Robot with 3D Printed Flippers Helps to Solve a Plesiosaur Puzzle

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Plesiosaur [Image: Dinosaur Jungle]

Over 200 million years ago, during the Triassic period, plesiosaurs first appeared in the ocean. The swimming, flippered reptiles lived for several million years, until the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs, but like their land-dwelling counterparts, plesiosaurs are still a source of fascination for scientists and prehistoric-animal enthusiasts. These particular reptiles present a particular challenge for scientists, however, because until now, no one has been able to figure out quite how plesiosaurs managed to swim. Most flippered animals have two distinct sets of flippers: the ones in the front are designed to produce thrust, while the flippers in the back are used for steering.

Fossils, however, have shown that the plesiosaur had four nearly identical flippers, which means that however the plesiosaur got around, it was quite different than any other flippered animal, according to experts. It’s been unclear how exactly plesiosaur mobility worked, but thanks to a robot with 3D printed flippers, researchers at the University of Southampton and the University of Bristol may have finally figured it out.

PhD student Luke Muscutt led a team of researchers who constructed a robot and attached 3D printed flippers, designed based on plesiosaur fossils. They also used X-rays of currently existing flippered animals to determine what kinds of movements the robot would need to make.The team then ran a set of experiments on their simulated plesiosaur in a water tank.

Colored water shows the vortices produced by the 3D printed flippers

If the plesiosaur’s method of mobility was ineffective, the species would have either evolved or gone extinct much sooner, so scientists studying the reptile have been aware that their flippers did work well – the question has been how. Experimenting with the robot in the water tank, Muscutt and his team made an interesting discovery: the front flippers created swirling movements in the water, which increased the thrust of the back flippers by up to 60 percent and their efficiency by up to 40 percent when both sets of flippers worked together as opposed to when they moved independently. This indicated that all four flippers were used to propel the plesiosaur through the water, which differs from the movement of, for example, a turtle. The experiments also showed exactly how the flippers would need to have moved in relation to each other in order to create the most effective propulsion.

[Image: Muscutt et al/Royal Society Publishing]

“Fossils by themselves don’t tell us much about how plesiosaurs actually moved. Short of genetically engineering a plesiosaur, our best available option was to create a robot to show how it might have happened,” said Muscutt. “The results were amazing and indicate why plesiosaurs were such a successful species, retaining four flippers for more than 100 million years. If this wasn’t the case, it’s unlikely the four-flipper system would have been maintained for so long.”

Muscutt plans to further his studies by examining different types of plesiosaurs and how their movements may have differed from each other. He’s also interested in how the motion system of the plesiosaur could be adapted for modern applications, such as submarines.

“Understanding how an animal might have moved gives us a better understanding of the animal as a whole – for instance, how far it can travel, what animals it can predate on, and what it might have fallen prey to,” he said. “Our observations of tandem flipper systems such as the plesiosaur’s might also eventually have a real-world application – as a propulsion system for undersea vehicles, for instance, that could help make them more manoeuvrable, efficient and quieter.”

The research was documented in a paper entitled “The four-flipper swimming method of plesiosaurs enabled efficient and effective locomotion,” which you can read here. Authors include Luke E. Muscutt, Gareth Dyke, Gabriel D. Weymouth, Darren Naish, Colin Palmer, and Bharathram Ganapathisubramani.

[Source: University of Southampton]

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MIT built a robot that can 3D print a building

Their work promises to pave the way to more efficient building construction: the procedure is faster and less expensive. A building could also be fully customized to the requirements of a specific site and the desires of its architect. Even the internal structure could be modified in new ways; different materials could be incorporated as the process goes along, and material density could be varied to provide optimum combinations of strength, insulation, or other properties. The scientists, led by Steven Keating, boasts that this approach can do what traditional construction methods cannot.

The platform carries a large robotic arm, which has a smaller, more precise robotic arm at its tip. Instead of assembling its assigned printout in an enclosure, the MIT bot’s mechanical arm is fitted with nozzles that can spit out any number of substances used in building construction, such as concrete or insulation. While it’s now capable of building a simple, 50-foot diameter insulated concrete dome structure inside 14 hours, the team has some pretty unbelievable ideas for its future.

Similar to the commercial insulated concrete formwork techniques, the construction method used by the researchers filled the polyurethane foam molds with concrete.

Currently, the system requires human supervision to work properly.

Eventually, the system is projected to be self-sufficient. And like living things, it could potentially create building materials out of stuff in the local ecosystem: The authors showed that the robot was able to take scoops of dirt and turn the compressed earth into building material. The entire system could be operated electrically, even powered by solar panels. The printer could also be used in remote areas and in the developing world to provide disaster relief in the form of 3D printed shelters. “We also wanted to show that we could build something tomorrow that could be used right away“. That’s what the team did with its initial mobile platform. “We can replace one of the key parts of making a building right now”, Keating said.

“A lot of other research projects that are looking at digital construction often don’t create something of an architectural scale – and if they do, they’re not using a process that could be easily integrated into a construction site”, Keating said.

Now, the construction industry – a sector using many processes and techniques that are centuries old – is the latest sphere due to be disrupted and revolutionized by 3D printing. “The buildings are rectilinear, mostly built from single materials, put together with saws and nails“, and mostly built from standardized plans.

“One of the things we’re most excited about is being able to gather environmental data and use this to design on the fly”, Keating said. Buildings could also have thicker walls on the side most likely to face cold winds.

The formation of this system, which the researchers refer to as a Digital Construction Platform (DCP), was motivated by the Mediated Matter group’s complete vision of designing buildings without parts.

Now, an MIT team has demonstrated its own prototype, a 3D printing robot that rolls around on tank-style tracks. Any desired wiring and plumbing can be inserted into the mold prior to the concrete being poured, providing a finished wall structure instantly.

Given the construction industry is still one of the most risky in the world in 2017, a system that requires little to no hands-on accompaniment or on-site input would be a most welcome addition.

This system would allow construction companies to tailor a building’s design based on certain important factors.

“Our system points to a future vision of digital construction that enables new possibilities on our planet and beyond”.

3D printed Sentinel robot could increase traffic safety for police officers

Apr 2, 2017 | By Julia

Two students at Duke University have designed a 3D printed robot that could help police officers carry out routine traffic stops. A long way from RoboCop, “Sentinel,” as the robot has been named, was created by Chris Reyes and Vaibhav Tadepalli in response to several violent altercations between police and motorists.

“In July last year, there were two specific instances that really pushed us to develop this device,” said Tadepalli. “On July 6, [motorist] Philando Castile was shot [by police] during a traffic stop in front of his girlfriend and four-year-old daughter. Then, two days later, officer Michael Flamion was shot as he approached a vehicle during another traffic stop.”

The two students agreed that there must be a solution to what is becoming an ongoing problem. There needs to be a safer alternative that allows everyone to walk away alive, Tadepalli said.

In response, Reyes and Tadepalli began drafting plans for Sentinel, a four-wheeled, camera- and sensor-equipped robot 3D printed in Duke’s Innovation Co-Lab. The pair’s central use of 3D printing has allowed them to quickly prototype new versions of Sentinel – the robot is currently on its fifth iteration – while keeping costs down. Whereas other police robots cost at least $20,000 USD, Reyes and Tadepalli claim they would be able to market Sentinel for only about $10,000.

The premise is fairly simple: an officer located near a traffic stop presses a button on the police vehicle’s central console to deploy the Sentinel robot, which would approach the stopped car in question. As the robot moves toward the vehicle, it would raise a video display serving as a two way communication between the officer and the driver, almost like a Skype call.

Officers would have a 180 degree view into the vehicle, allowing them to scan license plates, and inspect drivers’ licenses and IDs, which would be scanned remotely from their own police vehicle. The Sentinel robot is also equipped to perform breathalyzer and THC tests.

Reyes and Tadepalli have stressed that the robot is intended for information collection and communication purposes only, and does not have the capacity to make decisions on its own. Even though the Sentinel robot has the computer intelligence to issue tickets digitally, the Duke students emphasize that it would not substitute police officers themselves; rather, the robot would simply act as a buffer to keep both law enforcement and civilians safe.

“We’re not trying to take a job away, we just want to make it easier and safer for the person who does that job,” Reyes told press.

While Sentinel would be a huge advantage to police forces’ overall safety, the question of how motorists’ own rights would be impacted remains somewhat open. The two makers are clear that their robot would not carry any weapons, however, a modular design would allow police agencies to modify the Sentinel to their specific needs.

How the robot advances in this regard would be critical, given the increasing problem of police brutality cases in North America.

For now, the Sentinel robot is still undergoing simulation testing, and is currently sourcing funding from Duke grants and an ongoing Indiegogo campaign. Reyes says he hopes to begin field-testing over the next several months.

“We’re passionate about this particular product because we see that if we can get it deployed, we can save lives,” Tadepalli said.

The robot is expected to be fully developed and ready for implementation in police departments by January 2018.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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Getting to grips with 'Zizzy,' a 3D printed soft robot for those with limited mobility

Jul 30, 2016 | By Benedict

Designer Michael Roybal has created “Zizzy,” a 3D printed personal robot designed to help those with limited mobility. The robot, which took a full year to develop, uses 3D printable pneumatic muscles made from Ninjaflex filament, and can move objects using 3D printed grippers.

3D printing, that most versatile of manufacturing arts, has already been used in a few different ways to help those with limited mobility. From 3D printed prostheses to 3D printed wheelchairs, the flexibility and print-on-demand nature of additive manufacturing has made it an invaluable asset for accessibility applications. And while developing effective and affordable prosthetics and wheelchairs is perhaps the most important goal for benevolent makers, designer Michael Roybal has been developing something altogether different, but something which could nonetheless offer similar advantages to the disabled, elderly, or sick. His new 3D printed creation is Zizzy, a “personal robot prototype for people with limited mobility,” which makers can attempt to build via an Instructables guide.

Designed to move freely on a smooth desktop or table, Zizzy is a robot capable of many things: talking, showing “emotions,” and manipulating objects such as food, water, and mobile phones with a pair of grippers. Furthermore, the 3D printed robot can operate in two different modes, either in pre-programmed sequences or via real-time remote control. Although Roybal admits that the robot is not yet the finished article, he sees huge potential in its pneumatic muscle movements and modular construction.

Zizzy can’t (yet) walk to the shops for you and pick up your groceries, but it can perform some pretty useful tabletop tasks. For example, Zizzy’s two 3D printed arms can be programmed or instructed to pick up objects and move them towards the user, while the robot’s voice function enables a user to communicate through it. Its “face” even acts as a kind of live emoticon, displaying different expressions according to the user’s wishes. Conveniently, Roybal has also made Zizzy compatible with a standard universal remote control. With a bit of modification, the robot could therefore interface with a wheelchair, puff-and-blow, or other kind of controller.

While Zizzy might look like your average 3D printed ‘bot, it actually poses some particularly important advantages over similar designs. Those advantages come from both the design of the machine and the 3D printing material used to make it: while most of Zizzy’s body is made from standard PLA, its air-powered artificial muscles (gripper, elbow, and top rotator) are made from NinjaTek’s legendary NinjaFlex filament. By using these flexible muscles, Roybal was able to use fewer gear motors and servos—a move he believes other roboticists would do well to replicate.

“I believe the future of practical and affordable robot assistants will involve soft artificial muscles such as those used here,” Roybal explained. “They are lighter and less expensive than the standard gear motors and power servos used by most present day robots. They are also less dangerous around humans as they have a certain amount of built-in give if they push against a human. While some gear motors and servos will still be necessary, many can ultimately be replaced with air-powered artificial muscles. While there are many experimental artificial muscles in the works, air-powered artificial muscles are the only practical muscles available today for small robots.”

Roybal printed the soft parts of Zizzy on a Makerbot Replicator 2, using the following settings:

  • Infill: 10%
  • Shells: 2
  • Layer Height: .2mm
  • Temp: 235 C
  • Speed Extruding: 30 mm/s
  • Speed Traveling: 150 mm/s
  • No rafts or supports

In addition to its convenient functions and advanced pneumatic muscle design, Zizzy has been designed with longevity in mind. It features a modular construction, with its muscles and grippers able to plug in and out for quick replacement and upgrades. The talking circuit and master robot neuron are also modular, so a potential Zizzy Mk. II could be obtained in no time at all.

Roybal has warned that, at present, Zizzy is not ready for practical use. The designer is, however, working on a number of features in order to improve the design. He is currently attempting to widen Zizzy’s vocabulary, add extra remote control commands, design a new 80-degree-movement arm exoskeleton, and develop an improved gripper. Once these upgrades are finalized, Zizzy will be almost ready for deployment in basic situations. Roybal also plans to implement infrared sensors to Zizzy’s head so the robot can recognize a human face and orient itself towards it.

Roybal’s 3D printed creation is a good example of the maker community directing its technical expertise into a potentially useful humanitarian project. It seems reasonable to imagine that a community of roboticists could someday pool their ideas to create assistive robots like Zizzy on a mass scale, in the same way that the international e-NABLE community is providing 3D printed prosthetic hands to children in need.

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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3D Printer Churns Out Instantly Working Robot


3D printing technology has become more and more affordable for just about everyone, and this augurs well for the industry overall as it means that we are now seeing a greater adoption base among users, who will then come up with even more creative ways of churning out new models and the like. Researchers over at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have come up with a new 3D printing process which is able to develop robots.

What makes this process out of the ordinary is the fact that these robots are fully functional right from the moment in which they are finished printing. This new process has been streamlined, as the robot’s solid and liquid hydraulic parts were developed in a single step.

CSAIL Director Daniela Rus, who oversaw the project, shared, “Our approach, which we call ‘printable hydraulics,’ is a step towards the rapid fabrication of functional machines. All you have to do is stick in a battery and motor, and you have a robot that can practically walk right out of the printer.” Pretty scary, huh, to have a robot that can walk right out of the assembly line just like that.

In order to model this significant single-step process, the research team churned out a small six-legged robot which can crawl using the dozen integrated hydraulic pumps within its body.

Filed in Robots. Read more about 3d printing and Robot. Source: cbsnews

Makeblock XY-Plotter Drawing Robot Kit DIY Version 2.0 (With electronic) for Ardunio Fan easy-controlled by mDraw software

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