Print Your Own Robot: Part 10

Long time no see, folks. I’ve got some great news for you. I’ve finally found a method for getting super complicated geometry locked inside of a seamless skin. It’s taken a lot of prototypes to get here, but I think the results are more than worth the effort. There are some wrinkles to iron out (which I’ll get to below) but all in all I think I’m incredibly close to rapid-fire casting working quadrupeds, ready to go in just a few short steps after popping the mold. In other good news, I’ll be dropping some files very soon which should get you your very own working quadruped using any FDM printer. All you need is a Makerbot or similar, a few hours, and some casting materials to have an exact duplicate of my most sophisticated robot to date.

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Pork Pie Stamps

I’ve been really excited to work with Pork Pie Hatters over the last few months. I’ve made hat stands, hat blocks, and some fun laser cut experiments for them and it’s been sincerely fascinating to find ways to blend their classic hand crafting tools and techniques with the kind of digital fabrication that can bring mass production polish to boutique small run items.

As part of defining the look of Pork Pie Hatters products and bringing some cohesion to their packaging, they commissioned me to make a set of huge stamps to brand their cardboard hat boxes. Since these giant roller stamps would be inconvenient to hide away in their stores, I decided to make the whole design fit with the old school aged wood aesthetic of the rest of their equipment. Continue reading

Parametric Hat Blocks

As part of a series of projects for Pork Pie Hatters, I’ve been reviving some old hat making equipment through a combination of laser cutting, CNC milling, and some older tried and true fabrication techniques. My favorite of these projects has been a series of hat blocks designed in SolidWorks and milled in ash.

The five Phrenology hats: Adler, Kinsey, Maslow, Freud, and Briggs.

The goal has been to recreate a number of classic hat styles for a complete production run of custom hats. The hats themselves are being fabricated at the Pork Pie Hatters Williamsbug shop. The major challenge of this project has been to recreate a complete series of hat blocks from a series of reference forms and drawings, keeping in mind the key elements crucial to each particular hat style. It would be simple to make a series of hat blocks fit for a complete set of head sizes by taking a single design and scaling it up or down. But, the crucial gesture of each design would be lost. The features like pinches in the front, the curve of the ridge along the crest of the hat, the indent at the top of a pork pie, all shift and scale independently to work holistically on different sized heads. Continue reading

Narwhal BBQ Skewers

Over the past few months I’ve been working with Melissa Dowell to make these lovely Narwhal Skewers and now (after a good deal of prototyping, experimentation, poking, and prodding) they’re finally out. The process that went into these is actually kind of fascinating first because of how difficult it was to hone in on the right way to design these in CAD and secondly because of how many different directions we explored before finally landing on the final design.

Left to right: The earliest narwhal sculpt by Melissa, the first printed prototype, and a revised prototype.

The whole project started with some sketches from Melissa. From there we chatted about ideas, industrial design considerations, and manufacturing constraints. I felt that it would be reasonable to fasten a twisted rod into a cast metal handle and we could core out the handle to provide both the fastenings for the rod and minimize weight and material.

Melissa sculpted an oversize polymer clay narwhal that we finessed and modified until it had the desired gesture and proportions. From there, we took it to Numidas Prasarn to get the thing scanned and digitized. Continue reading

Pop Tart Guns

We’ve seen the story about the kid getting punished for eating a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun in school. Most likely you’ve seen some meta-journalism about the hype cycle on this, what the constant terror about guns means for the state of humanity, and exactly how much navel gazing is appropriate based on one inconsequential piece of news. Chances are you’ve also seen some truly awful leader images for those stories as well. Numi and I set out to change that.

We’ve made a selection of creative commons high resolution images of high fidelity pop tart guns for you to use to your heart’s content. Download them. Use them. Remix them into a food gun collage bonanza. The sky’s the limit.

Print Your Own Robot: Part 9

My latest quadruped design

This will be an update on the things I’ve learned molding quadrupeds over the last couple of months and some previews of the new robots I’ll be experimenting with in the next few weeks. To start, I’ve had the chance to run a gaggle of design experiments ranging from small changes to the particular silicone I’ve been casting, to more radical changes to how the whole plionics manufacturing process comes together.

I’ve discovered that molding complex channels of tubing can be extremely difficult, and the CAD equally infuriating. I’m discovering some automatic routing tools in SolidWorks that could streamline the process, but there might be another solution that sidesteps that whole mess entirely. It’s possible to cast around silicone tubing that’s already connecting up all the interior geometry. So, what I’d have to do to get the design working is build the cores with little fastenings for plugging in tubing and make sure all the tubes have enough clearance to get past one another. I’m anticipating the world of reality doesn’t let me off the hook that easily, but it’s a start. Continue reading

Laser Cut Hat Stands

I’ve been designing things for Pork Pie Hatters for a year, now. This has included their site, a custom door, some signage, an extra large stamp, a series of hats, and a host of other things. Recently, we’ve been talking about displays, interior decoration, and finding ways to maximize the hats on display while keeping a lid on the clutter. The main problem with selling anything in Manhattan is finding a place to put any stock that isn’t out on the shelves, and the problem with buying anything in Manhattan is sorting it into your microscopic apartment. So, I came up with some flat pack hat stands.

The idea is to send folks home with hats on their heads and a flat pack hat stand, so they don’t have to find room in their lives for a hat box. Traditionally hat boxes come as flat cardboard assemblies that you construct into these 2’x2’x1′ nightmares, or they’re fully assembled oval extrusions whose main aim in life is to take up space. Continue reading

First to Blog

This is a response, more of a high five, to Zach Hoeken’s post up on MAKE: “First to File? Nah, First to Blog!” Basically his post was a series of ideas that have been hanging around in his notebooks, possibly eligible for patents, that he would rather see out there and made in the world than locked away between the pages of a personal sketchpad forever or exploited to the chagrin of mankind by some unruly technological entity, wrapped up in complex patent labyrinths, and never put to a more just use than in sole product from a sole company (see 3d Systems vs the Form 1, Patent Busting3d printing patent challenges, etc). Even worse is the possibility of an idea getting patented and never implemented, only used as a club to hit innovators over the wallet (see Intellectual Ventures). I’m in favor of this. Truth be told I’m pretty aggressively anti patent, which is why all of my recent robotics projects have been released into the open source. Although I realize there’s a difficult road ahead, finding ways to keep funding innovation and novel IP in the world patent abolitionists have been gunning for, I believe open access to information and the network effects it generates far far and away outweigh the small innovation boost you get from researchers confident they’ll be the only people able to profit from the particular idea they’re developing. Continue reading

Print Your Own Robot: Part 8

Visit my soft robot Flickr collection for some detailed documentation and more info on the methods behind this latest robot.

Quadrupeds. I’ve been dreaming about quadrupeds. I’ve been hunting for challenges to test my methods and improve the engineering on the whole “print and cast a soft robot” thing (I really need to come up with a name for this… “Borgatronics?”). I started with tentacles because they were easy to design, easy to test, and symmetrical.

Waxes suspended in the silicone.

They’ve made a lot of progress, but it’s time to turn to other designs. I’ve produced a few prototypes along one main design, and have discovered many things. I’m going to try and explain my logic behind the design and some of the major changes I intend to make in the next version. I’m also going to tell you all the myriad ways I went wrong in this design and the things I’ve done to try and make it right.

This is going to be a pretty dry technical post on the industrial design aspects of the robots I’ve been developing. I promise you entertainment and levity aplenty in the future. For now, we grump about casting flaws, mold design, and process control. Continue reading