Oct 13, 2016 | By Nick

Photo: Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum

The Open Source Robotics Foundation and South Korean company ROBOTIS have revealed TurtleBot 3, a development of the legendary TurtleBot that makes this open source project even more accessible and cost-effective.

Of course, you can 3D print your own robotic parts and with the basic kit costing just $500 when it goes on sale next year, this could be one of the most cost-effective ways to get into robotics. There will be more advanced kits that could cost anything up to $1000, but the whole point of the TurtleBot 3 is that it is cheaper and more accessible than the full kit. Besides, with off-the-shelf parts and a 3D printer, then turning the cheapest possible kit into a fully-fledged masterpiece is kind of the point of the exercise.

The TurtleBot 3 is totally modular anyway, so you can start with the entry-level model, learn the basics and then upgrade the processor if you run into the limits of the hardware. This could also make the TB3 a seriously attractive prospect for schools and even undergraduate programs that currently use Vex Robotics systems and LEGO Mindstorms.

TurtleBot has been a revelation in the world of open source robotics and a huge community has grown around the robot that can drive round your house, see in 3D and form the basis of a myriad of applications.

But its size, complexity and cost mean that it is still not quite the gateway to robotics that the world has been looking for. It requires some basic knowledge and experience and there was clearly a window of opportunity for a simpler product to slot in beneath the iconic robot.

TurtleBot 3 could be that product. It’s smaller, so it’s portable, it comes with a single-board computer rather than the netbook that its bigger brother requires and it has just two motors driving the rear wheels. This makes it simpler and, more importantly, much cheaper.

It's absolutely not a toy, though, and it comes with the same spirit of expansion and open source development. So you can affix your own sensors, drive systems and tools that will turn the TurtleBot 3 into whatever you want and have the skills to build.

That’s where 3D printing comes in, as the community that has grown up around the TurtleBot means there’s a vast library of parts that have already been designed. So with the help of a 3D printer and the most basic mechanical skills then you can learn from others and your TB3 can evolve into a real monster in front of your eyes.

 You can even make the robot bigger, if that’s what you want, so the system can grow with your skills and the money you want to spent. The baseplate is actually modular and is made of a series of plates that screw together, so within reason it can go as big as you want.

It can run on anything from an Intel Joule to a Raspberry Pi and you can equip your TB3 with lidar, radar, cameras and ultrasonic sensors depending on your needs. You can even hack into the open source controller board, if you have the skillset or the confidence in the community to do so.

This really can be the ultimate remote controlled toy or even an autonomous robot. You can put a robotic arm on it and even teach the robot to carry out basic tasks. We don’t think it’s up to cleaning the house, but we could yet be proven wrong.

It comes with casters as standard, but you can turn your TB3 into an all-terrain vehicle or even a tank by switching out some components and adding the necessary servos.

We’d love to see what the 3D printing community can make of the TB3, because with an active imagination, a wealth of parts freely available and a 3D printer, there really is no limit to what these plucky little robots can do.

They don’t go on sale for a while, so you’ve got time to plan the ultimate robot. We hope we see a lot more of the TB3 and it becomes an integral part of the 3D printing platforms. That’s because models are great, but the functionality of the TB3 gives the 3D printer a whole new purpose and it just needs the additive manufacturing community to take this one and run with it to create something truly special.

 

Source: IEEE Spectrum

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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