything else you can think of. It can be done with hardly any manual intervention. These robots can assist in production and manufacture of goods thus bringing down the manufacturing price down dramatically.
Fractal Robot Mechanism
Simple Construction details
Considerable effort has been taken in making the robotic cubes as simple as possible after the invention has been conceived. The design is such that it has fewest possible moving parts so that they can be mass produced. Material requirements have been made as flexible as possible so that they can be built from metals and plastics which are cheaply available in industrialized nations but also from ceramics and clays which are environmentally friendlier and more readily available in developing nations.
The cube therefore is hollow and the plates have all the mechanisms. Each of these face plates have electrical contact pads that allow power and data signals to be routed from one robotic cube to another. The plates also have 45 degree petals that push out of the surface to engage the neighboring face that allows one robotic cube to lock to its neighbour. The contact pads could be on the plates themselves or be mounted separately on a purpose built solenoid operated pad as shown in figure 2.
The contact pads are arranged symmetrically around four edges to allow for rotational symmetry. These contacts are relayed out and only transmit power when required to do so. If they are operating submerged, the contact pads can be forced into contact under pressure because of the petals, removing most of the fluid between the gaps before transmitting power through them.
The contact pads are not shown in figure 4. What is shown are four v shaped grooves running the length of the plate that allow the petals to operate so that the cubes can lock to each other and also each other using its internal mechanisms.
The cubes have inductive coupling to transmit power and data signals. This means that there care no connectors on the surface of the robotic cube. If the connectors are used, wiring problems may follow. Unlike contact pads, inductive coupling scale very well.
There are many mechanical designs for constructing cubes, and cubes come in different sizes, but the actual movement method is always the same.
Regardless of complexity, the cubes move only between integer positions and only obey commands to move left, right, up, down, forward and backward. If it can't perform an operation, it simply reverses back. If it can't do that as well, the software initiates self repair algorithms.
There are only three basic movement methods.
· Pick and place
Pick and place is easy to understand. Commands are issued to a collection of cubes telling each cube where to go. A command of "cube 517 move left by 2 positions" results in only one cube moving in the entire machine. Entire collection of movements needed to perform particular operations are worked out and stored exactly like conventional robots store movement paths. (Paint spraying robots use this technique.)
However there are better structured ways to storing movement patterns. It turns out that all movements other than pick and place are variations of just two basic schemes called the N-streamer and L-streamer.
N-streamer is easy to understand. A rod is pushed out from a surface, and then another cube is moved into the vacant position. The new cube is joined to the tail of the growing rod and pushed out again to grow the rod. The purpose of the rod is to grow a 'tentacle'. Once a tentacle is grown, other robots can be directed to it and move on top of it to reach the other side. For bridge building applications, the tentacles are grown vertically to make tall posts.
L-streamer is a little more involved to explain and requires the aid of figure 5. L-streamers are also tentacles but grown using a different algorithm.
Basically, an L-shape of cubes numbered 4, 5, 6 in figure 2a attached to a rod numbered 1, 2, 3, and then a new cube 7 is added so that the rod grows by one cube until it looks like figure 2f. The steps illustrated in figure 2b to 2e can be repeated to grow the tentacle to any length required. When large numbers of cubes follow similar paths, common cubes are grouped into a collection and this collection is controlled with same single commands (left, right, up, down, forward and backward) as if they were a single cube as illustrated in figure 6.
It may take about 4-5 years for this technology to be introduced and tried out all over the world. But once the first step is taken and its advantages well understood it will not take much time for it to be used in our everyday life. Using Fractal Robots will help in saving economy; time etc and they can be used even for the most sensitive tasks. Also the raw materials needed are cheap, making it affordable for developing nations also. This promises to revolutionize technology in a way that has never been witnessed before.