MIT creates mobile phones which assemble themselves

The devices can pull themselves together in less than a minute.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer
Screenshot via MIT

Researchers from MIT have created a mobile device which can assemble itself in a matter of moments.

The prototype, developed by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)'s Self-Assembly Lab, is composed of six separate parts which assemble into two different mobile devices.

Even in unstable environments -- such as being tossed around a tumbler -- the device is able to assemble itself within a few minutes.

As reported by Fast Co.Design, the principle behind the self-assembly device is simplicity. To begin with, the tumbler has to be going fast enough that the components meet but do not break. The device's components all have lock-and-key mechanisms which, like puzzle pieces, only allow the proper connections to take place and rejects the wrong ones.

Finally, the parts need to "stick," and so the team used magnets to make sure the right parts were attracted to each other.

Skylar Tibbits, one of the researchers working on the project, told the publication:

"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."
Screenshot via MIT

If such technology was adopted mainstream, it could have serious implications for the manufacturing industry. MIT says the cost of automation could be reduced at scale, removing the need to shift labor overseas -- or have workers altogether.

Either way, jobs could eventually be replaced with automation and assembly-line staff at electronics factories could one day be a thing of the past.

However, the researchers say the possibilities for these kinds of designs are limitless and could give vendors more freedom to design and create better, more innovative products.

"Right now the phone is pre-determined, and we're using this process to assemble that phone," Tibbits said. "But 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."

MIT is not the only institution exploring the possibilities of modular consumer products. This year, Google revealed that Project Ara, the tech giant's modular smartphone, will be released in 2017.

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