Jul 18, 2017 | By David

Fans of Valve’s innovative and unique video game series Portal should check out a recent Instructables page published by a user called Stephen Gioiosa. As part of a maker course at the University of Florida, the Portal enthusiast 3D printed a replica of Aperture Science sentry turret, one of the game’s iconic turrets. The results he achieved are pretty impressive for a first time 3D print project, with a high degree of attention to detail including arms and a built-in motion sensor.

Mechanical engineering student Gioiosa says that he’s been obsessed with Portal ever since he first played the original game. The sentry turrets he attempted to recreate are made by the fictional in-game company Aperture Science, and they are not just inanimate parts of the scenery but characters in their own right. They have always been Gioiosa’s favourites, and he was excited to get the opportunity to have his own real-life version, imagining how ‘’cool’’ it would be.

The only requirements for the maker assignment he was given by the college were that it had to make use of 3D printing technology and Arduino hardware. Arduino is a dedicated open source computer hardware and software company, project, and user community. It designs and manufactures single-board microcontrollers and microcontroller kits for building digital devices and interactive objects.

Arduino was perfect for the sentry turret project as using the Arduino hardware would enable the turret to incorporate similar functionality to the original in-game version, rather than just being a 3D printed prop. Gioiosa’s three main requirements for the project were that the turret’s arms would be able to pop out, it would be able to speak, and it would be able to make use of a proximity sensor.

Most of the designs were done using the Solidworks software program, which Gioiosa had free access to through his course. Four MG996R Digital Metal Gear Servos were used to get the turret to move as he wanted it to, and he took a speaker from a bluetooth shower radio. The 3D print job was relatively simple but time-consuming, with a number of different parts to be printed and then some extensive post-processing tasks.

The initial concept that Gioiosa had in mind for the turret was that it would incorporate a webcam to track the movement of people around it. He planned to use motion tracking software Open CV to control the system, with lasers on the turret being guided according to information sent from the camera. This proved to be a little too difficult a task for the Arduino hardware to handle, and a potential upgraded version of the turret in the future will make use of Raspberry Pi hardware instead.

Eventually he decided that the best way to track motion would be with a HC-SR04 proximity sensor. This ultrasonic motion sensor was capable of detecting how close things are to it, but is limited to 30 degrees of vision and can only detect proximity in a straight line. An array of PIR sensors could potentially be integrated instead, to map movement around the turret in more than one dimension.

Once the servos were wired in and hooked up to the 6xAAA battery power pack, all that was needed was to upload the relatively simple, pre-written software code for the Arduino. The turret was set up so that it can track movements from a distance in between 150 cm and 300 cm away. If nothing is detected within a 300 cm radius, the turret will scan the room 5 times and then eventually shut down. If anything comes closer to the turret than 150 cm, its arms will start to flail wildly in a spraying motion, with an accompanying sound. This dynamic will be familiar to seasoned players of the Portal franchise.

Gioiosa’s replica turret is an impressive real-life homage to a game that he is passionate about, and for a first time 3D printing/ Arduino project it’s really a huge success, promising great things for the rest of his course. He hopes to continue working with this kind of technology in the future and has described the process of making the 3D printed sentry turret as a ‘’learning experience’’.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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