MOSAiC Project Freezes A Boat In The Arctic Ice Pack For Science

Just over a fortnight ago, RV Polarstern, a German research vessel, sailed back into port, heralding the end of the largest Arctic research project ever undertaken. The MOSAiC expedition, short for Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate, spent a full year running experiments to measure conditions at the North Pole, and research how the unique Arctic climate is being affected by human activity.

Unprecedented In Size And Scope

The operation was regularly resupplied by visits from other icebreakers, bringing equipment, food, and fresh personnel. Alfred-Wegener-Institut / Jan Rohde (CC-BY 4.0)

With a budget exceeding €140 million, and with over 300 scientists attached to the project, the expedition aimed to study a full year-long ice cycle in the Arctic region. To achieve this, the research vessel of the project, RV Polarstern, was navigated into an ice floe, and allowed to freeze in and drift with the ice pack. As the seasons progressed, the vessel drifted with the sea ice across the polar region. Along the way, a series of rotating research teams set up equipment on the ice and took regular measurements, investigating several scientific focus areas. Different groups observed atmospheric conditions and the sea ice itself, with researchers also focusing on biogeochemistry, the ocean, and the ecosystems in the area.

Icebreakers were used to transport goods and personnel to the RV Polarstern over the duration of the mission. The project faced issues in spring, as a pre-planned changeover executed by aircraft had to be abandoned due to restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, this was also executed by ship, with the Polarstern temporarily leaving the ice to rendezvous with RV Sonne and RV Maria S. Merian for the changeover of approximately 100 crew and to pick up provisions. The detour took three weeks, but didn’t have any major negative impacts on the mission. Continue reading “MOSAiC Project Freezes A Boat In The Arctic Ice Pack For Science”

Scratch Built 3D Printer Goes Big

There was a time, not so very long ago, that buying a reliable 3D printer was a fairly expensive proposition. Many chose to build their own printer instead, and for a few years, we were flooded with very impressive custom designs. But as you might expect, with the prices on decent 3D printers now having hit rock bottom, the custom builds have largely dried up.

Arguably, the only reason you’d build rather than buy in 2020 is if you want something very specific. Which is precisely how [Joshendy] ended up building the Big F… Printer or BFP. No doubt the F stands for Fun, or Friendly. Either way, it’s certainly something special. With a 300 mm³ build volume and heavy-duty Z axis, this fully enclosed CoreXY machine is ready to handle whatever he throws at it.

It did take [Joshendy] a few attempts to get everything the way he wanted though. In fact, the prototype for the machine wasn’t even CoreXY, it started as an H-Bot. In his write-up he goes over the elements of the BFP did that didn’t quite live up to his expectations, and what he replaced them with. So when wobbly leadscrews and a knock-off V6 hotend both left something to be desired, they ended up getting replaced with ball screws and an authentic E3D Hemera, respectively.

To control this monster, [Joshendy] is using OctoPrint on a Raspberry Pi and a BigTreeTech SKR Pro running Klipper. OctoPrint gives him the ability to control and monitor the printer remotely, complete with a camera mounted inside the enclosure to keep an eye on things, while the Klipper firmware on the SKR board pushes all the computationally expensive aspects of 3D printing onto the vastly more powerful ARM chip in the Pi. The end result is faster and more accurate control of the steppers through the TMC2130 drivers than would be possible otherwise.

If you don’t mind tinkering, a cheap entry-level desktop 3D printer is good enough for most of hackers and makers. If you need something more capable or more reliable, there’s always higher-end options from the likes of Prusa and Ultimaker. Very few people need to build something as serious as the BFP, but when the do, we’re glad they send them our way.

Continue reading “Scratch Built 3D Printer Goes Big”

Wheels Or Legs? Why Not Both?

Out of the thousands of constraints and design decisions to consider when building a robot, the way it moves is perhaps one of the most fundamental. The method of movement constrains the design and use case for the robot perhaps more than any other parameter. A team of researchers at Texas A&M led by [Kiju Lee] is trying to have their cake and eat it too by building a robot with wheels that transform into legs, known as a-WaLTR (Adaptable Wheel-and-Leg Transformable Robot).

a-WaLTR was designed to conquer one of wheeled robots’ biggest obstacles: stairs. By adding a bit of smarts to determine whether a given terrain is better handled by wheels or legs, a-WaLTR can convert its segmented wheels into simple legs. Rather than implemented complex and error-prone articulated legs, the team stuck with robust appendages that remind us a little of whegs.

The team will show off their prototype at DARPA OFFSET Sprint-5 in February 2021, which is a program focused on building robots that can form adaptive human-swarm teams.

Thanks to the rise of 3D printers and hobbyist electronics there are more open-source experimental robot designs than ever. We’ve seen smaller versions of the famous Boston Dynamics’ Spot as well as simpler quadruped bots with more servos. a-WaLTR isn’t the first transforming robot we’ve seen, but we’re looking forward to seeing more unique takes on robotic locomotion in the future.

Thanks to [Qes] for sending this one in!