Imagine a mobile robot that could move over arbitrarily large distances in the plane at speeds on the order of a meter per second, yet be able to position itself with sub-micrometer motion resolution. Further, imagine that this robot is essentially an ideal frictionless mass with a single moving part. We are working to produce such a robot based on the concept of a free-roaming planar motor.
Autonomous precision planar robots based on free-roaming planar motors would constitute a new class of mobile robots. Fleets of such robots could be readily deployed on "factory floors'' comprised of contiguous arrangements of passive modular platen tiles. Such robots could precisely move small samples or products over many meters of space, interacting with each other and with fixed processing and analyzing stations. Their projected motion resolution of 100 nm (1 sigma) is sufficiently precise to enable the realization of many important industrial applications such as gene chip production, drug discovery, chemical synthesis and analysis, biological assay, microassembly, MEMS packaging, and others.