Mar 3, 2016 | By Kira
Though not always deadly, a scorpion sting is certainly to be feared. However, three students from Ghent University in Belgium have created a digitally manufactured hexapod scorpion specifically for the purpose of ‘stinging’ visitors at the Industrial Design Center’s tech exposition. Though the sting is completely harmless, it effectively demonstrates the intuitive and complex mechatronic functions of the 3D printed scorpion, as well as the stigmergic methodology of “prototyping by leaving a trace.”
The Scorpion Hexapod was created by Electronics Engineering student Pieterjan Deconinck and Industrial Design students Stephan Flamand and Robbe Terryn, all in their final year of Industrial Engineering at Ghent University. As part of the ‘Mechatronics Design and Embedded Prototyping’ course, their goal was to re-design the Stigmergic Ant Hexapod Robot, a previous student creation that was used as a mascot for the Industrial Design Center (IDC), an industry-education platform that works closely with Ghent U.
“Stigmergic is defined as ‘leaving a trail behind for others to follow or to learn from,’” explained Terryn. “At IDC Kortrijk, we see prototyping as a way to make ideas tangible and the possibility to leave trails for others to pick up in order to inspire, transform, or combine new ideas and prototypes.” The original Ant Hexapod roamed the floors of the IDC expo leaving behind a trail of candy. It encouraged visitors to follow its path, symbolizing the way each new prototype of a design follows its own ‘path,’ gradually becoming better and better until it’s final iteration.
For the 2015 Mechatronics Design course, however, the team wanted to upgrade the original hexapod, keeping the ‘stigmergic’ concept, while improving its materials, modularity, and autonomous functions. They chose to do so by re-imagining the ant as an entirely new creature: the Hexapod Scorpion. Rather than leaving a trail of candy, it can sense and detect people in its environment. Anyone who approaches and covers its eyes is ‘stung’ by its lightning fast 3D printed tail, which leaves behind a marker stamp and thus creates a ‘trail’ of people it has interacted with.
“Our goal was to design an impressive, digitally designed robot with lots of possibilities towards interaction and functionality,” said Terryn. “The scorpion seemed the appropriate animal as an inspiration for this robot, because the tail and claws could be given all kinds of functions.” Another goal was to improve its design using multiple digital production techniques. Unlike the original ant, which used only laser cutting, the scorpion robot consists of a body, six legs, two claws and a tail, all of which were produced suing 3D printing, laser cutting, and CNC milling. “For each component, we made the considered decision for the right techniques and the right material,” said Terryn.
The 3D printed parts include mechanical components, connections between the legs and the claws, a wheel for the tail actuation mechanism, and all of the tail modules. All were 3D printed on the IDC Protlab’s Ultimaker 2 using PLA filament, as well as colorFabb_XT for parts that required additional strength.
As for the scorpion’s body, it consists of a laser cut architecture and freeform shells, modeled in Siemens NX and filled out of foam with a CNC-milling machine. “These foam models were afterwards used as a mold to thermoform a polystyrene copy of these parts,” explained Terryn. “The body frame exists of two 6mm plates, including all holes for cable management, etched codes, snap fits, etc.”
As a result of these advanced digital production techniques, the Industrial Engineering students were able to achieve a modular and reproducible Scorpion Hexapod robot that is lighter and more durable than the original. It also includes more advanced autonomous functions, created by the team’s electronics, programming and GUI designer, Pieterjan Deconinck.
At the moment, the Scorpion Hexabod robot has two function modes: in autonomous mode, it interacts with its environment based on sensorial input, whereas in remote mode it is controlled via GUI. It can walk in all directions, even on steps or elevated surfaces, and perform a broad range of natural body movements, such as moving its claws and, of course, striking its tail. Due to its modularity, Terryn said that the Hexapod Scorpion can easily be adapted and expanded upon both in terms of hardware and software functions.
The digitally manufactured Scorpion Hexapod robot has since been used at various IDC expositions to promote the Mechatronics Design course and hopefully inspire the next generation of industrial design students. Whether it thoroughly convinces new students or simply freaks them out, this impressive application of digital manufacturing, engineering, and computer science will certainly have left its mark.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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suvahhna cruz wrote at 3/4/2016 7:49:10 PM:
briana wrote at 3/4/2016 7:22:24 PM:
thats sooo awesome i that as my pet.
Marvin wrote at 3/4/2016 5:14:55 PM:
NIce project but i feal like it should be faster at stinging
yzorg wrote at 3/4/2016 9:12:54 AM:
nice! one pair of legs is missing. scorpions have 10 legs including the claws
I. A. M. Magic wrote at 3/4/2016 8:44:13 AM:
Nice projet! Seems like a lot of time and effort was spent on this.