Jul 2, 2017 | By David

While 3D printing technology is contributing greatly to industrial manufacturing, healthcare, and many other important sectors, it’s also perfect for creating ingenious DIY solutions to relatively minor problems. A hobbyist called Everett Bradford recently published a Youtube video showing the process by which he made a small 3D printed robot, to help him with the simple but hazardous task of removing some ropes from the trees in his garden.

The aptly named RopeBot the Robot was mostly assembled from scavenged electronics, with some of the main functional parts 3D printed in plastic from designs the hobbyist knocked up himself. The ropes it was designed to cut down were formerly part of a homemade assault course, before trees grew up around them and they became firmly embedded. Climbing a tree and cutting thick ropes might seem like a complicated task for any robot to carry out, let alone a DIY hobbyist creation, but with access to 3D printing technology and the right engineering know-how, Bradford made it look easy.

RopeBot consists partly of a large cogged pulley system, which is driven by a geared motor. This allows the main part of the bot to scurry up and down the ropes, with two smaller wheels also helping out. Another geared motor is used to drive a 3D printed cam reciprocating mechanism, like the kind used for industrial saws. This powers the main cutting part of RopeBot’s actions, as a common utility knife saws through the rope. When the rope is eventually severed, RopeBot falls to the ground along with it- not the most graceful finish, but its mission has been accomplished.

The robot is powered by a couple of standard batteries, and there is also a radio receiver and a controller which can be used to remotely control RopeBot’s movements. The controller’s three switches- Up, Down, and Cut- are assembled on a piece of foam, and the whole thing is held together on a 3D printed frame. Lots of rubber bands and zip ties are used to keep things in place and to provide the necessary spring tension.

The ropes that RopeBot was created to remove have now all been cleared from Bradford’s trees, and in its current incarnation it’s no longer particularly useful. However, the design and materials used for the robot mean that it won’t be going to waste. The 3D printed plastic components can easily be recycled, and the electronics and hardware can be used again for other projects in the future. What might seem like an overly elaborate and wasteful solution to a simple problem could actually prove to be highly cost effective, and it has had a relatively low environmental impact. Robotics fans might recognise the memorable line from Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic Blade Runner: ‘’The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long’’. This is a particularly appropriate description of RopeBot’s plight, as its purpose was served admirably but it’s no longer of much use. The world of DIY robotics and 3D printing technology will endure though, especially if hobbyists like Everett Bradford continue to set it ablaze.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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