Developments to Watch
IBM'S ITSY-BITSY ROBOT HAS A DEFT TOUCH
Large robots are more familiar, but there's a big need for miniature machines capable of precisely positioning such things as electrical circuits. IBM has unveiled amicro-robot more than 100 times as sensitive as the typical industrialrobot.
Called a "fine positioner," the robot is 4 inches by 5 inches, and 2 inches thick. Instead of gears, motors, and bearings, it has just one moving part, a metal plate that glides frictionlessly on a layer of compressed air. A computer-controlled electromagnetic field guides the plate's movements. This micro-robot fits on the end of a conventional robot's arm and works to a precision of two-tenths of a thousandth of a millimeter, or 0.2 micron.
Developed at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., the micro-robot is being tested at several manufacturing sites for such tasks as positioning circuitry and computer chips. IBM plans to gear up for industrial use by early 1993.EDITED BY WILLIAM D. MARBACH