Jun 11, 2016 | By Benedict

A Hackaday user named Alberto has built a modular 3D printed robot called Dtto, which he has entered into the 2016 Hackaday Prize competition. The snake-like robot is able to autonomously identify and connect to its own modules, which snap together with magnets.

With $300,000 of cash prizes to be won, it’s no surprise to see so many cool 3D printed projects submitted for the 2016 Hackaday Prize. One of those projects is Dtto, a 3D printed robot designed to be versatile, flexible, and self-reconfigurable, and which could potentially be used to perform rescue operations. The project, which is currently intended for research and education purposes, was inspired by the Japanese MTRAN III project and, curiously, by martial arts legend Bruce Lee.

“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Become like water my friend.”

These words of advice, uttered by the star of Fist of Fury, Way of the Dragon, and Enter the Dragon, form the mantra upon which Dtto was built. According to its creator, Dtto was created to offer modularity and total adaptability in a world where there are “hundreds of different robot typologies”. Faced with all of these disparate and incompatible systems, Alberto asks: “Why don’t we build a robot capable of being any size, any shape, and any functionality?”

At this stage, it is hard to tell whether the Arduino-powered Dtto could really prove to have any functionality, but its unusual, hinge-based design is well worthy of our attention. Each section of the 3D printed robot is a double-hinged joint; when any two sections of the robot come into contact with one another, they snap into place with magnets, before a latch controlled by servos locks them together. This connection process can occur even without human input, with the robot able to identify its own sections and connect to them autonomously.

The chain-like robot is able to move in different ways. When several modules are joined together, Dtto can crawl like a snake, which—despite a limited speed—overcomes some of the challenges associated with wheeled and legged robots. But the 3D printed bot can also be assembled to have legs, and can even connect its “head” and “tail” modules and roll in a somersault motion—something we have never seen a snake do! As well as giving Dtto a range of movement possibilities, Alberto also plans to supply future versions of ditto with extra functions, such as a camera, ultra-sound sensor, gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer.

Dtto was designed entirely on FreeCad, 3D printed on open-source 3D printers, and is licensed under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license. All files are available on GitHub. Alberto hopes that a scaled-up version of the robot could someday be used to perform rescue operations and explore unknown environments—including space.

Dtto specifications and components (per module):

  • Dimensions: 64 x 64 x 130 mm
  • Weight: ~210g
  • 2 servos TowerPro SG92R for main movement (2.5kg/cm)
  • 3 servos TowerPro SG90 for coupling mechanism (1.8kg/cm)
  • 24 Alignment magnets (4x3 neodymium disc)
  • 1 Arduino Nano v3.0
  • 1 Bluetooth HC-06
  • 1 RF. NRF2401+
  • 1 WS2812 LED RGB



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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