Researchers from MIT's Self-Assembly Lab are working on a mobile phone that is able to assemble itself, which is a project that opens up a lot of possibilities for its future applications.
The Self-Assembly Lab was established in 2011 by MIT department of architecture research scientist Skylar Tibbits. The lab was initially set up to work on 4D printing, which is a process that utilized 3D printers to create materials that can grow and change on their own.
MIT's Self-Assembly Lab has since acquired funding from DARPA to work on materials that can self-construct, including flat-packed furniture that can build themselves and self-lacing sneakers.
The latest project for the Self-Assembly Lab, in partnership with designer Marcelo Coelho, dabbles into consumer electronics with a self-assembling mobile phone, as reported by Fast Company.
The project studies how a few components, an energy source and the right interactions could allow a mobile phone to build itself without requiring human intervention or automation.
The rough prototype for the self-assembling mobile phone is made up of six parts that can be assembled into two different devices. The parts are placed inside a tumbler that resembles a miniature cement mixer, and then after they are tossed around, they come together and assemble the mobile phone. The whole process can take less than a minute.
The process that the self-assembling mobile follows is similar to how proteins work when they form cells. This is the whole point of the Self-Assembly Lab, as it looks to take what we know about natural objects such as atoms, cells and planets and apply them to the things that humans build.
As Tibbits and the Self-Assembly Lab continue to work on the project, the possible applications of the technology are already generating excitement. The process for self-assembling mobile phones could end up being much easier and cheaper compared to the automated manufacturing processes of current devices. The team, which has been working on the project since 2013, believes that the process can also be scaled up into mass production levels.
It is said that the most exciting application for the process is in design, as the project can allow users to create different mobile phones from the components that they could make themselves.
According to Coelho, the technology can possibly change the landscape of product design. Big companies will be able to quickly create many versions of a single product, while small studios will be able to upscale their production with little overhead costs.
Another recently reported tech-focused project by MIT researchers is DuoSkin, which are temporary tattoos that can function as on-skin interfaces that will allow users to interact with computers and mobile devices.