Waterjet-Cut Precision Pastry

We need more high-end, geometric pastry in our lives. This insight is courtesy of a fairly old video, embedded below, demonstrating an extremely clever 2D CNC mechanism that cuts out shapes on a cake pan, opening up a universe of arbitrary cake topologies.

The coolest thing about this machine for us is the drive mechanism. A huge circular gear is trapped between two toothed belts. When the two belts move together the entire thing translates, but when they move in opposite directions, it turns. It seems to be floating on a plastic platform, and because the design allows the water-jet cutting head to remain entirely fixed, only a small hole underneath is necessary, which doubtless simplifies high-pressure water delivery and collection. Rounding the machine out are cake pans make up of vertical slats, like on a laser- or plasma-cutter table, that slip into registration pins and let the water pass through.

The kinematics of this machine are a dream, or perhaps a nightmare. To cut a straight line, it does a cycloid-shaped dance of translation and turning that you simply have to see in motion. Because of this intricate path, the cake-feed speed varies along the way, so this machine won’t be perfect for all applications and relies on a thin kerf. And we can’t help thinking how dizzy the cake must get in the process.

Indeed, the same company put out a relatively pedestrian two-arm motion cutter (another video!) that poses different kinematic problems. It’s essentially a two-arm plotter with a moving table underneath that helps increase the working area. Details are scarce, but it looks like they’re minimizing motion of the moving table, doing the high frequency small stuff with the stiff arms. Presumably someone turned the speed on the previous machine up to 11 and spun a cake off into the room, causing them to rethink the whole move-the-cake-around design.

Of course, watercut pastry isn’t limited to exotic CNC mechanisms. This (third!) video demonstrates that a simple Cartesian XY bot can do the job as well.

If you think about it, using high-pressure pure water to cut foodstuffs is a win on many levels. We’d just miss out on licking the knife. Thanks [Adam G DeMuri] for the awesome comment that lead us to a new world of watercut edibles.

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The Jolly Cart-Pushing Robot

[Lance] loves making simple robots with his laser cutter. He finds great satisfaction from watching his robots operate using fairly simple mechanisms and designs a whole slew of them inspired by different animals, including a dinosaur and a dragon. His latest build is a jolly cart-pushing robot.

He cut each piece of his robot on his laser cutter, and in order to get the pieces to fit snugly together he made each tab a little bigger than its corresponding slot, ensuring the piece wouldn’t fall out. This also helps account for the loss in the material due to kerf, which is the bit of each piece of material that gets lost in the cut end of the laser cutter.

Making his robot walk was mostly as easy as attaching each leg to a simple DC motor such that the motor would rotate each leg in succession, pushing the robot along. From time to time, [Lance] also had to grease the robot’s moving parts using a bit of wax to help reduce friction. He even used a little rubber band to give the robot some traction.

[Lance] did a pretty good job detailing the build in his video. He also linked to a few other fun little robot designs that could entertain you as well. Pretty easy hack, but we thought you might find the results as satisfying as we did.

Robot companions may be here to stay. Time will tell.

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Dual-Wielding Robot Carves 3D Shapes From Foam With Warped Wire

“Every block of expanded polystyrene foam has a statue inside it and it is the task of the dual-arm hot wire-wielding robot to discover it.” — [Michelangelo], probably.

Be prepared to have your mind blown by this dual-wielding hot-wire 3D foam cutter (PDF). We’ve all seen simple hot-wire cutters before, whether they be manual-feed cutters or CNC-controlled like a 3D-printer. The idea is to pass current through a wire to heat it up just enough to melt a path as it’s guided through a block of polystyrene foam. Compared to cutting with a knife or a saw, hot-wire cuts are smooth as silk and produces mercifully little of that styrofoam detritus that gets all over your workspace.

But hot-wire cutters can’t do much other than to make straight cuts, since the wire must be kept taut. “RoboCut”, though, as [Simon Duenser] and his colleagues at ETH Zurich call their creation, suffers from no such limitations. Using an ABB YuMi, a dual-arm collaborative robot, they devised a method of making controlled curved cuts through foam by using a 1-mm thick deformable rod rather than a limp and floppy wire for the cutting tool. The robot has seven degrees of freedom on each arm, and there’s only so much the rod can deform before being permanently damaged, so the kinematics involved are far from trivial. Each pass through the foam is calculated to remove as much material as possible, and multiple passes are needed to creep up on the final design.

The video below shows the mesmerizing sweeps needed to release the Stanford bunny trapped within the foam, as well as other common 3D test models. We’re not sure it’s something easily recreated by the home-gamer, but it sure is fun to watch.

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Unique Clock Finally Unites Hackers And Sequins

We’ve all seen the two-color sequin fabrics you can “draw” on by dragging your finger over so the pieces flip to the other color. It’s fun stuff to play with, and very popular with the kids right now, but if you asked us if the material had any practical application we’d have said no. But that was before we saw this clever clock created by [Ekaggrat Singh Kalsi] that he calls Sequino.

Since a clock (at least one that only shows hours and minutes) doesn’t need to refresh very quickly, [Ekaggrat] thought that the sequin material could work as a display. Of course the tricky part is figuring out how to actually draw on it reliably. It can’t be done from the back, and since the sequins are plastic, you can’t use a magnet. The only way to do it is with a robotic “finger” and some very slick kinematics.

The most obvious feature of the Sequino is the belt drive that goes the length of its cylindrical shape. When the two motors connected to the belt are turning in the same direction, the pointer is moved left or right. But when the motors turn in opposite directions, the tension on the belt forces the pointer to extend and contact the sequins. It’s like an H-bot , but with the shortest ever Y axis. The front bar is moved up and down with rotating rings inside of the device. It will probably make a lot more sense once you watch the video of it in operation after the break.

[Ekaggrat] says this project was developed as part of his quest to build “doodle clocks” that draw out the time continuously. The advantage of using the sequin fabric is that it shouldn’t be damaged by repetitive use, an issue he’s tried to solve via photonic means in the past.

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Make Physics Fun With A Trebuchet

What goes up must come down. And what goes way, way up can come down way, way too fast to survive the sudden stop. That’s why [Tom Stanton] built an altitude recording projectile into an oversized golf ball with parachute-controlled descent. Oh, and there’s a trebuchet too.

That’s a lot to unpack, but suffice it to say, all this stems from [Tom]’s obvious appreciation for physics. Where most of us would be satisfied with tossing a ball into the air and estimating the height to solve the classic kinematic equations from Physics 101, [Tom] decided that more extreme means were needed.

Having a compound trebuchet close at hand, a few simple mods were all it took to launch projectiles more or less straight up. The first payload was to be rocket-shaped, but that proved difficult to launch. So [Tom] 3D-printed an upsized golf ball and packed it with electronics to record the details of its brief ballistic flight. Aside from an altimeter, there’s a small servo controlled by an Arduino and an accelerometer. The servo retracts a pin holding the two halves of the ball together, allowing a parachute to deploy and return the package safely to Earth. The video below shows some pretty exciting launches, the best of which reached over 60 meters high.

The skies in the field behind [Tom]’s house are an exciting place. Between flying supercapacitors, reaction wheel drones, and low-altitude ISS flybys, there’s always something going on up there.

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Omni Wheels Move This CNC Plotter

We’ve always had a soft spot for omni wheels and the bots that move around somewhat bumpily on them. Likewise, CNC pen plotters are always a welcome sight in our tip line. But a CNC plotter using omni wheels is new, and the results are surprisingly good.

Built from the bottom of a spring-form baking pan, [lingib]’s plotter is simplicity itself. Four steppers turn the omni wheels while a hobby servo raises and lowers the pen. The controller is an Uno with a Bluetooth module for smartphone control. Translating wheel rotations into X- and Y-axis motions was not exactly trivial, and the video below shows the results. Lines are a bit wobbly, and it’s clear that the plotter isn’t hitting the coordinates very precisely. But given the somewhat compliant nature of the omni wheels, we’re surprised [lingib] got results as good as these, and we applaud the effort.

[lingib] reports the most expensive part of this $100 build was the omni wheels themselves. We suppose laser-cut MDF omni wheels could reduce the price, or even Mecanum wheels from bent metal and wood. We’re not sure either will help with the precision, though.

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Delta Bot Plucks Out Tunes On A Mandolin

Is there no occupation safe from the scourge of robotic replacement? First it was the automobile assemblers, then fast food workers, and now it’s the — mandolin players?

Probably not, unless [Clayton Darwin]’s mandolin playing pluck-bot has anything to say about it. The pick-wielding delta-ish robot can be seen in action in the video below, plucking out the iconic opening measures of that 70s prom-theme favorite, “Colour My World.” The robot consists of two stepper motors connected to a hinged wooden arm by two pushrods. We had to slow the video down to catch the motion, but it looks like [Clayton] has worked out the kinematics so that the pick can be positioned in front of any of the mandolin’s eight strings. A quick move of the lower stepper then flicks the pick across a string and plucks it. [Clayton] goes into some detail about how he built the motion-control part in¬†an earlier video; he also proves that steppers are better musicians than we’ll ever be with a little “Axel F” break.

It’s only a beginning, of course, but the complexity of the kinematics just goes to show how simple playing an instrument isn’t. Unless, of course, you unleash an endless waterfall of marbles on the problem.

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