We design distributed algorithms and systems that guide the assembly of structures from passive building blocks. A specific application that we are currently exploring is the autonomous assembly of large-scale space telescopes. Space telescopes are currently deployed in a single launch and “unfold” when they reach their destination. Weight constraints and cost of the launch vehicle, limits their maximum diameter to 6-7m. As the obtainable resolution increases quadratically with their radius, building larger telescopes is very desirable. For example, there exists thousands of other suns with potentially earth-like planets that we simply cannot see. Being able to increase the resolution by a factor 100 (roughly a 40m dish) or 1000 (roughly a 60m dish) would already have tremendous impact and could transform our understanding of our role in the universe.
We propose to coordinate the assembly of structures using “intelligent jigs”. Intelligent jigs are equipped with micrometer-precise measurement equipment and autonomously align the nodes of a truss structure with high precision as well as hold truss elements in place where they can be welded with low-precision welding equipment. So far, we have validated this concept using 2D wooden structures that can be assembled to sub-millimeter precision simply using scissors and a glue gun, as well as a titanium structure that has been welded to micrometer precision using tele-operation.
Our current work focuses on assembly algorithms that minimize the expected error over complex 2D and 3D structures, and designing an experimental test-bed for the latter.
This research is supported by a NASA STR fellowship.
E. Komendera, D. Reishus, N. Correll (2013): Precise Truss Assembly using Commodity Parts and Imprecise Welding. In: IEEE International Conference on Technologies for Practical Robot Applications (TEPRA), Boston, MA, 2013.
J. Dorsey, W. Doggett, E. Komendera, N. Correll, R. Hafley, B. King (2012): An Efficient and Versatile Means for Assembling and Manufacturing Systems in Space. AIAA SPACE 2012 Conference & Exposition, 2012.
E. Komendera, D. Reishus and N. Correll. Assembly by Intelligent Scaffolding. Technical report CU-CS 1080-11, April 2011.