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, a material I’ve worked with at both Makani Power and 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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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.

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Metal Parts from 3D Prints

After testing the Flat-Pack Camera Arm, 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. The big pain 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 work in frame.

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ShopBot Camera Arm – Handsfree Project Documentation

UPDATE: This project now includes a metal locking plate that makes adjusting the arm and keeping it locked down for time-lapses easier. You can find a tutorial and description on that part of the build here.

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.

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The Glaucus

The Glaucus is a soft robotic quadruped composed of a single seamless silicone part. It has a complex network of interior channels, created via a lost wax process, that turn into actuators when pressurized with air. It’s able to walk with a diagonal gait, similar to a gecko or Glaucus Atlanticus sea slug, using only two input channels.

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