Evan Ackerman for IEEE Spectrum: As sensors, computers, actuators, and batteries decrease in size and increase in efficiency, it becomes possible to make robots much smaller without sacrificing a whole lot of capability. There’s a lower limit on usefulness, however, if you’re making a robot that needs to interact with humans or human-scale objects. You can continue to leverage shrinking components if you make robots that are modular: in other words, big robots that are made up of lots of little robots.
In some ways, it’s more complicated to do this, because if one robot is complicated, robots tend to be complicated. If you can get all of the communication and coordination figured out, though, a modular system offers tons of advantages: robots that come in any size you want, any configuration you want, and that are exceptionally easy to repair and reconfigure on the fly.
MIT’s ChainFORM is an interesting take on this idea: it’s an evolution of last year’s LineFORM multifunctional snake robot that introduces modularity to the system, letting you tear of a strip of exactly how much robot you need, and then reconfigure it to do all kinds of things. Cont'd...
Dorner's 2200 Series Precision Move Pallet Systems feature the latest advancements in pallet traffic management. A unique pin tracking system guides pallets through merges and curves while maintaining product orientation. The fast belt change capability increases efficiency and reduces downtime in assembly automation processes. They are available in lengths up to 25 ft., can handle loads up to 500 lbs. and travel at speeds up to 114 ft/min.