When it comes to robotic platforms, there is one constant problem: wheels. Wheels have infinite variety for every purpose imaginable, but if you buy a wheeled robotic chassis you have exactly one choice. Even if you go down to the local Horror Freight, there’s only about five or six different wheels available, all of which will quickly disintegrate.
To solve this problem, [Audrey] created OpenWheel, a system of parametric, 3D-printable wheels, tweels, tires, and tracks for robotics and more.
Like all good parametric 3D-printable designs, OpenWheel is written in OpenSCAD. These aren’t 3D designs; they’re code that compiles into printable objects, with variables to set the radius, thickness, diameter of the axle, bolt pattern, and everything else that goes into the shape of a wheel.
Included in this toolset are a mess of wheels and gears that can be assembled into a drivetrain. 3D-printable track that can be printed out of a flexible filament for something has been almost unobtanium until now: completely configurable 3D-printable tank treads. All we need now is a 3D-printable tank transmission, and we’ll finally have a complete hobby robotics chassis.
Omnidirectional wheels are one of the hardy perennials of the world of invention. There seems to be something about the prospect of effortless parallel parking that sets the creative juices of backyard inventors flowing, and the result over the years have been a succession of impressively engineered ways to move a car sideways.
The latest one to come our way is courtesy of Canadian inventor [William Liddiard], and it is worthy of a second look because it does not come with some of the mechanical complexity associated with other omnidirectional wheel designs. [Liddiard]’s design uses a one-piece tyre in the form of a flexible torus with a set of rollers inside it which sits on a wheel fitted with a set of motorised rollers around its circumference. The entire tyre can be rotated round its toroidal axis, resulting in a tread which can move sideways with respect to the wheel.
The entire process is demonstrated in a video which is shown below the break, and the small Toyota used as a demonstration vehicle can move sideways and spin with ease. We would be wary of using these wheels on a road car until they can be demonstrated to match a traditional tyre in terms of sideways stability when they are not in their omnidirectional mode, but we can instantly see that they would be a significant help to operators of industrial machines such as forklifts in confined spaces.
For all their joking about “reinventing the wheel”, the team behind Ourobot made a very cool robot (German, automatic translation here). The team, at the University of Applied Sciences in “Bielefeld, Germany“, built their wheel out of twelve segments, each with its own servo motor, a 3D-printed case, and a pressure sensor mounted on the outside of the wheel. The latter, plus some clever programming, allows the robot wheel to vary its circular gate and climb up over obstacles automatically.
There are a bunch of interesting constraints in designing the control for this bot. The tracks on the ground, naturally, have to adjust their relative angles so that they lie each flat on the surface, even if that surface isn’t itself flat or level. The segments in the air are unconstrained, but the sum of all the servos’ interior angles has to add up to 1800 degrees, and these angles control where its center of gravity is.
[masterfoo]’s mother-in-law suffers from a bad hip which would have sidelined her participation in the Fourth of July festivities. As a testament to the power of family and ingenuity, [masterfoo] built her a beach-capable wheel chair to give her some off-roading capability.
The frame is built out of 1.5″ PVC piping and the tires are 20×8-8″ inner tubes for ride-on lawnmowers. The lawnmower wheel inner tubes were cost-effective and fit the purpose, saving the need for the more expensive purpose-built-for-the-beach Wheeleez tires. They also have a fluid inside that plugs small punctures which will come in handy against he beach’s small cacti and other flora. This video was their guide for the foam insulation and plywood wheel assembly, also employing the handy man’s secret weapon to protect the tube from the rim’s plywood edge. Check it out in action!
There’s an old saying that you should make things twice. Once to figure out how to build the thing, and again to build it the right way. [Pmbrunelle] must agree. His senior project in college was a machine to balance wheels. It was good enough for him to graduate, but he wanted it to be even better.
The original machine required observation of measurements on an oscilloscope and manual calculations. [Pmbrunelle] added an AVR micro, a better motor drive, and made a host of other improvements. As you can see in the video below, the machine works, but [Pmbrunelle] still wasn’t happy.
Cars are the greatest. They get you to where you need to go… most of the time. They can also let you down at the worst moment if a critical part fails. Wheel bearings get a lot of use while we drive and [Dmitriy] found out the hard way how quickly they can fail. Instead of getting cranky about it, he set out to change the damaged bearing himself. In the process he made a pretty neat DIY bearing puller.
Some wheel bearings, on the front of a 2WD truck for example, are only held on by one large nut and easily slide off the spindle. This was not the case for the rear of [Dmitriy’s] AWD Subaru. The rear bearings are press-fit into a bearing housing. These are hard to remove because Outer Diameter of the bearing is actually just slightly larger than the Inner Diameter of the bearing housing. This method of retaining parts together is called an ‘interference fit‘.
[Dmitriy’s] gadget uses one of Hackaday’s favorite simple machines, the screw, to slowly force the bearing out of its housing. It works by inserting a threaded rod through the bearing and bearing housing. Each side has a large washer and nut installed as well as a PVC pipe spacer providing support for the threaded rod. As the opposing nuts are tightened, one washer presses against the bearing and the bearing slowly slides out of the housing. Installation of the new bearing is the same except the tool is reversed to press the bushing into the housing.
We’ve seen strollers and car seats that have a steering wheel for the baby to play with (like in the opening of The Simpsons). But what we hadn’t seen is a stroller that allows baby to actually steer. You might think that a putting a motorized vehicle in the hands of someone so young is an accident waiting to happen. But [Xandon Frogget] thought of that and used familiar hardware to add some safety features.
The stroller seen above is a tricycle setup, making it quite easy to add motors to the two rear wheels. These are controlled by a tablet which you can see nestled on the canopy of the stroller (look for the light reflected on the glass). This interfaces with two Kinect sensors, one pointing forward and the other pointing back. They continually scan the environment, looking for obstacles in the stroller’s path. You can see [Xandon’s] little girl holding a Wii Wheel, which connects with the tablet to facilitate steering. A test run at the playground is embedded after the break.