A while back we wrote about practical 3D printing technology reaching the level where it's starting to be adopted by some of the top level Japanese humanoid robot creators. Several leading builders here have been evaluating the technology, providing their feedback and experience, and it won't be long before their robot champions put it to the test under severe battle conditions in the ROBO-ONE ring.
The 3D printing company leading the charge, i.materialise, isn't just any hardware company, they see robotics as a significant potential market, one that is a key part of their strategic plan going forward. According to Joris on the i.materialise blog:
"...an area that is very important to us here at i.materialise: using 3D printing to customize robots. We think that in the coming years two technologies that are ripe for democratization are robots and 3D printing. To combine both of them into one service is irresistible to us."
At the same time, there have to be robot builders elsewhere in the world that could benefit from the same technology. And, we're sure that the robot folks in Europe, the US, and other tech centers around the world don't want to end up behind the curve.
So, they came up with a real sweet-heart deal. Get this, again from Joris at i.materialise:
“So we are looking for you. Are you a robotics enthusiast with good 3D modeling or CAD skills? Do you own or are you building a consumer friendly robot such as the Roomba, WowWee Robotics, a hexapod, Kondo, etc.? Would you like to customize the look and feel of your robot or add functionality to it using 3D printing? Please email joris (at) i.materialise.com and if you’re one of the suitable candidates we will help you, including giving you the 3D prints for free.”
What are you waiting for? How often do you think a great offer, including free 3D printed parts, like this comes along? Just go for it!
Ever wonder what it would be like to be inside the NASA JPL labs as they put together a space robot? As a kid who grew up spending more time in school doodling spaceships, aliens, and astronauts when I should've been studying in class, the chance to look over the shoulder of the NASA engineers and technicians as they assemble one of the rover robots destined to drive across the surface of the red planet would be absolutely mind blowing. Well, now I, and everyone else with Internet access, can share in the experience.
Juanma Oyarzabal and Alvaro Amor, two computer engineering students from the University of Deusto (Bilbao, Spain) successfully designed, constructed, programmed, and completed an impressive cooperative robot “swarm” project to autonomously build modular houses based prefabricated modules.
Major events, especially those that capture tremendous public attention because of the potential damage to the environment like the recent Gulf Oil Spill, often highlight the need for more investment in robot research and development that can provide practical clean-up solutions. After potentially catastrophic disaster occurs, it's way too late to realize that we should have developed the technology years in advance.
At the same time, depending totally on the companies, like BT, that are focused on maximizing profitability by exploiting an oil deposit is very high risk since their management priorities often turn out to be heavily weighted towards the decisions that will help them achieve their goals while minimizing the risks.
Some pundits have suggested that a portion of any oil lease, or related government licenses given to private companies, be dedicated to the development of preventative and emergency response technology. At a time when our leading universities and research facilities are struggling to find funding for even the most basic robotic research projects the need for investment of this type is abundantly clear.
SeaSwarm - Robot swarm to clean-up oil spillsA good example might the the MIT SeaSwarm project - the type of work that, had it been actively developed and in place prior to the Gulf spill, may have gone a long way towards containing and mitigating the disaster. According to a Forbes article: "Their newest project, a swarm of robots called SeaSwarm, proposes to skim the ocean surface and remove oil. The robots use "a photovoltaic-powered conveyor belt made of a thin nanowire mesh to propel itself and collect oil," MIT said in a statement. The first prototype was successfully tested in Boston's Charles River in August, and it responded well to the water's changing surface."
MIT SeaSwarm - Forbes article
When Bre Pettis was recently interviewed about MakerBot on the FLOSS Weekly podcast, Leo Laporte half jokingly suggested that it won’t be long before individuals will be able to ‘print’ their own iPhones at home. That day may be sooner than any of us imagine.
Scientists at the Xerox Research center in Toronto, Canada have developed a new printable conductive ink technology. The Xerox ink breakthrough, which they refer to as a ‘silver bullet’, enables the creation of electronic circuits at low temperatures on flexible substrates, including plastic, and expected to see wide adoption in eBooks and eNewspapers, wearable electronics, flexible signs, solar cells, RFID tags, and other applications.