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Featherweight robot- TRIZ

This week I carried out research on build diaries on the FRA forums and Youtube. In addition I started to look at light weight robot designs and identified the key requirements for my robot. The build diaries helped me realise the things I need to consider in my design and also help me identify trends in robot designs in the featherweight class.

The key design requirements of my robot are the following:

  • Durable and easy to repair .
  • Adaptable for future competitions.
  • Easy to control as driving skill is something that is judged in FRA competitions. Plus if you can’t control the robot you won’t hit anything!
  • Small frame and nimble to make the robot hard to hit thus reducing the risk of damage which reduces time to repair.
  • Can fit off the shelf components  to make it easier to build and repair.
  • Safe to handle for inspection and repairs.
  • Lightweight
  • Not complex , the more complex something is the bigger chance it can fail.

Some of these requirements would actually contradict each other which is a common issue in design and it is something designers need to overcome.

Luckily there is a tool called TRIZ which helps designers identifies design principles that will help remove or reduce the issues of these contradictions. Using TRIZ matrix is pretty simple all you need to match the thing you want to improve on the left hand side of the table against the issue you want to remove on the top row. Once you match each criteria you notice a set of numbers in the box which indicate TRIZ principles that would solve the contradiction.

From the TRIZ matrix some of the design ideas were developed.

  • Make some parts nest within each other or orientate some parts on their side to maximise space utlisation.
  • Use same components to carryout different tasks like use structure as part of the robots armour and weapons.
  • Make interchangeable parts have adaptor plates where new components can be inserted into body.
  • Add pours to structure to reduce weight and look to use pours to house components

In the next video I will cover my initial concept ideas.

Featherweight robot – Defining the problem

The 1st thing you want to work on before you come up with concepts is to understand the problem you want to solve. So you want to carry out some research of your market or problem you want to solve and incorporate your findings into a product design specification. A product design specification is a document used to capture all of the requirements your product will need to accomplish.

Youtube video 

For example with my robot project I bought a membership for the Fighting Robot Association and started to research the forums for competition details. Initially I wanted to build a lightweight robot because they would be cheaper and easier to build than a heavyweight bot but I found out that there isn’t really any lightweight or medium weight competitions in the UK and its usually heavy, feather and antweight.  I do want to eventually construct a heavyweight but when you are doing something for the 1st time it’s best to keep things as simple as possible.

During my initial research I found the rules and regulations for FRA competitions. These regulations would be included in my product design specifications. <Explain PDS>

One thing I want to add is your PDS is a living document so it will get updated throughout the design process as my understanding of the competition, previous winners, other competitors and available components so I will have an update video of the completed PDS.

In the next video I will cover market research and TRIZ which will help with concept generation.

New Youtube Series

When I was younger I used to watch Robot Wars I wanted to build a robot and enter the competition. I thought with the new year I would carry out a personal project where I will build a featherweight fighting robot.

This series cover the design process of developing a product with a real life project. I thought it would be useful to help teach people about design and the thought process behind it with an actual physical product. I will also cover manufacturing, testing and me competing the competition.

Carrying out this project will develop my mechanical engineering skills and help me become a well rounded engineer. Plus I don’t want to be an engineer who is just good at 3D modelling and engineering drawings, I want to have practical skills such as machining, welding, CNC programming as I want to an engineer who not only designs but can builds things.

I thought about making this series for beginners showing them how to build a robot from a beginners perspective and the challenges I will face. But the main focus of this series is to help encourage others to tackle a project or challenge when that will allow them to grow and develop. Obviously I will accept advice and assistance from people who have experience in robot building as I want to develop a community where everyone assists and collaborates with each other.

The next video will cover defining the project and identifying all the design requirements for the robot. See you all there.

MOOC’s: My impressions

Self development is something that everyone should be applying to themselves not only professionally but personally as well. As a kid I wanted to be an engineer after seeing the Zords in the Power Rangers as I thought the idea of building skyscraper sized robots to settle an alien threat was a sound solution. However due to my naivety and immaturity I never applied myself at school which did result in me scrapping with just two C Scottish Highers which closed so many doors.

After years in doing qualifications I kind of didn’t enjoy as they led me towards a career path I wasn’t interested in. I foolishly thought getting a degree was a necessity after countless rejections from mechanical engineering courses and just took courses I was qualified for. I eventually landed myself an engineering position that I initially enjoyed tackling many technical challenges however after every success I seen myself getting pushed towards project management. I was also being tipped as a future manager really irked me as I enjoyed developing technology and found management jobs boring.

My opportunities for technical roles were becoming more scarce and after countless rejections for design engineering roles due to gaps in my mechanical engineering knowledge and I thought maybe I should train myself up. This lead me to discover a large wealth of free tutorials on sites such as Youtube and also Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s).

I’ve read many articles and debates on forums discussing whether or not MOOCs are worthwhile, a scam or if employers should take them more seriously which got me interested in writing my views on this topic. The MOOC’s I have seen are free to attend and are provided by recognised universities and upon completion of these courses you have the option to purchase the verified certificate.

Throughout my education I couldn’t careless about certificates, diplomas as I was more interested gaining knowledge and not the piece of paper at the end of the course. This is my similar attitude to MOOC’s as I am attending them to fill the gaps in my knowledge. I would say my self confidence has improved and I am using this new found knowledge into practice by carrying out mini engineering projects to demonstrate what I have learned. I find them useful for introducing me to a new topic and I have even attended a two hour MOOC to help me understand how I should develop a marketing plan for my freelance business.

Even if they weren’t recognised by employers and industry I think they can help anyone who just wants to expand their knowledge and develop new skills. We are getting too caught up with getting as many qualifications under our belts when our ability to apply ourselves effectively is more important.

I think people could use MOOC’s as an example of a time where they took personal responsibility of their own development during an interview. They are good at plugging gaps or learn something new. But I don’t think they should be relied upon to land you a job. In saying that MOOC’s and online tutorials on Youtube will help this Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fan get closer to build his own Zords.

Title image from Entrepreneur the arts

CANDACE HAZLETT , (2013), MOOC-Learn [ONLINE]. Available at:https://www.edx.org/sites/default/files/upload/mooc-learn.jpg [Accessed 26 October 2016].

IKEA Tiered Table

For a while I have wanted a new table

as the one I currently used is pretty cramped which makes it awkward doing clients work when I need to sketch designs and produce 3D models. I looked around online and the tables were either too small, expensive or way too big. In addition I preferred to have a tiered table where I can have two monitors sit at the correct height and be able to store things under them.

Step 1: Items and equipment required

  • 1x Drill
  • 1x Ø2mm drill bit
  • 1x Ø10mm drill bit
  • 1x Wrench
  • 1x Philips Screwdriver
  • 2x Capita Brackets
  • 8x screws
  • 2x bolts
  • 2x washers
  • 1x Linnmon table
  • 4x Adil Legs
  • 1x plank of wood to support monitors

Step 2: Step 1 Top shelf assembly

  1. Measure and mark the hole
  2. positions for the base of the Capita brackets.
  3. Drill Ø2mm x 10mm deep pilot holes.
  4. Screw the Captia brackets in place of the top shelf.

Note: I didn’t use the screws that came with the Capita bracket set as they were too long for my shelf. I managed to salvage suitable ones from a broken electric heater.

Step 3: Step 2 Assemble top shelf to table top

 

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  1. To fix the Capita brackets in place you need to drill onto your main table holes wide enough for the bolts.
  2. I measured in 50cm to ensure that I can push the table against the wall.
  3. The distance between the holes were roughly 77cm apart (this is dependant on your top shelf).
  4. Drill two Ø10mm holes right through the table top.
  5. Secure the Captia brackets with the bolts that came with the bracket set.

Step 4: Step 3 Assemble legs

Screw the legs into the pre drilled holes with the screws that came with the Adil leg set.

 

Step 5: Finished table.

20161021_092858.jpg

 

I spent £52 making this table which has a lot more room than my last one plus I can store things under the monitors. This extra room not only gives me more space, rests the monitor at a comfortable height but also makes it easier to organise my work.

Additive manufacturing: Integrate than replace.

Additive manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing is something I have been interested in and would like to get more involved in. The reason being is AM has a couple of benefits that I would like to utilise for my own personal projects. Some of the benefits of AM are: reduction in waste, adaptability,manufacture complex shapes that would be impossible to machine, reduction of storage as parts can be stored virtually and created on demand and easier assembly due to a reduction of parts. 3D printing has been hailed as a manufacturing revolution that will replace traditional manufacturing. There has been commentators who see 3D printing having a bigger economic impact than the internet [1]. It will have a major impact on how we manufacture products and change the supply chain as we are seeing 3D printing being used more and more in the aerospace, defence, automotive and space industries.

However I’m rather sceptical of the notion that additive manufacturing will be completely replacing traditional manufacturing, not in the short or medium term at least. This is due to surface finish, available materials, process time and poor mechanical properties of parts. Even if these issues were addressed the main focus should be towards integration rather than replacement as there will be instances that some of the more traditional processes to manufacture the components will be more suitable.

The focus of AM should be towards integrating rather than a complete replacement of current manufacturing processes as the new and traditional methods can compliment each other. Integration with other processes such as welding will help provide more possibilities for AM [2] as being able to create complex assemblies with less parts will help create stronger and more reliable components. Selective laser melting have shown some promise in creating friction stir welding (FSW) tooling with better anti-wear properties than tooling that was turned [3]. Another example was electron beam (EB) welding was used to reduce porosity within a complicated heat exchanger that was 3D printed [4]. By combining various techniques could be the key to eliminating some of the issues such as mechanical properties that have been an problem with 3D printed parts. It also again adds that extra flexibility that will enable manufacturers to reliably produce components that would have been impossible or difficult to manufacture.

As the technology improves we could see 3D printing being used to create more reliable tooling in a shorter period of time out of materials that would have been prohibited due to difficulty and cost of machining. Forging and extrusion could also benefit as parts could be created to net shape with less post machining as dies with more complex geometries that are close to the final part could be manufactured.

Another exciting application for AM is re-manufacturing where damaged components or tooling are restored to their original state. The RECLAIM system developed at the MTC [5] is one example of re-manufacturing where the machine identifies the defects by scanning the component. The system then compares the scan against the 3D model and restores the shape by laser cladding new material. This helps reduce down time and costs as damaged tooling or components could be restored instead of replacing it with a new one. This would also result in less material being used and a reduction in maintenance costs. Another bonus is these repairs can be carried out in house.

However could AM result spark the end for local machine shops and toolmakers due the decline of machining and being able to build final parts in house? Possibly yes as some of those services will become obsolete but like every new technology advancement there are new opportunities and the parties who can identify and exploit them will thrive. New services and needs will be required and the expertise from the machinists and toolmakers can be transferred to the new technologies. One service could be re-manufacturing broken or upgrading parts or tooling as with the greater emphasis on helping the environment, reducing waste and tighter deadlines.

Additive manufacturing is an exciting prospect that will revolutionise manufacturing, just I don’t believe it is wise to see it as a replacement for traditional manufacturing. New technologies and techniques can be great if they are implemented correctly. Those who incorporate AM into their current processes will not only enhance their current but will obtain new capabilities. This makes adopting AM a more appealing proposition which will attract more organisations to adopt and develop the technology. This will result in an increase in applications that will see it moving from a novel set of technologies for prototyping into manufacturing final products.

Bibliography

1: Sarah Sedghi and Eleanor Hall, 3D printing will have a bigger economic impact than the internet, technology specialist says, 2015, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-01/3d-printing-impact-bigger-than-internet-expert-says/6365296

2: Antti Salminen, Welding opens new possibilities to utilize 3D-printing in industrial applications, 2016, http://hightech.fimecc.com/results/welding-opens-new-possibilities-to-utilize-3d-printing-in-industrial-applications

3: Jian Luo,Hong Wang,Wei Chen,Longfei Li, Study on anti-wear property of 3D printed-tools in friction stir welding by numerical and physical experiments, 2015

4: John DeLalio, How To Weld 3D Printed Parts, 2016, http://www.fabricatingandmetalworking.com/2016/08/weld-3d-printed-parts/

5: , Reclaim Project- Remanufacturing the Future, 2012, https://hvm.catapult.org.uk/news-events-gallery/news/reclaim-project-remanufacturing-the-future/

 

Image used:

Trumpf,.3D Printing. 2015. http://www.3ders.org/images2015/german-laser-manufacturer-trumpf-to-unveil-1.jpg. Accessed 11 Oct. 2016.

 

Engineering in Sci-fi

Some people who know me well I am a big geek and like anime and science fiction especially when they have mechs and incase you don’t know me I like anime and science fiction especially when they have mechs in them.

Right now I am currently looking at developing my own robotic systems and I am looking for inspiration for potential concepts. In fact a lot of great inventions that we use in everyday life have been inspired by science fiction.

I’m going to provide my top 5 list of inventions that were inspired by science fiction.

Debit/ Credit cards.

bank
Image source: http://www.resurrectionmission.org/

In 1887 a novel titled Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy is a story about an American protagonist , Julian West, who fell asleep towards the end of the 19th century. He then wakes up and finds himself in the year 2000 where he witnesses that the US has become a socialist utopia. West discovers that money has been replaced and the government pay their citizens with “credit” cards.

While physical money is still used in 2016 we have become accustomed to buy products and services with credit and debit cards that are similar to Bellamy’s 1887 novel. Credit/debit cards have made purchases more convenient as we can buy products and services on line with cards.

USB Drives

Image source: http://www.bit-tech.net/
Image source: http://www.bit-tech.net/

Again we can thank Star Trek for another invention and USB drives make this list as they were invaluable to me when I was a student. They allowed me to save work at college and university and continue to work at home. The isolinear chips in Star Trek were digital storage devices which are similar to today’s USB sticks.

Flip phone

Image source: http://tech.thaivisa.com/
Image source: http://tech.thaivisa.com/

People who can remember mobile phones being massive bricks which then grew smaller and then somehow became larger with the introduction of touch screens. Back when mobile phones were introduced they weren’t really “mobile”. Then came along Motorola in 1996 who developed the flip phone which was not only the smallest, lightest and the first phone with the vibration it was inspired by Star Trek’s communicator that was of similar design. The flip phone helped pave the way for small mobile phones that allowed us to communicate with each other without lunking around with massive phones.

Telepresence

Image source: http://www.popsci.com/
Image source: http://www.popsci.com/

Telepresence was developed by science fiction author Robert A Heinlein who wrote a short story called Waldo in 1942. The story is about a man who was born too weak to lift his head up to drink or hold a spoon. With the help of his family’s fortune he is able to develop a device called waldoe which is a powerful mechanical hand that can be manipulated with a glove and harness.

The waldoes were an inspiration for teleoperated machines where the user can operate machines remotely. I have mentioned before in a previous blog post on how telepresence can have a major impact on our lives.

Rockets.

Image source:http://www.nasa.gov/
Image source:http://www.nasa.gov/

Without rockets space flight wouldn’t have been possible and we wouldn’t have sent man on the moon. A lot of other modern inventions we use everyday were developed from space technology and we have Robert Goddard to thank for. Robert Goddard was a fan of science fiction and became inspired by H.G. Well’s 1897 novel The War of the Worlds. His fascination with space flight was from works of science fiction was what helped him develop the liquid-fuelled rocket which was initially ridiculed. However the first rocket was successfully launched in 1926.

Robert Goddard was famous with his phrase Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it; once realized, it becomes commonplace”.

Telepresence: Being 2 places at once.

Would you like to visit somewhere that has better weather than where you live? Do you have friends or family who live all over the world and you wish you could visit them?

What if I could tell you that you could do all that without even leaving your home? No I have not been watching too much sci-fi and yes there is a technology that enables people to be “present” in 2 places at once known as telepresence.

Basically telepresence is a group of systems that enable the user to be “present” in a remote location. They provide the user with sensory feedback of the remote location and enables them to be aware and interact in the robot’s environment. For example I can be sitting in my home in Scotland talking to someone in Japan while I think I am in the same room as them or I am exploring the bottom of the ocean while sitting in a lab.

The difference between teleoperated and telepresence is that telepresence focuses on creating an illusion of presence in a remote site. This illusion is created by recording sounds and video similarly how we hear and see things. Some systems even include physical feedback to enhance the immersion.

The virtual barbershop is a great way to show how telepresence works.

data_sheet_c78-579688-1
Cisco Telepresence System 3200. Photo Credit: Cisco.com

There are a wide range of telepresence systems available and underdevelopment. From Cisco’s telepresence system (shown above) for teleconferences,surrogate robots that are being used in hospitals that allow doctors to treat patients remotely to creepy to the creepy and almost lifelike Geminoid F.

Telepresence improves communication during teleconferences as discussions flow more naturally than traditional conference calls. This is because the systems allow the users since they utilise the cocktail party effect, a phenomenon that allows you to focus on the person who is talking to you while others in the same teleconference are speaking at the same time.

What excites me is that telepresence can have a major impact on improving the safety of dangerous tasks such as bomb disposal, deep sea/space exploration and mine excavation by replacing humans with tele-operated robots. By providing various sensory stimulus such as haptic feedback, binaural recording they can immerse the operator and make them more aware and being able to interact with the robot’s surroundings thus making them more effective at the remote site. For example if a telepresence robot was being used in rescue survivors in a collapsed building the operator can localise sounds from survivors thus making the robot more effective in locating and rescuing them. Add in a manipulator arm the operator can remove rubble and free the survivors.

I also see the medical sector such as reducing the risk of a pandemic by treating patients with contagious diseases and infections by operating the robotics which would eliminate their exposure. In addition a robot rigged out (such as the TU Delft)with medical equipment could be deployed in areas where a quick response time for emergency services is difficult. These robots would be operated by a doctor who could remotely perform life saving treatment for heart attacks or strokes within minutes thus improving their chances of survival.

The versatility in terms of applications and the combination of human rationale and the accuracy and repeatability of machines is why I am passionate towards telepresence.

Cover image by Eric Proctor of the Sensors and Electron Devices Directorate of the Army Research Laboratory

Recycled speaker chest and scrap wood clock.

We live in a period where we are always reminded of our impact to the environment. From emissions, electricity usage and waste are areas that we are stressed to reduce in order to tackle climate change.

In addition we are encouraged to recycle as much as we can which has given me some ideas. One thing I like to do in my spare time is to develop my own products, however this can be expensive and I realised I could keep costs low and reduce my impact on the environment by recycling more. Plus this could help bring out the MacGyver inside me that will have me create contraptions from junk which will be fun.

I bring you storage chests from a broken pair of speakers and a Red Faction clock from scrap bits of wood lying around.

Red Faction Clock

RF clock.jpg

I have loved the Red Faction series and I thought the logo would make a cool clock.

All you need to recreate this Red Faction clock is listed below.

If you want to be able to create this clock please see the link below for the tutorial:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Red-Faction-Clock/

Speaker chests

Speaker chests.jpg

Over the past couple of months I have been scavenging spare parts (springs, motors scrap metal parts) from broken electronics and I noticed that I needed something to store them. I came across a pair of broken speakers and thought they could store my random parts until I find a suitable project for them.

They are really easy to make and all you need are the following:

  • A pair of broken speakers
  • A saw
  • A screwdriver
  • Screws
  • Hinges
  • Latches

These were pretty simple to make and they both cost me less than £10 in total to make however I will look at making more complicated parts by using as much junk as I can and spending very little on parts.

 

 

 

Binaural Listening Device

I have always been interested in telepresence systems since university and developed a simple one for my Masters.

A telepresence system provides the illusion of presence. This can be used to help you be present in a business meeting in a foreign country while sitting in your office without needing to travel. They can make you aware of a remote operated robot’s surroundings and allow you to interact with it’s environment.

I would like to get into developing these system but a lot of they are generally expensive, complicated and I have very little experience with electronics. However there are very basic and simple systems that can recreate the illusion of presence. One example I found was the “Virtual Barber Shop” on Youtube in which the video creates the illusion being inside a barber shop. The Virtual Barber Shop uses the binaural recording technique which uses a dummy head with microphones inside artificial ears to record audio. The user then listens to the audio with headphones where the user’s brain filters the sounds which allows them to locate the source of sounds.

This system was very simple to manufacture and will act as a base for future telepresence robots as I gain a better understanding on electronic.

To read more about this project please click on the link to my blog below:

http://www.instructables.com/id/Binaural-Listening-Device/