Nov.25, 2014 | By Alec

Any 3D printing enthusiast will tell you: robots and 3D printing technology are a great mix, and it should not take you long to find a recent and quite unique robotic 3D printing project online. What about this clever 3D printed walking robot we reported on earlier this month? And all this is hardly surprising, as 3D printing is perfect for quickly and cheaply creating a uniquely-shaped body for any robotic create you'd like to construct.

However, 3D printing is a rarer technology to come across when looking at professional-grade robotic research, as those often focused on the interior and the abilities of the robot (such as accurately copying humanoid movement, facial recognition technology, etc…). Not only does that mean that its aesthetics are underappreciated, but it also tends to require a heavy and solid metal container capable of supporting all that weight and hardware.

But this is exactly what makes the DyRos Robot, which has just been presented at the Humanoids 2014 Conference in Madrid, Spain, so special. Unlike its many competitors, this South Korean creation features both an impressive engineering interior, as well as a flashy exterior. Unsurprisingly, it heavily relied on 3D printing to achieve success in that latter category.

The very impressive DyRos (short for Dynamic Robotic System) is the brainchild of a collaborative effort of two South Korean institutes, the new Digital Human Research Center and the Graduate school lab Dynamic Robotic systems. While not fully finished – crucially, the robot still needs a top half – the team are already sharing its designs and progress on an open source basis. They invite everyone to work with and improve upon their designs, or even to 3D print miniature versions of this leg robot (find download link below).

As it stands, however, the DyRos is an intriguing and impressive construction already. Combining their engineering and shaping skills, the team has created a very impressive leg robot intended to copy a person's walking and balancing abilities. While doubtlessly not the only project aiming to achieve that, this robot is quite possibly unique for its attempt to realize all that within the shape of an ordinary person's legs. While you might not guess straight away, the legs are based on those of typical South Korean woman. Isn't that cool?

As the team explained in their paper, most current robot designs feature 'a relatively box-like shape and use lightweight plastic casings to create the desired aesthetic.' Instead, the DYROS Humanoid features a design that 'simultaneously takes into account the aesthetics, functionality, durability, and usability. In robotic design, this means a design should account for visual meaning (aesthetics), the goal of the robot (functionality), how long it will last (durability), and how researchers will interact with the robot (usability).'

And the DyRos is all four of those things, but especially its humanoid feel is intriguing. As the team explained, a nice aesthetic design isn't merely for fun. Just like any household appearance, its design is crucial in determining how people perceive its capability. A flashy design quickly convinces an audience that this robot can really do something. Furthermore, 'both compliant motion and visual cues of the robots' function are critical for safety when humans and robots coexist.' It's red (for the curvature) and black (mechanics) color scheme was chosen to add to that effect.

But rest assured, this hasn't just been done to appease society, as there are various practical advantages to such a design as well. Primarily is multi-part exterior is also practical as it allows scientists to quickly access vital parts without taking the whole robot apart. 'The electronics can be accessed by removing two bolts on the side. The motors are directly at the joints with no pulley or belt systems. The entire control computer is in the temporary upper body.' It also reduces overheating of the high torque motors.

The design process itself was quite time consuming, relying heavily on 3D rendering software. And before the final prototyping phase, 3D printing technology was used as a very convenient testing technology. 'the designed parts were 3D printed to check for any obvious physical problems in assembly as well as a better visual representation of the final design. The 3D printing proved valuable in its visualization ability as the curvature of the legs were modified due to a difference in the computers rendering which made the design look as if it had more curvature than in real life.'

But engineers rest assured, as the DyRos Robot also contains some impressive mechanics on the inside. The final red parts are multi axis machined from aluminium. But in its essence, it's an easily accessible robot with an integrated design and frame can be made with metal 3D printing if you don't have a CNC machine. It has been designed as a torque-controlled robot with 12 DOF, with motors directly connected to the joint with a low gear ratio. 'This configuration allows for compliant motion and good back-drivability without using joint torque sensors.'

All in all, the lower body weighs just '38.795kg, slightly under the estimated 40kg used in the motor selection and simulation. Of this weight, 26.112kg are the structural components while the rest is made up of screws and electronics.'

Of course, the DyRos is still work in progress, requiring an equally flashy and function upper body. The team hopes to expand the robot's capacity for humanoid movement and to incorporate new technologies into their multi-purpose design; 'with the current research into materials and nano properties, we imagine a time when the open frame can still be applicable by combining hydrophobic treatments to the electronics and breathable fabric over the links to protect from water and dust.'

For now however, their focus is on movement and design, and they invite everyone to participate by sharing 3D printable STL files on an open source. 'These files can be used as a baseline for designing custom robots or just 3d printing our robot design at home on a Makerbot. We would be delighted to see if the community can design smaller motor casings in combination with our model to make a low cost smaller version.'

These files definitely worth checking out, which you can find here. And while the DyRos isn't finished yet, it could definitely be onto something with its clever design. Perhaps 3D printing holds the key to making robots not just functional, but also nice to look at?

Also check out this footage of the DyRos in action:

Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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