Tiny Robot

Tiny Robot
Tiny Robot

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Jamie's Robot Nation

This weekend was Jamie's birthday. As well as receiving an electronically controlled robot arm, he spent a couple of hours designing his very own 3D-Printed robot.

Electronically controlled Robot Arm
At MyRobotNation you can design, and print, a custom robot. It's very cool. If you have not heard of 3D Printing before, it's like inkjet printing, but in 3D. The object is built up layer by layer, either in plastic, powder or resin. It sets hard, and you have a real object in your own. Some people say that we'll all have 3D Printers in our own soon.

Jamie's Robot Nation
Jamie's robot will be printed on a ZCorp 3D printer. It's prints the object in a special powder bed, and can do so in full color. It's too expensive a machine to have one of these in the home yet, but you can buy cheaper printers that work in plastic.

Expensive ZCorp 3D printer
Three of the most popular home printers - which are about the price of a good PC, are the Cube, the MakerBot, and the Ultimaker.

Cube 3D printer
Ultimaker 3D printer
MakerBot 3D printer

Monday, 5 November 2012

Arduino experiments at the Purley Hackspace

Last weekend our good friends from France stayed over at the Purley Hackspace. Fearnley and Pierre had never encountered an Arduino but were intrigued. With no programming or electronics experience the teenagers set about replicating the simple circuits and demos that come with typical starter kits.

Spurred on by their success, they proceeded through a variety of their own experiments, gradually integrating more and more functionality onto the board. 

It surprised them how tricky it was to develop the digital code that, combined with a simple 'push-to-make' switch, could turn into what they wanted: a 'push-to-make push-to-break' toggle switch. They also began to understand how integrating the code from one experiment, into another, was not trivial, and they eventually realized that the concept of an 'interrupt' would be very useful.

The pièce de résistance came in the form of a circuit with many features: on/off, speed control, colored LEDs and a chain of relays able to control any mains voltage device (up to 40 Amps) such as lamps, toaster, power tools, vacuum cleaner, cooker and beyond. Here it is controlling the lamp:

In another refinement, they added a light sensor and were able to activate the Arduino 'hands off' by turning off the main room light, with the effect of turning on the table lamp via relay chain. Pretty cool!

An 'end of day' final experiment which would have triggered a firework in the garden simply by turning off the house lights, failed to work. There was probably insufficient power to the firework-ignition circuit.