Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines

© 2004 Robert A. Freitas Jr. and Ralph C. Merkle. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Ralph C. Merkle, Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines, Landes Bioscience, Georgetown, TX, 2004.


3.23.3 Semi-Autonomous Self-Replicating Robot (2002)

Following the Spring 2002 mechatronics course experiments (Section 3.23.2), Suthakorn’s third project was to design and build a self-replicating system in the manner of a robotic factory [1287, 1288]. The system consisted of an original robot, subsystems of three fixed-position assembly stations (the factory), and finally a set of complex parts from which replicas of the original robot are assembled. By following painted lines on a 3.75 meter x 3 meter work surface, the robot could move autonomously from station to station along the lines without any human guidance, while still being remotely controlled at each station by a human operator, hence the system is aptly described as semi-autonomous. Feedback sensors were incorporated in each assembly station to automatically activate their functions.

The author gives an explicit step-by-step replication procedure for the “robot factory” [1287]. At Station 1 (Chassis Assembly), there is an 8-step procedure; at Station 2 (Motor and Track Assembly), a 12-step procedure; and at Station 3 (Gripper Assembly), a 4-step operational procedure, e.g.,:

    1. Ascend backwards on the ramp.
    2. Turn 180o on the top of the ramp and dock into position.
    3. Operate lift down until gripper slides into the front of the original robot.
    4. Descend backwards on the ramp.

The entire self-replication procedure “was conducted several times [and was] generally successful with some disparity of completion time (ranging from 45-75 minutes); however, there were some technical errors, such as battery failure.” Several workcells were needed to assist the original robot in the replication process because the robot could not directly build its replicas. Each workcell served as a station in this factory-like replicating system, providing an example of an “indirectly replicating” robot (Section 5.1.8). An AVI video clip is available online [1292].


Last updated on 1 August 2005