It’s a Spider! It’s a Droideka! It’s Both!

Beware, arachnophobes, the robots are coming for you!

What else would you be expected to think if you watched a hexapod robot display its best Transformers impression by turning into a wheel and pushing itself in your direction? The BionicWheelBot — developed by [Festo] — should rightly remind you of the cartwheeling Flic-Flac spider, the main inspiration for the robot. Of course, Star Wars fans might justifiably see a Droideka.

The BionicWheelBot can — almost — seamlessly transition between crawling around on six legs, to literally rolling away. To do so, its three pairs of legs sequentially fold up into a shape befitting its namesake and then pauses for a moment — almost for dramatic effect — before the real fun begins.

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Everything You Wanted to Know about Transformers (But were Afraid to Ask)

[Jim Pytel] has a lot of very good instructional videos on his channel, and he recently added one you’ll enjoy on transformers. You probably know that transformers convert one AC voltage into another AC voltage. Some step up voltage, some step down voltage, and others simply pass voltage through but isolate the input from the output.

The 40 minute video covers basics including how the transformer works, the meaning of the turns ratio, and how transformers reflect impedance. You probably should understand how to compute AC power, but if you need a refresher [Jim] has a video for that, too.

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Most Of What You Wish You Knew About Coils Of Wire But Were Afraid To Ask

If you are a novice electronic constructor, you will become familiar with common electronic components. Resistors, capacitors, transistors, diodes, LEDs, integrated circuits. These are the fodder for countless learning projects, and will light up the breadboards of many a Raspberry Pi or Arduino owner.

There is a glaring omission in that list, the inductor. True, it’s not a component with much application in simple analogue or logic circuits, and it’s also a bit more expensive than other passive components. But this omission creates a knowledge gap with respect to inductors, a tendency for their use to be thought of as something of a black art, and a trepidation surrounding their use in kits and projects.

We think this is a shame, so here follows an introduction to inductors for the inductor novice, an attempt to demystify them and encourage you to look at them afresh if you have always steered clear of them.

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Transforming Spice

Spice is a circuit simulator that you should have in your toolbox. While a simulator can’t tell you everything, it will often give you valuable insight into the way your circuit behaves, before you’ve even built it. In the first installment of this three-part series, I looked at LTSpice and did a quick video walkthrough of a DC circuit. In the second, I examined two other parts of Spice: parameter sweeps and AC circuits. In this final installment, I want to talk a bit more about real-world component performance and also look at modeling transformers.

Recap

lowpasssLast time we looked at a low pass filter, but it wasn’t practical because the components were too perfect. Only in simulation do voltage sources and wires have zero resistance. There was no load resistance either, which is unlikely. Even an oscilloscope probe will load the circuit a little.

The resulting AC analysis showed a nice filter response that was flat to about 1 kHz and then started roll off as the frequency increased. Suppose the source had an 8 ohm series resistor. How does that change the circuit response?

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Transformers, Birthday Cakes in Disguise

[Russel Munro] decided to go all-out for his son’s birthday cake: he made a Transformers robot cake that, well, transforms from a truck into a robot, Optimus Prime style. His impressive build has the actions of the original: first, the front rears up to lift the head, then the back lifts to form the body and the head and arms pop out of the top. Underneath the thin fondant exterior is a 3D printed body, driven by a mechanism in the base. He used fishing line to lift the parts, which is pulled by a motor salvaged from a CD player, being driven by an EasyDriver board from Sparkfun.

The main issue he had to overcome was weight: apparently he underestimated the weight of the fondant that covers the cake, and had to do some last-minute work to strengthen the drive mechanism, and skip plans for the more ornately decorated version that his wife had planned. But the look of glee on his son’s face when he operates it at the party is the best bit. In these days of CGI and computer games, it is good to remind the kids that there is still a lot of fun to be found in ingenuity and liberal quantities of hot glue.

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Meet J-Deite Quarter, the 4-Foot-Tall Transformer

There’s just something about the idea of robots turning into everyday objects that fascinates us all. It seems Japan outdoes the world in that category, and the J-Deite project is no exception. J-Deite Quarter is the first transforming robot to come from the collaborative project between  [Kenji Ishida] of Brave Robotics, [Watur Yoshizaki] of Asratec Corp., and Tomy Co. Ltd. If Brave Robotics sounds familiar, that’s because this isn’t the first transforming robot [Kenji Ishida] has produced, nor the first featured on Hackaday.

The J-Deite Quarter weighs 77lbs (35kg) and can run for an hour on a single battery charge. It’s joints are powered by Futaba servos. It is controlled by the proprietary V-SIDO OS designed by [Watur Yoshizaki]. As a robot, it stands at 4.25 feet (1.3m). It walks at a rather slow speed of 0.6mph (1km/hr). It has several points of articulation; it can bend its arms and flex its fingers. In less than 30 seconds, the robot transforms into an equally long two-seat sports car with a maximum speed of just over 6mph (10km/hr). Overall, the J-Deite Quarter is no speed demon, but it is noteworthy for being functional in both forms.

The web site has a cute backstory featuring a green meteorite that allows the “real” J-Deiter to communicate with the developers trying to create a robot in its image. Along with the video, it resembles a marketing ploy for a toy, which could explain Tomy’s involvement. After all, Tomy, along with Hasbro, developed the original Transformers toy line. Unfortunately, the J-Deiter Quarter is just a prototype, with no plans for mass production at this time. Instead, the project’s focus is on making a bigger and better J-Deiter. There are plans for a J-Deiter Half (8-foot-tall) to be developed by 2016, with the final goal of creating a 16-foot-tall transforming robot by 2020.

Enjoy the video that shows what J-Deite Quarter is capable of (with added sound effects, of course) after the break. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden hankering to watch some Transformers and Voltron cartoons.

[via SimpleBotics]

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Soundwave Tunes Up Your Portable Workbench

[Tez_Gelmir] built an awesome portable workbench. Not satisfied with just mundane designs, he patterned his box after Soundwave from the classic Transformers: Generation 1 series. This portable bench keeps his tools organized and ready to roll out.

[Tez] has all the basic tool groups covered – screwdrivers small and large, pliers, crimpers, soldering iron, fume extractor, vice, and wire spool. He’s also got room for parts boxes to hold his components.

soundwaveThe basic box is built from a single sheet of 7mm plywood. The front work area is a smaller piece of 12mm plywood. Working with 7mm plywood did prove to be a challenge – [Tez] had to use some very small screws for his hinges.  The basic box construction was easy though – [Tez] used a pneumatic nailer and PVA (wood) glue.

[Tez] used a number of 3D printed parts in his design. He kept the Transformer theme going with a Decepticon logo built into his screwdriver holder. The fume extractor and lamp were also especially clever – [Tez] mounted them to drawer sliders, so they are there when he needs them, and out of the way when he doesn’t.

[Tez] spent quite a bit of time setting up his power system, and it shows. The inside of the box is framed with four power points. The main cord has its own “mouse door”, and everything tucks neatly away when not in use.

The Soundwave paint job is what sets this box apart – [Tez] spent quite a bit of time getting everything just right. It looks like Ravage is ready to spring out at any moment.

We really love this setup – Our only suggestion would be to add some sheet metal to protect the corners of the box while in transit.

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