Automatic Origami

I’ve been playing with origami, lately. Specifically, I’ve been exploring how to simulate, model, and fold origami shapes in ways that could be automated to create useful mechanisms. The system I’ve come up with is designed to fold rip-stop nylon, which I’ve worked with a bit during my time at Makani Power and research at Super-Releaser.

After some experiments with programs designed specifically for generating origami patterns, I found I wasn’t able replicate the patterns I’d prototyped in paper. Since I wanted to start out with a paper prototype, do some bench tests, and move to CAD from there, I needed to consider other options. I also wasn’t able to convert the output into a format that would play with CAD for printing and prototyping the resulting forms. So, I fell back on my old standard: SolidWorks. If you’ve worked with me before or you’re a regular reader, you don’t get any bonus points for guessing I’d find a way to turn this into a SolidWorks project. This video was very helpful for understanding how to think about origami in a SW context.

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3D Printed Syringe Static Mixer

I developed this static mixer design to streamline casting demos. Often times, a casting demo can get bogged down with portioning, mixing, and degassing, especially when you’re trying to have a group of students get hands-on time with the casting materials.

With this design, you load up degassed silicone, store the unit until needed, and then dispense mixed material out of the nozzle. If you’d like to build your own, you can find all of the source files on Thingiverse. This project was also picked up by Hack A Day.

Grow Light Diffuser

Cheap grow lights are great – they’re energy efficient, ubiquitous, and the design pattern of the aluminum-backed PCB for dissipating heat is well chosen. However, unshielded high-output LED’s are a real pain on the eyes.

I bought a set of these grow lights to give the plants in my bedroom a little boost since their window faces a shaded courtyard in the center of my building. Rather than invest in something more expensive or put up with hot pinpoints of light stabbing my eyes every day, I designed a cheap printed diffuser to make the system more hospitable.

You can download the design files and read the build instructions on Thingiverse.

As a bonus, they also provide some great Miami Vice lighting, just in case I wanted to film my own episode of ContraPoints.

Metal Parts from 3D Prints

After testing the Flat-Pack Camera Arm I built, I was pretty happy with the results. Happy, except for one detail: the joint at the base of the arm would creep down over time. This wasn’t a problem while taking shots of projects at the bench, given how often I’d have to reposition it anywhere. The big breakdown was trying to capture time lapses. The creep was just too noticeable, and it would never stay in place long enough to keep the action of a day’s hacking in frame.

So, I set out to make some locking plates for the arm, and I think people could find some interesting uses for the process I came up with. The broad strokes of the method are that you design the part you’d like at the end in CAD, design a floor under your part with walls around it (I call this a bathtub), print the bathtub mold you designed, cast the mold using 2-part silicone (making sure it’s nice and level), and cast your final material into that mold. Once you’ve got the knack of replicating parts using 1-part molds, you can get fancier: adding vent holes for letting air escape or labels for your parts or building multiple parts for your molds for even more precise geometry.

Below you can find more information on the whole project:

Printed Tensegrity Toy

I’ve been experimenting with printed flexures, and wanted to make a simple tensegrity toy to explore the concept. This design (which you can download on Thingiverse) features both printed tension and compression elements that all build together into a slightly bouncy tensegrity sculpture.

I also optimized the design to allow everything to print at once on my Ultimaker 2+ buildplate. The sculpture assembles with a handful of self-threading torx screws to make it easy for anyone to replicate.

The Adaptiv Robotic Shoe wins a Red Dot design award

The Adaptiv is a futuristic sneaker design that features soft robotic elements to maximize performance while running, jumping, and breaking ankles on the court. The design was spearheaded by Jordan Diatlo of Leadoff Studio for the athletic data company SOLS. The project also featured research and development work by biomechanical engineer Richard Ranky. Super-Releaser contributed to the overall project, building a physical prototype that displayed the soft robotic mechanisms that dynamically adjusted the shoe’s fit and springiness intended to maximize performance during a game.

Leadoff deserves a ton of praise for designing the digital and physical elements in time to premiere at the NBA All-Star Week. I’d like to congratulate everyone who contributed to the project for their hard work and adventurous thinking, bringing such an unusual futuristic design to life. Also, I have to thank Jordan for bringing me in on the process and directing the show.

In the Maker Spotlight

Makezine (and author Caleb Kraft) were kind enough to do a Maker Spotlight interview with me. In it, I was able to talk about my perspective on problem solving, mechanical design, and multidisciplinary research.

From the article:

I’m also really proud of the microscopic tardigrade aquarium I made for Midnight Commercial and Google ATAP. It was this microlens-array powered microscope that looked into a tiny self-contained biome of waterbears, algae, and other microscopic critters we mixed up as an artificial biome – all designed to live in your phone and let you watch this little world through your screen. I got to do everything from design biological research experiments, to diving into whitepapers on micro-optics and tardigrade lifecycles, to simulating EDM cut sheet metal flexures, to figuring out how to cheaply duplicate micro-machined lenses using silicone casting.

The Little Spaceman Lamp I sculpted as a personal art project (featured in the article).

ShopBot Camera Arm – Handsfree Project Documentation

I’ve been wanting an extra set of hands to hold a camera while I document projects for a long time. Kari and I are writing a book for MAKE all about soft robotics, and I figure there’s probably not going to be a better time to have a serious documentation setup than when someone’s paying me to do a good job at it. Since NYC Resistor just got a ShopBot and I’ve been meaning to get back into plywood fab for years, it seemed like a pretty auspicious syzygy. If you’d like to replicate this design for yourself, you can find the source files and project notes here. You can also see my photos from the cutting and assembly of the project here. Continue reading

Toy Design Studio at NUVU

In 2013, I was splitting my time between running Sleek and Destroy out of my apartment in Brooklyn, and getting absolutely covered in 3d printing dust at Dr. Jim Bredt’s lab while hacking on my first experiments in soft robotics. While one one of those journeys up to Somerville to print, Tess Aquarium pinged to see whether I’d be available to teach a class on digital fabrication and toys at NUVU. I was excited about the opportunity. Also, I was terrified that I’d be creating a summer’s worth of curriculum and teaching a group of eleven students ranging between age 11 and 16 in just a couple of weeks.

A Minecraft inspired bot created by Anna, Felipe, and Patrik out of laser cut plywood, servos, an arduino, and printed tank treads.

The plan I came up with was to start with deconstructing toys, teach some CAD tools, give the students the basics for prototyping with digital tools, and end up with a pretty well resolved final project that was a toy of their own creation. That plan broadly worked, but I also had to do a lot of learning and bootstrapping along the way. Continue reading