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Self-assembling materials

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An MIT Media Lab team led by Ariel Ekblaw, director of the Space Exploration Initiative, has developed a robotic swarm of self-assembling robotic tiles that could be used for future in-orbit construction, reports Eric Mack for CNET. “If all goes well, MIT and [Ariel] Ekblaw hope that the technology will eventually be used for geodesic dome habitats beyond Earth, microgravity concert halls and space cathedrals,” writes Mack.

Fast Company

Jesus Diaz of Fast Company writes that researchers from MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab are experimenting with the “truly wild” future of manufacturing with their 4-D printing technology that allows designers to rapidly print flexible, complex shapes. “It’s not hard to imagine the complex products and materials that this new technology could enable,” writes Diaz.

Researchers from the Self-Assembly Lab are collaborating with BMW to develop inflatable objects that could potentially be used in car design, writes Katharine Schwab for Co.Design. Prof. Skylar Tibbits explains that the technology could be used to create adjustable car interiors that, “could be different every time you got in, or for every person who got in.”


MIT researchers have created a smartphone that can build itself, reports Thomas Tamblyn for The Huffington Post. The research suggests that “in the future a phone could be manufactured so that when dropped it will automatically break into deliberately separate pieces, which can then be easily re-attached afterwards,” Tamblyn explains. 


MIT researchers have created a tiny, self-assembling, origami robot that they hope could one day be small enough to enter the human body and perform medical tasks, reports Lauren Walker for Newsweek.  “Driven by magnetic fields, the robot can travel on both land and water at the speed of three or four centimeters per second," Walker explains. 

CBC News

Lauren O’Neil of CBC News reports on a new self-folding origami robot created by researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). The robot “could eventually become small enough to fold into the human body, perform medical tasks, and then dissolve itself when finished — all by itself,” O’Neil reports. 


“MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab joined Italian design studio Wood-Skin to create the Programmable Table, which transitions from flat to fully built with a gentle tug,” writes Liz Stinson for Wired. The table is engineered with creases milled into the wood that act like hinges, allowing it to fold into an upright shape.

Researchers in the MIT Self-Assembly Lab has developed a self-assembling coffee table, reports Megan Turchi for The table “can go from the delivery box to the living room in a few seconds.” 

Boston Globe

Michael Andor Brodeur writes for The Boston Globe about how researchers in the MIT Self-Assembly Lab are working on developing products that can assemble themselves. “The lab’s work takes cues from nano-scale biological and chemical systems of self-assembly, but the fruit of its labors can be grown to serve any scale,” Brodeur writes. 


“Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created a chair that uses magnets to assemble itself from six pieces underwater,” reports Ben Hooper for UPI. The team, led by Dr. Skylar Tibbits of the MIT Self-Assembly Lab, released a video showing how the pieces come together in turbulent water.


Liz Stinson reports for Wired on a self-assembling chair designed by researchers in the MIT Self-Assembly Lab. The project “is an investigation into how structures might be able to autonomously assemble in uncontrolled environments like water,” writes Stinson.


Nidhi Subbaraman writes for BetaBoston about the 3-D/4-D exhibition being presented at the MIT Museum. The displays are made up of 3-D printed materials that independently fold into new shapes.


Joseph Flaherty of Wired writes about how researchers at the MIT Self-Assembly Lab are developing materials that can independently fold themselves into new shapes. “We can listen to materials and use them as a programmable material,” says lab director Skylar Tibbits. “Computing isn’t in computers anymore; computing is everything.”


"The idea here is to take existing material systems like fibres, sheets, strands and three-dimensional objects and program them to change shape and property on demand," says Skylar Tibbits, director of the Self Assembly Lab of his group’s new materials that can be programmed to transform autonomously. 

Boston Globe

Carolyn Johnson of The Boston Globe writes about the self-folding robots designed by a team from MIT and Harvard. “The question is, can we develop the tools that will allow us to automatically and rapidly generate one robot for any task?” says Professor Daniela Rus.