If you’ve ever experimented with a robot gripper, you’ll know that while it is easy to make an analogue of the human ability to grip between thumb and forefinger, it is extremely difficult to capture the nuances of grip with the benefit of touch feedback to supply only just enough of the force required to grip and hold an object. You as a human can pick up a delicate eggshell without breaking it using the same hand you might use to pick up a baseball or a cricket ball, but making your robot do the same thing is something of an engineering challenge.
The robot gripper is something that has exercised the minds of the folks at Festo, and the solution they have arrived at is as beautiful as it is novel. They have produced a gripper based upon the action of an octopus tentacle, though unlike the muscle of the real thing they’ve created a silicone tube which bends inwards when inflated. Its inner surface is covered with octopus-like suckers, some of which can be activated by a vacuum. The result is a very capable and versatile gripper which due to its soft construction is ideal for use in environments in which robots and humans interact.
They’ve put up a slick video showing the device in action, which we’ve put below the break. Tasks such as gripping a rolled-up magazine or a plastic bottle that would tax more conventional grippers are performed faultlessly.
Continue reading “A Robot Arm With The Tender Grip Of An Octopus”
Perhaps our future overlords won’t be made up of electrical circuits after all but will instead be soft-bodied like ourselves. However, their design will have its origins in electrical analogues, as with the Octobot.
The Octobot is the brainchild a team of Harvard University researchers who recently published an article about it in Nature. Its body is modeled on the octopus and is composed of all soft body parts that were made using a combination of 3D printing, molding and soft lithography. Two sets of arms on either side of the Octobot move, taking turns under the control of a soft oscillator circuit. You can see it in action in the video below.
Continue reading “Soft Robot With Microfluidic Logic Circuit”
Making an octopus on a Reprap or Makerbot isn’t that terribly hard. There were dozens of these octopuses at nearly every Maker Faire booth with a 3D printer. These octopuses have almost become a right of passage for new owners of 3D printers, and serves as a wonderful reference object on par with the Utah teapot and the Stanford bunny.
[Sean Charlesworth] wasn’t happy with any old octopus; no, he had to build a better octopus, and what better way to do as such then to make a steampunk and [Jules Verne]-inspired model submarine?
[Sean]’s Octopod underwater salvage vehicle was almost entirely printed on a very expensive printer. Save for a few LEDs, electronics, and armature wire, the entire model sub/octopus was printed on an Objet 500 Connex printer.
The Objet is unique among most 3D printers in that it can print objects made of several types of materials. In [Sean]’s show and tell he showed me how the tentacles were made of a hard plastic material and a bendable rubber material. [Sean] put a piece of wire through the length of each tentacle so he could pose the Octopod in just about any way imaginable.
The hull of the Octopod is an amazing amount of work. The cockpit features miniature controls, an illuminated display for a very tiny pilot, and even moving parts that include a mechanical iris in the recovery bay, a winch that works, and even doors that open and close.
[Sean] put a bunch of glamour shots of the Octopod on his web site along with a few videos of the construction process. You can check those videos alongside my interview after the break.
Continue reading “Octopus submarine is something out of [Jules Verne]’s imagination”
You know who thinks building a robotic octopus is an awesome idea? EVERYONE. Apparently the idea is a solid enough idea that the European Commision has funded this project. The goal is to mimic the capabilities of the squishiest of the cephalopods in order to advance soft robotics. Or possibly to take over the world. They are hoping to have a fully capable robot octopus with no rigid structures at all.
You may be thinking that making a squirming tentacle is easy business. What they are attempting however, is the actual movement of an octopus including extension/contraction as well as grasping. This requires a complex system of control wires as well as “artificial muscular hydrostats” to allow it to do all these movements. A flexible skin covered in sensors will be added to the final design.
I had a lot of fun at Burning Man 2011, from the sculpture to the crazy art to the insane kinetic vehicles, the whole experience was something completely out of this world. With near 50,000 people out there in the Nevada desert it is impossible to see and experience everything the festival has to offer. I am positive there are several mind blowing sculptures or vehicles that I simply missed. That said, I have yet to hear a single conversation about Burning Man 2011 that does not at least mention [Duane Flatmo]’s El Pulpo Mechanico.
Continue reading “Burning Man 2011: Duane Flatmo’s El Pulpo Mecanico”