Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Degree Program

Electrical Engineering, PhD

Committee Chair

Popa, Dan O.

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

McNamara, Shamus

Committee Member

McNamara, Shamus

Committee Member

Harnett, Cindy

Committee Member

Naber, John

Committee Member

Hsu, Keng

Author's Keywords

microfactory; microrobot; thermal actuators; MEMS; microassembly


Future assembly technologies will involve higher automation levels, in order to satisfy increased micro scale or nano scale precision requirements. Traditionally, assembly using a top-down robotic approach has been well-studied and applied to micro-electronics and MEMS industries, but less so in nanotechnology. With the bloom of nanotechnology ever since the 1990s, newly designed products with new materials, coatings and nanoparticles are gradually entering everyone’s life, while the industry has grown into a billion-dollar volume worldwide. Traditionally, nanotechnology products are assembled using bottom-up methods, such as self-assembly, rather than with top-down robotic assembly. This is due to considerations of volume handling of large quantities of components, and the high cost associated to top-down manipulation with the required precision. However, the bottom-up manufacturing methods have certain limitations, such as components need to have pre-define shapes and surface coatings, and the number of assembly components is limited to very few. For example, in the case of self-assembly of nano-cubes with origami design, post-assembly manipulation of cubes in large quantities and cost-efficiency is still challenging. In this thesis, we envision a new paradigm for nano scale assembly, realized with the help of a wafer-scale microfactory containing large numbers of MEMS microrobots. These robots will work together to enhance the throughput of the factory, while their cost will be reduced when compared to conventional nano positioners. To fulfill the microfactory vision, numerous challenges related to design, power, control and nanoscale task completion by these microrobots must be overcome. In this work, we study three types of microrobots for the microfactory: a world’s first laser-driven micrometer-size locomotor called ChevBot,a stationary millimeter-size robotic arm, called Solid Articulated Four Axes Microrobot (sAFAM), and a light-powered centimeter-size crawler microrobot called SolarPede. The ChevBot can perform autonomous navigation and positioning on a dry surface with the guidance of a laser beam. The sAFAM has been designed to perform nano positioning in four degrees of freedom, and nanoscale tasks such as indentation, and manipulation. And the SolarPede serves as a mobile workspace or transporter in the microfactory environment.