Stewart Platform Ball Bearing Balancer

PID balancing a ball on a plate

For their Mechanical Engineering senior design project at San Jose State University, [Tyler Kroymann] and [Robert Dee] designed and built a racing motion simulator. Which is slightly out of the budget of most hackers, so before they went full-scale, a more affordable Arduino powered Stewart platform proof of concept was built. Stewart platforms typically use six electric or hydraulic linear actuators to provide motion in six degrees of freedom (6 DOF), surge (X), sway (Y), heave (Z), pitch, roll, and yaw. With a simple software translation matrix, to account for the angular displacement of the servo arm, you can transform the needed linear motions into PWM signals for standard hobby servos.

The 6 DOF platform, with the addition of a resistive touch screen, also doubled as a side project for their mechatronic control systems class. However, in this configuration the platform was constrained to just pitch and roll. The Arduino reads the resistive touch screen and registers the ball bearing’s location. Then a PID compares this to the target location generating an error vector. The error vector is used to find an inverse kinematic solution which causes the actuators to move the ball towards the target location. This whole process is repeated 50 times a second. The target location can be a pre-programmed or controlled using the analog stick on a Wii nunchuck.

Watch the ball bearing seek the target location after the break.

Thanks to [Toby] for sending in this tip.

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Pool Cleaning Robot Rebuild Works Like A 3 Dimensional Roomba

Pool Cleaning Robot

Pools are great – Cleaning them, not so much. [Davide Gironi] had a pool cleaning robot, but years of working in a chlorine environment resulted in one of its gaskets failing, destroying the electronics inside. Instead of replacing it, he decided to try his hand at rebuilding it using an AVR ATmega8 microcontroller.

But wait! Wasn’t there a warranty? Expired. Couldn’t he just get a new board from the manufacturer? Costs almost as much as a new robot – time to open it up!

He’s broken the project into two parts, the out of water timer circuitry, and the robot itself. The timer is responsible for converting 220VAC to low voltage DC for the robot, and for turning it on and off based on a schedule (duh). He’s using an ATmega8 based countdown programmable timer which he designed himself for a previous project.

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Robotic Scalextrics

scalectrics

At the Volkswagen factory there are two towers – AutoTürme – filled with gigantic robots lifting cars into parking spaces. It’s by far the most efficient way of putting a huge number of cars in a small footprint. Slot cars exist, so how about a completely overwrought yet entirely awesome robotic parking garage for 1:32 scale cars? (.es, Google translatrix)

The project is built around several ‘racks’ to hold cars arranged around a central elevator. An Arduino takes care of moving all the motors and reading all the sensors, with the basic idea behind the project being the ability to select a car and have it appear in the pit of the track a few moments later.

Although this is just one small part of what is already a very impressive slot car track, it is however the most electronic. Other unique additions include a very unique cantilever/suspension bridge and the usual modeling techniques of creating a landscape with little more than cardboard and glue.

The best way to get a sense of how cool the parking garage is through the video. You can check that out below.

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Self-Assembling Origami Robots

orgami-robots-harvard

MIT engineers have developed a technique to address the challenges involved in manufacturing robots at a cheap and accessible level. Like a plant folding out its petals, a protein folding into shape, or an insect unveiling its wings, this autonomous origami design demonstrated the ability for a mechanical creature to assemble itself and walk away. The technique opens up the possibility of unleashing swarms of flat robots into hard to reach places. Once on site, the robots mobilize from the ground up.

The team behind the project used flexible print circuit boards made out of paper and polystyrene, which is a synthetic aromatic polymer typically found in the commercially sold children’s toy Shrinky Dinks™. Each hinge had embedded circuits that were mechanically programmed to fold at certain angles. Heat was applied to the composite structure triggering the folding process. After about four minutes, the hinges would cool allowing the polystyrene to harden. Some issues did arise though during the initial design phase due to the amount of electrical current running the robots, which was ten times that of a regular light bulb. This caused the original prototypes to burn up before the construction operation was completed.

In the long-term, Core Faculty Member [Robert] would like to have a facility that would provide everyday robotic assistance to anyone in the surrounding community. This place would be accessible to everyone in the neighborhood helping to solve whatever problems might arise, which sounds awfully like a hackerspace to us. Whether the person required a device to detect gas leaks or a porch sweeping robot, the facility would be there to aid the members living nearby.

A video of [Robert] and [Sam] describing the project comes up after the break:

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The Berlin Cyberbeetle with Its Own TV

13_Cyberbeetle

The evolution of the mere beetle has transformed from organic matter into robotic gears, circuits, and wires. This Cyberbeetle project was born during an open culture hackathon in Berlin throughout a few months time period. The event was called Coding for Vinci and was held from April into July 2014. The project used an Arduino and combined openly licensed biology related pictures and sounds from the museums in the area in a fun and playful way.

[Kati] and [Tomi] based the design on a gorgeous Chalcosoma atlas beetle species which was found in insect box scans that were taken from a nearby museum. The cool thing about this project is that the Cyberbeetle that [Kati] and [Tomi] created has its own hi-tech insect box with various special features. For instance, when the box was rotated on its side, small doors were revealed that when opened unveiled a tiny home theater system with a hi-definition flat screen, audio system and infrared communication. Inside the horn of the Cyberbeetle was an infrared receiver, which allowed the creature to interface with its TV program when it started. Music videos as well excited the robotic insect.

The project was awarded the “Funniest hack” prize during the hackathon. And a video of it can be seen after the break:

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More Pole Climbing Bots, Haul Antennas and Bikes

Pole Climbing Robot

A few days ago we posted about a Pole Climbing Device. Since then we’ve gotten a few emails with tips about other pole climbers. We are going to talk about two of those here, they are completely different from each other and have completely different uses. Who knew there was such a variety of pole climber bots out there?

First up is this an antenna-wielding bot that climbs up poles in order to promote over the air communications. The system is called E-APS (Emergency Antenna Platform System) and is used by enthusiasts to turn any ol’ parking lot lamp post into an antenna tower. This particular machine has a large rectangular frame made from extruded aluminum. There are four wheels, two of which are driven by what appears to be a car power window motor. The weight of the antenna forces each set of two wheels to be pressed up against opposite sides of the pole, creating enough friction to not only support the unit but allow it to travel up and down the pole. There is not a lot of explanation about the build but there are a lot of detailed photos of the final product. We saw E-APS in action at MakerFaire New York 2013, and it was very impressive.

We’ve covered this next device before but it’s worth mentioning again. The project assumes that no bike lock is strong enough to deter the most persistent thief. Instead of locking your bike up and hoping for the best, this ‘theft preventer’ hikes your bike up out of the reach of would-be bike nabbers. So how do you get your bike down once it is up the pole? A remote control fob, of course.

There are 2 cool videos of these inventions after the break…..

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong Giving a Robot a Chainsaw?

Chainsaw wielding robot

[Morgan Rauscher] is a rather eccentric artist, inventor, maker, professor… jack of all trades. His latest project is called the Art-Bot – and it’s an 8′ robotic arm equipped with a chainsaw. Did we mention you can control it via arcade buttons?

He’s been building sculptures for over 10 years now, and has enjoyed observing the evolution of automated manufacturing – from CNC machines to laser cutters and even now, 3D printers. He loves the technologies, but fears machines are making it too easy – distancing us from the good old physical interaction it once took to make things with a few simple tools. His Art-Bot project attempts to bridge that gap by bringing tactile transference to the experience.

The cool part about the Art-Bot is that it is mostly made of recycled materials – in particular, bicycle parts!

Making a robot from bicycle parts is really not that difficult, and I highly recommend it.

The rest of the robot consists of electric actuators (linear), the control circuitry, and of course — a chainsaw. For safety’s sake, [Morgan] also built a polycarbonate wall around it to protect users from it going on a murderous rampage wood chips and other debris thrown from the robot.

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