Sunday, 29 July 2012


I've had the Ultimaker up and running for about 10 days now i'm still ironing out the bugs.  I have been using Cura to generate the G code However I wish to try other programs to see if I can get better results. I am currently in the process of working out how to use Skeinforge

Here are some videos of my Ultimaker in action.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Ultimaker is together

We have finally got the Ultimaker together and have had our first successful print.  Our first 4 attempts ended in a stringy mess but we got a pretty good print on the fourth try. 

You can see the middle bunny looks like a pig and the pyramid is a bit fuzzy around the inside edges. But the resolution of the print is pretty good.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Our Robotic Future

The last decade has been all about the Internet. This decade will be all about robots. They are already starting to take over some of the more mundane tasks like vacuuming, mowing the lawn even parking your car is becoming automated.  By the end of this decade your car will drive itself, robots will be assisting in the care of the elderly and disabled, tele-presence robots will be everywhere and will be a normal part of life.  Almost every aspect of our lives will be affected by some level of automation.

One of the biggest advances in the field of Robotics has been the development of powered exoskeletons (Raytheon XOS 2 , HAL ).  These are robots that you wear - they use electronic actuators to assist movement.  They have mainly been used to help people with spinal cord injuries to walk again.  They also require the use of crutches meaning they can only be used by disabled people with significant upper body strength.  They are all so very expensive.  I wish to develop an exoskeleton that will be full body including the fingers and adaptable to many different disabilities.

I believe powered exoskeletons will revolutionise the lives of many people with disabilities. They will also be used in search and rescue also in all sorts of industries from construction, manufacturing to landscape gardening and everything in between.  Before exoskeletons get to this standard a lot of research and development needs to be done.  Industrial exoskeletons simply need better batteries before widespread use is possible.

However exoskeletons for people with disabilities will be much more difficult to achieve. Each disability will require different problems to be overcome.  My disability for example, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, all my nerves work perfectly fine, but my muscles are so weak I'm basically paralysed.  The exoskeleton would need a way to receive the information from the nervous system using either EMG ( Electromyography ) or a more direct interface to individual nerves. EMG is problematic because it relies on electrical signals generated by your muscles as my muscles are very weak the signals are also very weak.

Exoskeletons for people with spinal-cord injuries have already been developed (Ekso), but are not very user-friendly and require the use of crutches or a joystick like the Rex exoskeleton.  Ultimately a direct connection to the nervous system would be required, this is still some time away.  In the timebeing gyroscopes and a myriad of the other sensors along with sophisticated software could be used to make the use of these exoskeletons more natural, and would greatly enhance there capabilities.  In the coming years these devices might even replace manual wheelchairs.

Exoskeletons could also be used to smooth out involuntary motions by people with cerebral palsy.  This is achievable now it just needs people to make it happen.

Exoskeletons would be beneficial for people suffering from many other conditions, not to mention the rehabilitation potential of these devices.  The possibilities offered by powerd exoskeletons are truly awesome, I intend to realise these possibilities.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Circuit for Wheelchair Robot

Earlier this year I decided to turn one of my old wheelchairs into a robot.  I really had no idea where to start fortunately I came across a website called Critical Tinkerers who are a student group out of Iowa State University.  They had done exactly what I wanted to do and the best thing is they published exactly how to do it.  It involved mimicing the output of the joystick it was a fairly simple circuit using an arduino microcontroller a digital to analog converter (DAC) and two amplifiers to increase the voltage to match the the output of the joystick.

I managed to build the circuit with a bit of help of my carers in my stepdad Peter. However when it became time to connect it to the wheelchair it was different to what I expected, the circuit was not designed for this joystick.  I had made an assumption that the joystick was the same as the one the Critical Tinkerers wheelchair but it was completely different.  The Critical Tinkerers wheelchair had 2 inputs an X and Y where as my one had 4 imputs 2 X's and 2 Y's. Thankfully I was able to use some elements of their circuit in a new circuit it was actually much simpler it uses 2 digital to analog converters with no amplifiers.  However I didn't have enough DAC's to make the new circuit so I've had to order more.  When they arrive I should have a robot hopefully.

This is the Critical Tinkerers circuit.

My circuit with ribbon cable plug, the green circuit below is a radio receiver, You can also see a bit of the critical tinkerers circuit in the bottom right.

This is a dynamic wheelchair controller.

This is the backside of the controller. Ribbon cable attached in the top right.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


About six weeks ago I ordered an Ultimaker 3-D printer it arrived today woot.

The ceremonial bubblewrap popping

Laser cut plywood bits stepper motors and a roll of PLA plastic
All the other bits

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

This is my Lynx Motion AL5D

This is my Lynx Motion AL5D Robot arm I have upgraded it with an Arduino mega 2560. I used a Sparkfun Mega Shield kit and a mini bread board. I also used a 6 volt transformer for the power supply.