Conference paper

Characterization and Validation of a Novel Robotic System for Fluid-Mediated Programmable Stochastic Self-Assembly

Several self-assembly systems have been developed in recent years, where depending on the capabilities of the building blocks and the controlability of the environment, the assembly process is guided typically through either a fully centralized or a fully distributed control approach. In this work, we present a novel experimental system for studying the range of fully centralized to fully distributed control strategies. The system is built around the floating 3-cm-sized Lily robots, and comprises a water-filled tank with peripheral pumps, an overhead camera, an overhead projector, and a workstation capable of controlling the fluidic flow field, setting the ambient luminosity, communicating with the robots over radio, and visually tracking their trajectories. We carry out several experiments to characterize the system and validate its capabilities. First, a statistical analysis is conducted to show that the system is governed by reaction diffusion dynamics, and validate the applicability of the standard chemical kinetics modeling. Additionally, the natural tendency of the system for structure formation subject to different flow fields is investigated and corresponding implications on guiding the self-assembly process are discussed. Finally, two control approaches are studied: 1) a fully distributed control approach and 2) a distributed approach with additional central supervision exhibiting an improved performance. The formation time statistics are compared and a discussion on the generalization of the method is provided.

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