If you’re only thinking inside the box, a PCB is just a way to connect your electronic components together neatly in a small space. But if you can think a bit more unconventionally, PCBs can be used for so much more. A great example of that is a badge, and badge makers do a fantastic job of making the PCB a work of art in its own right. Another is how Carl Bugeja has been working on using coils on flexible PCBs as actuators, and he is back with a new video on the latest iteration of his PCB robot design.
Bugeja has been working tirelessly over the past couple of years to design and experiment with PCB-based actuators. Almost all of his designs utilize coil traces on the PCB as electromagnets. By placing a permanent magnet nearby and precisely controlling the current going to those coils, movement can be produced. He has demonstrated that in various ways, including a PCB linear actuator. Recently, he has been working to use PCB actuators to give small robots locomotion. He’s now on the third version of his PCB robot design, and has learned a lot from the process.
In this most recent video, Bugeja explains his work. The current iteration of the PCB robot has two “legs” made up of electromagnetic coils on a flexible PCB. A 3D-printed frame above those coils holds two permanent magnets. By quickly oscillating power to the coils, they are pulled towards the magnets. The vibrating motion from the flexible PCB moving back and forth pushes the robot along. Controlling how it moves, however, has proven to be tricky. Just re-positioning the battery slightly causes the robot to move in a different direction — or not at all. But Bugeja is still making good progress, so be sure to subscribe to his YouTube channel to follow along with his experiments.