Robots and 3D Printing

This is part 4 of my robot series.

A leaky silcock (yes, that’s a real word!), and some miscellaneous cabinetry work seems to have distracted me from robotics for a week, but my electronic companion will be back soon, and better than ever. He is currently undergoing minor surgery, so stay tuned.

Chassis construction of my robot - lots of different parts!

Chassis construction of my robot – lots of different parts!

I thought I’d go over some thoughts I had about integrating 3-D printing into my project. At first this seemed like a great idea, since the robot’s physical form is currently limited by his materials – mostly the expanded rigid PVC sheeting that makes up his “skeleton” as it were. This material is easy to work with, and convenient for prototyping, but limited to flat sheets. Since a lot of the components also have flat surfaces (the servos, controller board, etc.) this is useful, but also limiting. It also means that it’s necessary to have quite a bit of hardware tying it all together.

With 3-D Printing it would be possible not only to make the entire chassis a single piece, but you would also be free to design a more organic  shape – many of the designs you see optimized for 3-D printing have a lovely latticework structure with compound curves. This form is strong and lightweight: 3-D Printing is technically know as additive manufacturing. This means you add material where you want it. This compares to traditional subtractive manufacturing, where you start with a block or a sheet of material and cut, drill, or grind away what you don’t need. Remember that old sculptor’s adage: it’s easy, just start with a block of marble, and chip away everything that doesn’t look like a statue!

A typical 3D printed structure showing the classic lattice

A typical 3D printed structure showing the classic lattice

However for a prototype, having solid sheets of material can be an advantage. After some experimentation, I have determined that the placement of the components on the top deck could be improved, as could the wire-routing holes. Since the deck is a solid piece of material, I could just shift everything around and drill new holes. Of course there is a limit; too much re-arranging, and our little buddy will start to look like Swiss Cheese! But for version 2.0 (coming soon!) he is still non-cheesy. When I have the design finalized, I will probably revisit the subject of 3D printing his chassis.

p.s. this is Claudia here, I have been bugging him about publishing one of his stories here and… I am getting closer to succeeding. He is almost there, but his little companion + the 3D printing are his priority right now. Those of you who have not read one of his stories, here is a link to one of them he published on my blog a little while back: Spontaneous Writing.

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