Autonomous, Self-Assembling Robots

How to build your own autonomous, self-assembling robots. This project describes every detail of the robots used in our scientific research including CAD files, source code, assembly instructions, etc. Hopefully everything you would need to reproduce our experiments, or have a fun toy. A portion of the research was published in Nature, a copy of that paper is attached below. Also attached below is an extract from the PhD thesis which contains a summary of all the experiments performed using these robots and details about their construction and specifications. Lastly, videos of several of the experiments are attached. For further information beyond the specifics relating to these robots, go to:
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Step 1: Making the printed circuit boards (PCB's)

The PCB's were designed using the Eagle PCB design software ( I've attached the Eagle CAD files as well as the Gerber files. The Gerber files are what you can send directly to a PCB fabrication service to get the boards made. I also included panelized gerber files - this version has 16 of the robot pcb's per panel for more cost efficient manufacturing.

Step 2: Electronics overview

Picture of electronics overview
We designed the electronics to be simple and flexible, because we had not finalized the robot design when we started and planned to try a variety of control algorithms, actuators, and communications methods. We also needed the electronics to be small and light. We decided to go with fairly small SMT parts for the final design, and were able to get a microcontroller, 10 status LED's, 4 FET's for driving actuators, and the programming/power header onto the 25mm x 25mm board, plus connection points for 4 actuators and 4 sensors. We tried making the board even smaller, but it became too hard to assemble. Our strategy for simple and flexible worked out - we've since used leftover boards for 3 other, totally unrelated projects.
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johnyradio1 month ago

hi, would love to watch your videos, but they all say "Your Video Is Being Processed! Check Back Soon!"

JesusGeek1 month ago

Great project! Now all we need is for Aperture Science to take this into testing!

tinker2343 years ago
wow could is hrink them down further and futher just to see them asmebale a complex object
tinker2343 years ago
reminds me of replactors now to make them smaller
tzq33tdq3 years ago
how would i make its communications via infared? would it be possible to minaturise them? using smaller components that is.
Ceaton993 years ago
Is there any way to make these like cubes
tanmanknex5 years ago
sorry i dont understand, im just getting into electronics and cnc and stuff, but what are all of the different files for?
most of them are .mov files(videos) they're more than likely just tutorials and other such videos showing you how it works.
ermm.... yea... sure they are... yea...
DeusExMach6 years ago
at first, I was going to point out that your microcontroller isn't lined up, polarity-wise (the notched corner usually matches the part marking on the pcb/pwb/wtf-ever) Then I noticed ALL the corners are notched. Did you use the writing on the MC to orient your polarity, or does it not matter?
I could be mistaken, but it looks like there's a small circular indent in the top left of the m/c, sorta hiding under that wire. Yes it would definitely matter, so if I'm wrong and there's no indent, they must have used the writing to orient it as you suggest.
Do you realize what you have done? You will kill us all!
Silly monkeys! It's all fun and games until Skynet gets us, or Replicators take over. I won't mention "The Matrix" 'cuz that's just stoopid. I mean, come on Wackoffski brothers or whatever you call yourselves, have at least some regard for thermodynamics.
LEAVE KEANU ALONE!!!!! just kidding ;+)
Oh. I was in no way disparaging the acting talent of Mr. Reeves, he just had so little to work with, script-wise, in those films, ha... hah... haah... hahaha HA HA! (sorry, I just couldn't type that with a straight face...)
bennett0125 years ago
i wish i knew half of the words you guys were using =\
NTT5 years ago
This is an exceptionally intriguing project. It has a stark resemblance to biomechanics (amino acid complexing for example). Very good work!
Pumpkin$ NTT5 years ago
my thought exactly, won't be long until we have cyber-mechanical-bio forms XD
Pumpkin$5 years ago
Congrats. You've made one of my dreams come true. I now have two working robotic cupholders that can navigate from bluetooth beacons I built!!! I feel fulfilled.
bowmaster5 years ago
So you put them on an air hockey table and they fly around hooking on to each other? Why?
A better question: Why not?
That's true.
They should have spikes.
oh my god yes.
And lasers.
You're Reading My Mind.
And a nitro booster.
But it's cozy. I also don't have to worry about running out of space to put stuff. JK. I might add a Nerf turret on top of one of these.
Why to add a nerf turret if you could add paintball or airsoft gun. Of course it would be a lot bigger but still an idea...
Full-auto shuriken launcher.
wee_man5 years ago
Two words "Holy Crap". Now make this with larger tiles and make is so they can arrange 3D. Hehe as if 2d cells was enough to scare my ill-techo mum
hmm... maybe i'll find out how to make a few of these that can't jam communications, like using twice as many comm coils, half for sending and half for recieving...
bobbyk8817 years ago
don't forget the 3 laws of robotics!
forget it, they cant learn
the robots, they cant take in knowlege and react on it except for accepting or denying another robot.
:O But then you surely haven't read some of the Foundation series my good friend!
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