Jan 13, 2015 | By Simon

Among other 3D printing projects that have been seeing an increase in popularity within the past year are those that feature interactivity powered by Arduino, Raspberry Pi or other microcontroller boards.

The boards, which are not only extremely affordable and accessible but also easy to learn, provide a wealth of opportunities for making otherwise static 3D prints take on a life of their own - however a user sees fit.

Among others who have been finding success with combining 3D printing with microcontrollers is Jonathan Spitz, a Mechanical Engineer who is currently seeking a PhD at the Technion Institute of Technology in Israel.

After choosing to focus his university research on developing bio-inspired controllers for bipedal walking, Spitz purchased a 3D printer to develop multiple iterations of walking robots.

Spitz chose to iterate off of a project done by a colleague of his in Berkeley, California, USA.  The project focused on an autonomous 3D printed robot, STAR, that is able to vary its sprawl angle to adapt to a variety of different surfaces ranging from rough and rugged to smooth and flat. It is also able to climb under an object if it determines that it is unable to climb over - if there is room of course.  Because it is able to run at 5.2 m/s over a smooth surface, it is known as the fastest untethered crawling robot.

Spitz’s first iteration, which was named Billy, is the result of several iterations of his own design.  Spitz was able to create the necessary mechanical parts on his 3D printer to create a robot similar to the STAR as a working prototype.  Soon after, he dove directly into coding his Arduino Leonardo and was able to get Billy walking not long after.    

Billy features two DC motors that move the legs on each side of the body.  Using a Bluetooth module, Spitz is able to control Billy’s movements directly from a joystick app on his smartphone.

After travelling with his new pal Billy around the world, Spitz was able to gather feedback on how to improve the design, in which he used for creating Billy’s sidekick, Charlie.  

“Charlie is much slimmer than Billy,” Spitz told 3Ders.

“Even though he has more components. I used a smaller arduino micro and two baby orangutan microprocessors to control Charlie's four motors: two for walking and two for sprawling. The idea is to free the arduino to take care of processing sensor data (an IMU will be added to the final version) and let the baby orangutans deal with closed loop motor control. Charlie is also controlled over Bluetooth.”

Due to his slimmer size (and approximately 40% lighter), Charlie is also able to walk upside down in the case that he ever flips himself over.  

According to Spitz, the sprawling mechanism within Charlie also allows for the robot to walk fast on flat terrain or intelligently slow down to walk over more complicated obstacles.  He can even walk up slopes steeper than 45 degrees and climb objects nearly as tall as he is.    

Additionally, all of Charlie’s parts were enclosed inside of a gearbox to prevent debris such as dust, pebbles and grass from jamming the gears.  A hinge design that Spitz added ensures that the gearbox can be open or closed for easy access for swapping gears and legs.  

Both Billy and Charlie were printing with and UP Plus 2 3D printer using ABS plastic.  While Billy features 20 parts, Charlie features 38 and both took nearly 24 hours each to print in their entirety.   

While Billy was able to be designed and fabricated in less than a month, having to fit all of the mechanical components into the slimmer design of Charlie took considerably more time, however Spitz has learned a lot about 3D printing, Arduino and robotics in the process.  

“Now that my robot building skills are more mature, I'm looking for the best way to bring these cute robots to market,” Spitz adds.  

“In the next few months I'll be working on developing some single player and multi-player games that you can play with Charlie and as soon as I have a polished concept I'll start preparing a crowdfunding campaign.”

You can stay updated over at Billy and Charlie's Facebook page.

 

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

 

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