Parallel Assembly and Testing of Microparts (1997)

Team Members

Karl F. Böhringer, Ken Goldberg, Kris Pister, Isam Tahhan, Yan Zhuang (UC Berkeley)


Fixtures are used to locate and hold parts during automated inspection, machining, or assembly. Micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS) are tiny devices built in batch processes derived from integrated circuit fabrication. We describe a design for an array of MEMS microfixtures for parallel inspection, transport, and assembly of microfabricated parts. In a microfixture array, parts are brought near the fixture by random motion provided e.g. by vibratory agitation. The fixture clamps actively close when the parts enter the fixture. In large future fixture arrays, electrostatic or optical sensors integrated into the fixture cell can trigger this clamping function. Each cell operates autonomously and no global control is necessary. We fabricated a prototype cell consisting of two upfoldable fixture walls and a bimorph thermal actuator using a standard CMOS process. This approach allows batch fabrication of large numbers of cells on a single silicon wafer, as well as easy integration of sensors and actuators that autonomously close each cell when filled.
Figure 1: 3D schematic view of micro fixture cell with fixture walls, chamfers, and actuators
Figure 2: Top view of microfixture cell before folding. Figure 3: SEM micrograph of completed fixture cell.

Selected Publications

  • Isam. Tahhan, Y. Zhuang, Karl F. Böhringer, Ken Goldberg, Kris S. J. Pister, "MEMS Fixtures." SPIE Symposium on Micromachining and Microfabrication, Conference on Micromachined Devices and Components V, pp. 129-139, Santa Clara, CA, September 20-22, 1999. Paper.

A complete list of our publications (many of them available online) can be found here.


  • NSF CDA-9726389, IRI-9553197
  • NSF CISE Postdoctoral Associateship in Experimental Computer Science to Karl F. Böhringer (CDA-9705022)

© Karl F. Böhringer, Department of Electrical Engineering, Box 352500, Seattle, WA 98195-2500, USA