MachiningShops, People and Places

Building with Chopsticks: MEMS Hexapod Technology



In the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage, doctors put a new spin on the term “house call.” Using microminiaturization technology, scientists shrink a team of surgeons to the size of the flu virus, then send the group on a mission to destroy a blood clot deep inside the brain of a Russian defector. (There’s no spoiler—you’ll have to watch the movie for yourself.)

Shrinking the family physician for an up-close look at what ails you will remain science fiction for years to come, but if Dr. Nick Dagalakis has his way, the devices those clot-busting brain surgeons used may soon be in the hands of real doctors. Dagalakis, project leader in the Intelligent Systems Division at NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md., is working to develop a new paradigm in microelectromechanical systems (MEMS).

“The ultimate goal of this project is the manipulation and assembly of complex 3-D structures at the nanoscale,” said Dagalakis. “This means the development of what we call the MEMS hexapod.”

According to Dagalakis, the hexapod is essentially an ultraminiature machine tool. His project aims to not only build this device, but also provide a toolkit to support its use, such as micromanipulator performance and assembly standards, calibration artifacts for mapping 3-D nanospace, and force and spatial measurement tools.

He has a big job ahead of him.

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