Lifestyle & Belief

A printable home robot, easy as IKEA, brought to you by MIT


Teams compete in the Robo-Cup German open 2012 in Magdeburg, eastern Germany, on March 31, 2012.


Jens Wolf

MIT is aiming to produce an IKEA-style robot, which could one day simply be printed off and assembled at home.

The five-year, $10 million project "envisions a whole new way of thinking about the design and manufacturing of robots, and could have a profound impact on society," Agence France-Presse quoted MIT professor and project leader Daniela Rus as saying.

The first two prototypes under consideration in the "An Expedition in Computing Printable Programmable Machines" are an insect-like machine that could be sent to explore a contaminated area, and an arm-extension device that could help people grip things that are out of reach, AFP reported.

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The MIT scientists, along with collaborators at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, have not commented on how much the new robots might cost, the Daily Mail reported.

However, they are aiming to replicate the simplicity of Lego kits — or Swedish furniture — the paper wrote. Ordering them could be just as simple, with a fully customized machine ready within 24 hours. 

According to Wired, one possible scenario is heading to a "local robo-printer," choosing a design from a catalog and customizing the robot according to your needs.

Will there be an app for that? Probably, Wired wrote.

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The key to the process is 3-D printing, the automated manufacture of plastic and metal machine components from a set of instructions.

Scientists hope to create a platform that will enable people to choose from a ‘library’ of robot designs.

However, the earliest the robot might be available is 2017, according to Wired.

The project, for which the team received a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation, is in the early stages of development.

However, Rus said, "No system exists today that will take, as specification, your functional needs and will produce a machine capable of fulfilling that need."

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