LaserFactory fabricates fully functional drones using only three ingredients

MIT researchers have created a system dubbed LaserFactory that can automate the process for making functional devices in a single system. LaserFactory produces functional custom-made devices and robots with no human intervention. The single system uses three ingredients allowing users to create structural geometry, print traces, and assemble electronic components like sensors and actuators.

Two main components work in harmony, including a software toolkit allowing users to design custom devices and a hardware platform that fabricates the devices. Researchers at MIT's CSAIL say that it is a "one-stop shop" could be beneficial for product developers, makers, researchers, and educators. The system can be used to rapidly prototype wearables, robots, and printed electronics.

The system leverages widely available manufacturing platforms like 3D printers and laser cutters. LaserFactory is the first system integrating these capabilities and automating the full pipeline for creating functional devices into a single system. Using the system, an end-user could create their drone by designing the device and placing components from a parts library.

The system could draw on circuit traces of copper or aluminum lines on a printed circuit board, allowing electricity to flow between components. The drawing's geometry is finalized using a 2D editor, and the device can be equipped with propellers batteries on the canvas that are wired to make electrical connections creating a quadcopter shape.

The users would be able to preview the design before the software translates it into machine instructions. Once finalized, all commands would be embedded into a single fabrication file making the device in one go aided by standard laser cutter software. Since the system is completely integrated, if building a drone, it would be immediately ready to begin a task. The team is currently working on increasing the quality and resolution of the circuit traces to allow for denser and more complicated electronics.