Reconfigurable microrobots

Loading Physical Intelligence Department

Micro-scale modular robot concept


Reconfigurable microrobot systems consist of many independent and often identical modules, each capable of motion and intelligently combining with each other to create functional assemblies. Such technology can potentially be used at unreachable sites for non-invasive diagnoses, micro-surgery, and drug delivery inside the human body.

Project Members:

Past Members:

Fatih Tabak

Zhou Ye

Joshua Giltinan

Wenqi Hu

Hakan Ceylan

Eric Diller

Chytra Pawashe

Steven Floyd

Selected Research Results and Papers

Modular microrobotic assembly through magnetic actuation and thermal bonding

We present and compare new heat-activated bonding methods for use in modular microrobotic systems. Such modular systems prove to provide on-demand creation of arbitrary micro-scale physical shapes in remote inaccessible spaces. The externally induced heating quickly forms strong bonds on the thermoplastic or solder binding sites integrated into each module face, addressing problems of assembly strength and electrical conductivity.

E. Diller, N. Zhang, and M. Sitti, “Modular microrobotic assembly through magnetic actuation and thermal bonding,” Journal of Micro-Bio Robotics, vol. 8, no. 3–4, pp. 121–131, Nov. 2013.v

Bonding demonstration, showing six modules bonded by thermoplastic bonding in the magnetic coil setup. The single magnetic module is moved to pick up the non-magnetic modules one-by-one. At each step, the temperature is briefly increased to 70 ◦C once the modules are close. The inset in (b) shows the configuration before heat is applied, and demonstrates how the modules are naturally pulled close by capillary force when the thermoplastic is melted.

Selected Videos

500 μm Mag-μMods assembling

Modular Microrobotic Assemblies

Experimental video of four 500 μm Mag-μMods assembling, reconfiguring and disassembling (2010)

Heat-Based Bonding for Modular Microrobotic Assemblies

List of Publications



Two-dimensional magnetic micro-module reconfigurations based on inter-modular interactions

S Miyashita, E Diller, M Sitti

The International Journal of Robotics Research 32 (5), 591-613


Modular micro-robotic assembly through magnetic actuation and thermal bonding

E Diller, N Zhang, M Sitti

Journal of Micro-Bio Robotics 8 (3-4), 121-131





Assembly and disassembly of magnetic mobile microrobots towards deterministic 2-D reconfigurable micro-systems

E Diller, C Pawashe, S Floyd, M Sitti

The International Journal of Robotics Research, 0278364911416140



Funding Agency

National Robotics Initiative