“Soft Robots in Space” talk at SpaceApps NYC

I spoke at the NYC NASA SpaceApps conference last weekend about how soft robots might end up in space in the next few years. I covered mechanical counterpressure suits, exercise on the International Space Station, enhancing strength on EVA’s, and how space turns your heart into a sphere. Stick around for the Q&A segment at the end, where I get to field some questions from real-life astronaut Catherine Coleman.

You can see my slides here.

Cover image by ZEISS Microscopy.

Soft Robotics Talks at NYCResistor

I’m trying to get more people playing with soft robots. I’m releasing open source design files, tutorials, and now teaching classes. They’re a useful tool to add to any roboticist’s engineering toolbox, and if they were more widely known I think we’d see them outside the research lab and applied to practical problems.

I’ve taught a couple of seminars on soft robotics (demonstrating how I fabricate the Glaucus) over the last few weeks. I’m also giving a few talks soon – one at a seminar for engineering simulations, and another at NYC’s Spaceapps Hackathon.

You can find more information on the last few classes on the Soft Robotics Technology Meetup page, the ACM-NYC Meetup page, and NYCResistor’s blog. I’ve embedded video of the ACM talk below.

 

Title photo by David Rey. You can find more of his photos of this event at the NYC Soft Robotics Technology Group Meetup here.

“Hard Problems? Soft Robots!” at BsidesHH 2014

I’ve been going to CCC for a while. I’ve given some talks (mostly on the lightning talk track) and have generally had a good time. More and more, though, I’ve gotten interested in gatherings that orbit big events like CCC, Maker Faire, and HOPE. Unconferences, Bsides, and nether-conferences like BarCamp are less formal than a traditional conference, and often have the kind of wiggle room for instant breakout sessions and long Q&A.

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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.