Friday, 16 Mar, 2012 Technology

Robots Made Using LEGO MINDSTORMS Help Researchers Produce Artificial Bones


Television series often make people believe that working in a laboratory is extremely interesting and breathtaking. However, most of such work is monotonous and such work should be assigned to robots. At the same time building robots for various lab purposes could be highly expensive, especially when different machines are required for different tasks.

With this in mind, researchers at Cambridge University thought that it would be interesting and useful to try and build robots using LEGO. These robots could perform various repetitive tasks and thus help scientists save a lot of time.

The robots they managed to assemble now help the team carry out different monotonous tasks that are part of a study into artificial bone.

Michelle Oyen, the lead-researcher at the Department of Engineering is searching for ways of producing bone in laboratory conditions. These bones could be later used in medical implants and may be as a building material.

The bone-making process that scientists apply today requires taking a base object (say bolt), dunking it in a dish of calcium and protein, cleaning it with water, and afterwards dunking it again, but only in a dish of phosphate and protein. The process should be repeated several times which is not only boring but also time consuming.

Mechanical Engineering PhD student Daniel Strange decided to build two robots using LEGO MINDSTORMS pieces. Each robot is used to dip the bolt in different dishes automatically. This made it possible to produce bones through the night and make them ready the next morning.

To program the machines Strange made use of the NXT-G graphical programming language that one may find in the same LEGO kit. The robots are equipped with multiples sensors and servo motors.

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