Surgical robots of the future will have to be fast, careful, and powerful in their capabilities. Movies, such as The Fifth Element, now more than 20 years old, have given us a glimpse into the future of medicine and bioprinting where robots can rapidly perform otherwise extremely tedious tasks. This future may not be far off, and one technology that should help it come sooner is a robot built at Harvard that can manipulate tiny objects with amazing speed and accuracy.
The milliDelta robot is modeled on much larger Delta robots that are now common in manufacturing plants around the world. Delta robots are controlled by three separately powered arms that work in parallel to achieve high speed and precise movement. There’s been a great deal of work invested in miniaturizing these devices to manipulate small objects, but conventional materials and parts create a major roadblock that prevented Delta robots from being made on a millimeter scale.
The milliDelta robot is about the size of a penny and it can manipulate objects at the micrometer scale, an impressive achievement for robotics, the future of microsurgery, and many other fields. It is made from flat sheets of composite materials that have powered “flexural” joints that are not as complicated, and therefore scalable, as in traditional Delta robots.