Robotics and 3D printing go together almost as well as fish and chips. Yes, that is a big claim we know. As we have said time and again now, 3D printing has infiltrated almost every industry with some incredible results and its amalgamation with robotic technology is no different. This week we’re going to have a look at just some of the ways in which this union has seriously inspired us.
It’s becoming more and more common in the world of robotics to take nature as the inspiration for creating the most dexterous and adaptable designs possible and German company Siemens are no different.
The bit of nature that especially fascinated them?
The Siemens Spiders are still very much in their early days but are created not only to be autonomous, but to work in collaboration with each other, (as do some organic spiders, shudder), to 3D print huge structures such as parts of aircraft or ships for example.
The beauty of course in having a network of autonomous robotic spiders capable of 3D printing is that there are no limitations in size. Much as our 3D printers are wonderful, they can only produce items as big as themselves, but if you have hundreds of 3D printers with legs that could work with each other? Well there isn’t anything you couldn’t build. Sort of sounds like the premise of a great horror movie.
Randy Sarafan’s Robot
This little guy is one you can actually have a go at making yourself. Created by Randy Sarafan, founder of the Instructables Design Studio and writer of the neat book Simple Bots, the unnamed bot is a great starting point if you fancy building one yourself.
This small walking robot is a design that Randy has had awhile and he attributes 3D printing to the actual creation of it. You’ll find all the instructions on how to build it and what you’ll need courtesy of the Instructables website. And no, the pencils don’t have to be yellow.
This is InMoov, a humanoid, life-sized robot created by Gael Langevin. Created under the motto of ‘Robots For Good’, InMoov was made with some big ideas in mind, including becoming the eyes and ears of hospitalised children too ill to leave their beds and experience the world around them. In particular, the InMoov project was made to allow bedridden children to experience the wonders of the zoo via the collaboration with the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift and the open source personal vehicle company Open Wheels.
We strongly recommend checking out the videos of InMoov in action because the range of lifelike movement and the levels of interaction really are incredible. InMoov was created via 3D printing, piece by piece and because it’s an open source project, you too can create one as well providing your 3D Printer has the minimum dimensions of 12 x 12 x 12.
The InMoov team recommend starting with the Finger Starter Kit. If you can handle the 3D printing and robotic elements of this, InMoov consider you ready enough to build the rest, check out the website and you’ll find a tonne of information and a forum full of helpful people.
Once again, the union of all these technologies is proving to be hugely exciting and perhaps even life-changing when channelled the right way. 3D printing is vastly improving the scope of robotics by solving some of its most fundamental issues, most impressively the ability for robotics to mimic organic movement. The problem traditionally in designing a robot that can walk like a human or jump like an animal is that both are a combination of soft and hard materials which allows for these complicated movements.
Recreating materials that function as an organic body part is extremely difficult, unless of course you know your stuff and have a 3D printer. For example if your using a multi-extrusion machine you can create a material that is both strong and soft, mimicking organic matter like skin or muscles.
A good example of this is the MIT Cheetah robot. Its legs are partially comprised of 3D printed material which allows it to leap, but more importantly, land as the actual animal itself does. You’ll find a dozen other examples of robots that have also implemented 3D printing technology to allow for similar agility including bipedal running and even climbing.
Built any robots lately? We’d love to see and share them!