A Cellphone That Can Self-assemble Itself

Incredible Achievement — MIT Researchers Reveal how Easily a Cellphone can Self-assemble itself in a minute.

MIT scientists working at its Self-Assembly Lab have identified a revolutionary new technology, with which a cellphone can self-assemble itself. This means, the cellphone can easily disassemble itself and then re-assemble in less than a minute.


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Fast Company was the first one to report this amazing story in which researchers stated that since every cellphone is made from three pieces, so when these pieces are placed in a tumbler that shakes the pieces quickly, it becomes possible for the pieces to reconnect. This is just like the magnetic power that attracts objects to itself. Same is the case with mobile phone pieces.

Skylar Tibbits, who has worked on the prototype of this experiment, believes that with this revelation, researchers all over the world will get an entirely new realm of designing probabilities and opportunities.

“Imagine you take a circuit board and you have different logical building blocks and those logical building blocks can be tumbled around—you can have different functionalities. Essentially the holy grail is you want complete design freedom,” Tibbits told Fast Company.

“If you look at how things are manufactured at every other scale other than the human scale—look at DNA and cells and proteins, then look at the planetary scale—everything is built through self-assembly. But at the human scale, it’s the opposite. Everything is built top down. We take components and we force them together,” Tibbits further added.

Tibbits, in collaboration with another designer Marcelo Coelho, the owner of a Cambridge-based design studio, is applying this newly found technique in consumer electronics. The basic premise behind this new technology is to see how an energy source when applied on a few components can re-build dismantled objects without requiring human interference or automated help.

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The prototype comprises of 6 parts that can be assembled into two different cellphones. When these parts are placed in a tumbler, which is just like the cement mixer machine, and tossed around, the parts get clicked and connected back together.

The process may seem straightforward, there are certain complexities involved such as the speed is something that determines whether the objects placed in the tumbler would be broken or re-connected. The speed of rotating the objects is an important barometer for the success of this experiment; it shouldn’t be too fast or too slow.

Moreover, it is also important to check if the right components are attaching together; the components contain a number of lock-and-key features that ensure appropriate connectivity of the parts and blocking of connection between wrong parts. Also, some kind of an adhesive would be needed to stick the components together, such as Velcro. To accomplish the experiment successfully, the team of researchers used varying polarity magnets.

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Tibbits has stressed over the fact that there is room for improvement and the technique can be utilized effectively in mass production processes. A majority of factories use tumblers for eliminating debris and sift through materials, but for the self-assembly of objects, this technique would make the processes low-cost and speedy.

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