A Mechanical Edge-Avoiding Robot

In the age of cheap sensors and microcontrollers, it’s easy to forget that there might be very simple mechanical solutions to a problem. [gzumwalt]’s 3D printed mechanical edge avoiding robot is a beautifully┬á elegant example of this.

The only electric components on this robot is a small geared DC motor and a LiPo battery. The motor drives a shaft fixed to a wheel on one side, while the opposite wheel is free-spinning. A third wheel is mounted perpendicular to the other two in the center of the robot, and is driven from the shaft by a bevel gear. The third wheel is lifted off the surface by a pair of conical wheels on a pivoting axle. When one of these conical wheels go over the edge of whatever surface it’s driving on, it lowers front and brings the third wheel into contact with the surface, spinning the robot around until both front wheels are back on the surface.

Mechanical alternatives for electronic systems are easily overlooked, but are often more reliable and rugged in hostile environments. NASA is looking at sending a rover to Venus, but with surface temperatures in excess of 450 ┬░C and atmospheric pressure 92 times that of Earth, conventional electronics won’t survive. Earlier in the year NASA ran a design competition for a completely mechanical obstacle detection system for use on Venus.

[gzumwalt] is a very prolific designer on ingenious 3D printed mechanical devices. This mechanism could also be integrated in his walking fridge rover to explore the front of your fridge without falling off. Continue reading “A Mechanical Edge-Avoiding Robot”

A Walking Rover Destined Explore Your Fridge Door

It’s usually the simple ideas that sprout bigger ones, and this was the case when we saw [gzumwalt]’s single-motor walking robot crawling up a fridge door with magnets on its feet. (Video, embedded below.)

The walking mechanism consists of an inner foot and two outer feet, connected by three sets of rotating linkages, driven by a single geared motor. The feet move in a leapfrog motion, in small enough steps that the center of mass always stays inside the foot area, which keeps it from tipping over. Besides the previously mentioned ability to crawl around on a vertical magnetic surface, it’s also able to crawl over almost any obstacle shorter than its step length. A larger version should also be able to climb stairs.

As shown, this robot can only travel in a straight line, but this could be solved by adding a disc on the bottom of the inner foot to turn the robot when the outer feet are off the surface. Add some microswitch feelers and an Arduino, and it can autonomously explore your fridge without falling off. Maybe we’ll get around to building it ourselves, but be sure to drop us a tip if you beat us to it!

[gzumwalt] is a master of 3D printed devices like a rigid chain and a domino laying robot. The mechanism for this robot was inspired by one design from [thang010146]’s marvelous video library of mechanisms.

Continue reading “A Walking Rover Destined Explore Your Fridge Door”

3D Printed Rigid Chain Mechanism

One of the major advantages of 3D printing is the ability to quickly test and then iterate on mechanical designs. [gzumwalt] does a lot of this, and has recently been working on various versions of a rigid chain mechanism. (Video, embedded below.)

A rigid-chain mechanism is one way of fitting a long beam into a small box. It works similar to a zipper, meshing two separate “chains” with specially teeth designed to form a rigid beam. Due to clearances between the teeth, the beam tends to be a bit floppy. [gzumwalt] made various sizes of the mechanism, and also reduced the clearances on later versions to reduce the flop. He also integrated it into a cool “snake in a basket” automaton (second video below) by adding a reversible gearbox and a binary snap-action switch.

One possible use for this type of mechanism is for autonomously assembling long structures in space, as one of the 2017 Hackaday Prize finalist projects, ZBeam, proposed.

[gzumwalt] has not made the files available for download yet, but you can keep and eye on his Instructables pages for updates. He got a number of fascinating 3D printed devices already available, like a domino laying machine or a WiFi controlled rover.

Continue reading “3D Printed Rigid Chain Mechanism”