Tag Archives: 3D-Printed Robotics

This 3D-printed robot can jump six times its height

This first-of-its-kind, autonomous robot blasts off like a UFO.

In a paper published Thursday in Science magazine, engineers from Harvard University and the UC San Diego have revealed a 3D-printed, autonomous robot capable of over 30 untethered jumps without connection to an external computer or power source. Actuated by a combination of butane and oxygen, this little bot can leap two and a half feet into the air — up to six times its body height.

(Source: Harvard Microrobotics Lab)

(Source: Harvard Microrobotics Lab)

Inspired by nature, the project uses the combination of both hard and soft materials which its designers say make it a more efficient jumper. For example, certain species of mussels have a foot that starts out soft and then becomes rigid at the point where it makes contact with rocks.

“In nature, complexity has a very low cost,” explains Michael Tolley, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UC San Diego. “Using new manufacturing techniques like 3D printing, we’re trying to translate this to robotics.”

Soft robotics is surely a hot topic at the moment, as engineers are finding them to be much more adaptable and resilient than their conventional, metal-based counterparts. However, their flexibility comes at a coast: they tend to be slower, more difficult to fabricate and challenging to make autonomous due to the fact that most motors, pumps, batteries, sensors and microcontrollers are rigid.

Fortunately, the joint research project has come up with a design that offers a new solution to this conundrum by integrating hard and soft materials. In other words, the best of both worlds.

The combustion-powered robot is comprised of two hemispheres: a soft, plunger-like body with three pneumatic legs at the bottom and a 3D-printed, sturdy core on top. The latter houses a custom circuit board, a high-voltage power source, a battery, a miniature air compressor, a butane fuel cell, six solenoid valves, an oxygen cartridge and pressure regulator and ducts to move the gas and stuff around as necessary. What’s more, it has nine graduating levels of stiffness.

(Source: Science)

(Source: Science)

In order to determine the perfect gradient of firmness, researchers tried a couple prototypes. And what they found was that a fully rigid top would make for higher jumps, while a flexible top was more likely to survive impacts on landing, allowing the robot to be reused.

For movement, the robot inflates its pneumatic legs to tilt its body in the direction that it wants to go. From there, butane and oxygen are mixed together and ignited, catapulting it into the air like a UFO. Once the chemical charge is exhausted, the bottom hemisphere goes back to its original shape. Researchers say that the robot’s jumping ability and soft body can come in handy in harsh and unpredictable or disastrous environments, enabling it to survive large falls and other unexpected situations.

In a series of tests, the robot was able to leap two and a half feet in height and half a foot laterally. Beyond that, it jumped more than 100 times and survived an additional 35 falls from a height of nearly four feet.

Interested? Read the project’s entire article here.

PLEN2 is the world’s first printable, open-source robot

Say hello to your new robotic sidekick. 

R2-D2. GERTY 3000. Marvin. K-9. Jinx. These are just a few of the most well-known robotic sidekicks that super geeks like us have come to love over the years. Soon, PLEN2 may join the ranks of these memorable sci-fi characters, with the only difference being actual use in the real world. Whether you’ve ever wanted someone to go to class in your place, to break the ice with an attractive girl at the bar, or to fetch your morning cup ‘o joe, you’re in luck.

Launched on Kickstarter by Japan-based PLEN Project Committee, the 3D-printable, humanoid robotic kit consists of a control board, servo motors and other electronic accessories that allow Makers of all levels to put together themselves. What’s more, you don’t need any technical knowledge or special tools in order to bring your open-source PLEN2 to life.


3D data for the main components of the robot are provided free of charge, and with the help of a 3D printer, users can customize the data as well as make their own original parts. Upon completion, the easy-to-manuever and highly-agile humanoid stands approximately 7.87” tall, weighs just over 21 ounces and boasts 18 degrees of freedom. Designed to mirror its human counterpart, PLEN2 aspires to revolutionize the relationship between homo and robo sapiens. To help spur this adoption, the project’s creators have made its kit super simple to assemble, personalize, and of course, use.


The robot’s command center is built around an Arduino Micro (ATmega32U4), and by employing some open-source software, can be programmed to meet any Maker’s wants and needs. PLEN2 is equipped with 24 RC servo motors, 1Mb of on-board EEPROM and an RS-485 communication port in both its control and head board. The head unit also comes standard with a BLE113 Bluetooth Smart module and a six-axis motion sensor, while PWM will drive the LEDs that PLEN2 uses for eyes.


Gadget-lovers can take pleasure in knowing that each PLEN2 can be customized not only in color and design, but in the way that it is controlled as well — this includes by iOS or Android smartphone, facial expression, gestures, myoelectrics and brainwaves, among countless other input methods.


Not only for leisure activities, the humanoid can play an integral role in both educational and medical settings. A wide-range of uses cases include communicating with others in your place, carrying small items around, throwing a pickup game of humanoid soccer, as well as improving medical rehabilitation. What’s more, it can help entice children to pursue STEM disciplines and enable them to experience the joy of making things themselves.

As to whether this project takes off, or if you decide on programming a PLEN2 of your own, one thing is certain: Its theme song will get stuck in your head. Consider yourself warned…

…We told you so. Interested in learning more? Head over to its official Kickstarter page, where its team is currently seeking $40,000. If all goes to plan, you can have can have a PLEN2 alongside of you come November 2015.

BQ hopes to inspire young Makers through 3D-printed robotics

“What you see is remembered, what is done is learned.”

Those who say learning can’t be fun have surely never come across BQ’s latest set of robotics kits that provide young Makers with all of the necessary tools to construct their very own robot and control it right from their mobile device.


The kit is comprised of 10 components and a battery-holder, each of which are used to assemble the electronics of a vibrantly-colored PrintBot. The body of the robot is constructed entirely through 3D printing, where like 3DRacers, Makers have the option of either ordering the frame online or creating their own a printer is readily accessible. For those with programming knowledge, BQ even enables users to customize their PrintBot by developing and installing its own code.

Once a Maker has completed piecing together the friendly little bot, they can traverse its environment using an Android smartphone or tablet via its embedded Bluetooth module. In addition, the easy-to-use kits are packed with IR and light sensors, a potentiometer, a buzzer, LEDs, mini servos and a control board based on the versatile ATmega328.


Advocates of inspiring future tinkerers to pursue STEM disciplines, the BQ team seeks “to revolutionize the learning process, even from the very first stage, playing. Education is our greatest resource to be exploited to change and improve the world in which we live.”

In addition to its DIY robotics kits, BQ recently debuted a desktop 3D printer, the Witbox. The device boasts a rather big build volume of 29.7cm x 21cm x 20cm, with a resolution of 50-300 microns and at a recommended speed of 60mm/second, giving it the capacity to print large-scale objects and multiple parts simultaneously. Its innovative design also allows for multiple devices to be stacked, making for space-saving storage in any makerspace or lab. This is possible through the Witbox’s reinforced chassis and specially-designed power supply system, located inside the printer.

While the machine is clearly not a toy for children, the company emphasizes that the Witbox is, indeed, safe for young Makers looking to explore. The 3D printer is equipped with a locking front door system, a nice feature preventing access during printing. Based on an Arduino Mega 2560 (ATmega2560) and RAMPS 1.4, the machine is entirely open-source and can run a variety of software including Slic3r, Cura, Pronterface and Repetier.


Interested in learning more about both PrintBots and the Witbox? Head on over to BQ’s official page here.

Learning 3D-printed robotics with Maker Club

Whether a kid beginning to tinker around or a well-seasoned engineer looking for a hobby, there’s just something about robotics that Makers of all ages and levels love. Sure, pre-built ‘bots are great, but DIY droids are even better. Unfortunately, constructing custom robots at home can be quite costly and difficult to attain the necessary components.


That is why UK-based Maker Club has launched an Indiegogo campaign for its new project designed for both the consumer and educational markets that combines an Atmel based control chip, a mobile app, an online learning package and 3D printing.

The concept first originated after founder Simon Riley volunteered at his sister’s school teaching code to students ages 9-11. Riley realized just how much more the kids learned and enjoyed themselves when the activities were hands-on. After receiving a Rep Rap 3D printer as a present and a eureka moment, the idea for Maker Club was conceived.


The robots are each controlled with what its creators have named, MakerConnect. Its microcontroller brain and accompanying app were developed to control not just the bots but anything Arduino-based over Bluetooth LE. MakerConnect’s on-board chip and Arduino library make way for limitless possibilities, enabling Makers to control anything from RC cars and hexapods to household lights and sensors.


Why stop there? If all goes well, the team is also planning to leverage the power of a user’s mobile device to connect the app to the cloud, ultimately allowing Makers to remotely race cars or access sensor data in other parts of the world.


“It’s cross curricular and a perfect introduction to the world of robotics, giving young Makers the skills and confidence to invent anything, while allowing seasoned pros the chance to use our extensive Library of code to build even more complex creations,” the team writes.


The Maker Club has designed a range of interchangeable components, each ready to be built right out-of-the-box or directly from your 3D printer. The team has even developed a library of Arduino code, which it hopes to frequently expand with new ‘botlings.’

“Our kits use the same components that the professionals use to prototype their hardware. This means that once young Makers have gotten to grips with our robots, they can start using the thousands of commercially available sensors and outputs to prototype their own inventions.”


Maker Club assures its backers that they will provide all the necessary support in helping bring ideas to life, while future roboticists will be able to sell their own bot designs on its online portal. Don’t own a desktop 3D printer? No need to fret! The team will print all the requisite components and ship them directly with all of the necessary electronics for the build. These pre-printed kits include a Grabber robotic arm, a Carduino RC, Quadmonster and Insectoid — each of which make for a perfect holiday gift for those 12 and up!

Interested in learning 3D-printed robotics? Hurry on over to the project’s official crowdfunding campaign page here.