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MIT has developed a self-assembling mobile phone

By Shawn Knight
Aug 22, 2016
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  1. Researchers at MIT are working on a project that one day may reduce the need for manual labor and highly customized robotics on assembly lines around the world.

    Skylar Tibbits, a research scientist in MIT’s department of architecture, has partnered with designer Marcelo Coelho to develop a rough prototype of a self-assembling mobile phone.

    As Fast Company notes, the handset in question is comprised of six parts that can assemble into two different phones. All of the components are loaded in a tumbler (kind of like a large cement mixer) and tossed around until they inevitably join together.

    Care has to be taken when selecting the tumbling speed. Rotating the drum too slow won’t create enough movement for the components to interact with each other while applying too much speed could damage them. To ensure only the correct parts link up with each other, the team used a series of magnets with varying polarities.

    Tibbits concedes that, if the process eventually did scale to mass production, it wouldn’t do much to save human labor as companies these days are shifting to cheaper overseas labor or automating processes. Instead, the technique could be used to automate processes at a much lower cost.

    This isn’t the first time MIT researchers have tinkered with the notion of self-assembly. Last year, for example, researchers created a mini self-assembling chair that was able to build itself using current from moving water. The process took a long time to complete (around seven hours) but was impressive nevertheless.

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  2. fastvince

    fastvince TS Enthusiast Posts: 68   +19

    Someone still has to assemble each of the six parts.
    Also, it looks like all your are saving someone from doing is snapping 6 parts together, maybe 10 seconds of work.
     
    psycros likes this.
  3. ikesmasher

    ikesmasher TS Evangelist Posts: 2,556   +862

    10 seconds of work per device * 10 million devices = 3.17 years of time saved
     
  4. fastvince

    fastvince TS Enthusiast Posts: 68   +19


    True. But if you have to 'spin' then for longer then it would take just to snap them together, it would add time.
     
    psycros likes this.
  5. Win7Dev

    Win7Dev TS Evangelist Posts: 563   +172

    Or you could just spend $500k on a robot capable of assembling a few hundred devices an hour. Or find someone who already owns the robot and just pay them to manufacture.
     
  6. ikesmasher

    ikesmasher TS Evangelist Posts: 2,556   +862

    reread the first sentence of the article...this is a cost saving and time saving venture...
     
  7. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 1,323   +710

    Because what we really need is more unemployed people and richer billionaires. We know the cost of building consumer tech keeps going down, and yet prices keep going UP. Automation benefits nobody except the top execs and shareholders.
     
    fastvince likes this.
  8. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 334   +132

    And what kind of time savings do we expect, after they bounce around randomly until they 'pull order from chaos'? I would imagine pretty low. It is an interesting idea, but I expect additive manufacturing to create more practical results - both for cases, and for PCBs.
     
  9. lipe123

    lipe123 TS Evangelist Posts: 658   +174

    Oh come on, its just a few magnets that pull the pieces together. How many scratch marks will be on the parts after you dump 100 of these things in a spinner thingy?

    Also thats NOT a cellphone thats some kinda crappy toy for kids, the first time you drop that sucker you have 6 pieces again.

    If you want to save time/money then just ship the pieces separately to people and tell them to snap it together themselves. Develop things like project ara or whatever it was/is called with the modular phones better and instead sell a base with components people can order as they need and insert themselves.
     

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