WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Purdue University marching band’s latest drum creation is so small that it could easily disappear within Notre Dame Stadium. Indeed, it’s tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand, yet its significance reverberates far beyond its diminutive size.
During the previous football season, Notre Dame presented an unusual challenge to Purdue’s All-American Marching Band. Notre Dame Stadium couldn’t accommodate the massive World’s Largest Drum, a colossal instrument weighing a quarter of a ton and towering at an imposing 10 feet. This marked the first time in 42 years that the drum, a halftime show staple, would not make its appearance.
However, Purdue University, renowned for its innovative prowess, rose to the occasion. Leveraging cutting-edge microrobotics technology, the university unveiled a remarkable miniature drum with a width equivalent to a strand of human hair.
Professor David Cappelleri, a luminary in the fields of mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering, spearheaded this groundbreaking endeavor. Recently, he put the Nanoscribe Photonic Professional GT2 3D printer through its paces, a device instrumental in the creation of microscopic materials for pioneering medical treatments. This printer, the first of its kind in Indiana, was procured with the support of a U.S. National Science Foundation award.
Situated within the Birck Nanotechnology Center in the Discovery Park District, Purdue’s newfound marvel of miniaturization has taken center stage at Hagle Hall, serving as a striking reference point for Boilermaker enthusiasts.
Cappelleri highlighted the visual impact of this innovation, saying, “Everyone knows what the World’s Largest Drum looks like. People know what the Boilermaker Special looks like. So now we can tell them, this is the same thing — but less than a human hair in diameter. It’s a good visual.”
Intriguingly, the World’s Largest Drum isn’t the sole emblem of Purdue’s legacy that has undergone microrobotic transformation. Collaborating with Georges Adam, a postdoctoral researcher, Cappelleri’s team also recreated microscopic replicas of iconic Purdue landmarks, including the Unfinished Block P sculpture, the Boilermaker Special, and the Class of 1939 Water Sculpture, affectionately known as the Engineering Fountain.
The Nanoscribe Photonic Professional GT2 3D printer is a remarkable untethered device, scarcely a millimeter in size, and can be wirelessly controlled. Cappelleri noted the potential for streamlining manufacturing processes, enabling the production of even smaller and more detailed creations at a significantly faster pace.
Georges Adam added, “So instead of taking about a week to make robots, now I can do them in a few hours.”
This groundbreaking endeavor also enlisted the expertise of two other Purdue faculty members in biomedical engineering, Luis Solorio and Craig Goergen. What began as a fun exploration of Purdue University’s cherished symbols has a profound impact on the field of biomedical applications.
Cappelleri emphasized the transformative potential of microrobots, stating, “Microrobots can go places that you just can’t get to with larger-scale robots. By developing these robots to go into the body, it allows you to do some really precise operations, whether that be delivering a drug, manipulating a cell, characterizing an object, etc.”
In summary, Purdue University’s journey into the microscopic realm of drum-making showcases not only its dedication to innovation but also the immense potential of microrobotics in various scientific domains. This remarkable achievement has bridged the gap between the macro and micro worlds, promising new horizons in research and applications.