Sunday, February 28, 2010

This New Lab: DIY Cleanroom

Here is how to build your own DIY cleanroom using 3D printed parts that you can  download or if you don't have a 3D printer, you can buy them. It also requires a few other parts that are shown below. The overall goal of this project is to produce a class 10,000 cleanroom that you can build yourself.

The project started after seeing this air filter for sale without the vacuum. The current design uses Ridgid part #VF3500, but part #VF6000 is probably preferred since it is actually a HEPA filter. The only difference is the length of the filter and what size particles the filter removes.

The RadioShack Cooling Fan part #273-0241 seems to provide a reasonable airflow relative to the size of the filter.

Laboratory furniture can be expensive so one option is to build your workbench out of heavy duty shelving. I used the Workforce 5-Shelf Heavy Duty Steel Shelving from The Home Depot, 72 In. H x 48 In. W x 24 In. D Model #UR-245 Internet/Catalog #100095394 Store SKU # 351430. The Rivet Rack shelving from Tri-Boro Shelving seems to be a pretty good choice as well.

The shelving comes with 2'x4' sheets of particle board, these will need to be reinforced with a variety of sizes of MDF. Choose your own thickness and paint the MDF with a hard enamel paint. Plan ahead because this step will take days, and the fumes are bad for you. So it turns out that the rivets used for the rivet rack style shelving are just about the same size as the head of a #8 wood screw.

So you can use the #8 wood screws to hang the MDF on the sides of the rivet rack. Hold the mdf in the desired position, mark the screw holes, drill starter holes and insert the screws.

The results are great and as an added bonus, hanging the MDF panels actually makes the shelving more stable.

You may want to mount your tools on the MDF while you have the drill handy.

The English language lacks words to properly describe the convenience of having your tools easily accessible and organized.

A rubber mallet is useful for "adjusting" the shelving components for proper fit.

Here you can see the pieces fitting together. The large hole is for the inlet fan and the smaller hole provides power to the workspace.

These wire organizers are awesome.

From below you can see how the power strip and task lighting are mounted. The florescent bulbs can be swapped out with black-light bulbs for extra science.

The lighting is operational and the work space is now mostly assembled.

Next we need to make the connecting rods to join the endcaps so they can hold the air filter in place. The connecting rods are cut from 6061-T6 Round Aluminum tubing, and will be tapped with M4 screws.  The tubing has an outside diameter of 0.25" and a wall thickness of 0.065". The ones I needed were 119mm long, yours may not be.

Using whatever tools you have handy, drill the ends of the rods with a 3.3mm drill bit or a #30 drill bit. A lathe is a great tool for drilling the holes cleanly.

Next tap each end with an M4 tap. This is probably not the best way to do this, but it worked and thats what matters. Your luck may vary.

Attach the RadioShack fan to the MDF using #6 (or equivalent) wood screws.

Attach the open endcap to the fan using nuts and M3 screws with countersink heads, #4-40 screws can probably also be made to work.

Cleanroom inlet fan is now installed. The fan creates a positive pressure inside the workspace with keeps dirty air from sneaking in. The filter should block dust and other small particles from entering. Further testing may show that a gasket is needed to ensure proper performance.

Next, find or buy an extra extension cord.

Chop off the end of the extension cord and strip the wires.

Connect the extension cord wire to the fan using wire nuts. If you are afraid of electricity or under 18 years old, find some who knows how to get electrocuted to help you.

Here is what the fan looks like from inside the work area. I should probably find some mesh to put over the hole at some point.

I used a clear plastic shower curtain to test things, but the shrink film for window insulation might work even better since it will be almost completely transparent. In this design you just reach under the curtain to perform science or extreme disassembly.

Here is the view from inside the "cleanroom", looking out.

The shower curtain isn't great but it looks usable in a pinch.

Blue painters tape seems like a good choice for temporarily sealing large gaps. Remember the clean room does not need to be air tight, it needs to have a positive pressure. So wherever there is a gap the air should be flowing out.

If anyone knows any easy ways to test the quality of cleanroom please let me know. So, now that the cleanroom workspace has been built, I wonder what it will be used for?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Robot Video Roundup

Willow Garage is throwing it down with this video montage. また、日本語のウィローガレージ.

SuperDroid Robots show how they roll.

Go-Wan shows its fighting spirit.

Messy Robo Maids or battle robots in disguise? Musashiです。

Wow, just wow. DOKAハルミです。

THKR-4です。While these robots may seem harmless and their child like movements might be amusing, remember that Moore's Law still applies to robot brains.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Telepresense Robotics Roundup

Willow Garage has updated their information on the Texai robots.

The RP2W Two Way Remote Presence Robot from SuperDroid Robots also looks like viable solution for office/factory telepresence.

TiLR seems interesting but unfortunately their website seems to have some issues.

Anybots QB seems pretty practical and maneuverable.

The main problem I see with all of these designs however is that they appear to lack the ability to go over curbs or handle stairs which signifigantly limits their usefulness. How can I send a robot out to get lunch if it gets stuck on curbs?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Case for Arduino: Alumide

 Shapeways has posted photos of their new Alumide 3D Printed Material, and one of the models printed looks familiar.

You can buy the Arduino case here in alumide. I'll also post a version of the larger case later today. Overall, this looks like a great material for robotics, and I am sure I will find many uses for it in the near future.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Case for Arduino: The Adventure Continues

Here are some more plastic Arduino case design revisions. I have some ideas for an aluminum case I'll be trying later this week that may help bring prices down.

ROS on BeagleBoard

Speaking of cross-compiling the ROS robotics framework for the ARM processor, it looks like someone has ported it to the BeagleBoard.

The iRobot Create ($299.99) and BeagleBoard ($149) are looking like they will make a great combination for getting started with ROS.

Monday, February 22, 2010

More efficient power theft from PR2

Now PR2 can steal power more efficiently than ever before.

Also, I have been working on ROS quite a bit recently and it works great. Most importantly it is easy to develop new drivers. It still needs a bit of work for cross compiling for ARM processors.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Brand-new Bilingual Bot Blog / Blog Bot Bilingue Bonne

Bienvenue et vive le babelfishe et vive le poutine!

The proprietors of fine robots and parts and our neighbors to the north, RobotShop have let us know that they have recently launched their new bilingual robotics blog.

Les propriétaires des robots et des pièces fins et nos voisins au nord, RobotShop ont nous ont faits savoir qu'ils ont récemment lancé leur nouveau blog bilingue de robotique.

It is great to see this addition to the growing robotics blogging community, especially with the effort to make it multilingual without resorting to computer translations.

Il est grand de voir cette addition à la communauté blogging croissante de robotique, particulièrement avec l'effort de le rendre multilingue sans recourir aux traductions automatiques.

The blog seems to be mostly related to general robotics news and information with some emphasis on commercial robotics.

Le blog semble être la plupart du temps lié aux nouvelles et à l'information générales de robotique avec une certaine emphase sur la robotique commerciale.

While there are surely some marketing considerations to a vendor launching their own blog, the site is not just a listing of new products.

Tandis qu'il y a sûrement quelques considérations de commercialisation à un fournisseur lançant leur propre blog, l'emplacement n'est pas simplement une liste des produits.

Speaking of which, I couldn't seem to find an RSS feed of the new products but if you happen to like twittering, they have it.

Parlant dont, je ne pourrais pas sembler trouver une alimentation de RSS des produits mais si vous vous avérez justement aimer twittering, ils l'ont.

Also, this regenerative motor controller looks pretty good.

En outre, ce contrôleur régénérateur de moteur regarde assez bon.

I wish them the best of luck keeping the blogs in sync, though at the moment it looks like the French are ahead, for now.

Je leur souhaite le meilleur de la chance maintenant les blogs dans la synchro, bien qu'au moment où elle ressemble au Français soyez en avant.

You can probably also use their blog to learn french, unlike this one.
Comment dites-vous "eh?" en français?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More Snowbotics

As part of our continuing coverage of this years winter robotics, we present these videos from YouTube User GreenlandRobot.

The project is to build a solar powered autonomous robot which carries a scientific payload (ground penetrating radar currently) in snowy environments like Greenland or Antarctica.

So far they have a prototype driving up a hill covered in snow. They are working on building another prototype after this one to improve the drive systems performance before starting work on the final version.

The current prototype also looks to be capable of carrying small payloads.

We look forward to seeing more of their progress in the future and will to keep you up to date with all of the action in the world of snow robotics.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pixhawk EMAV 2009 Video

The video describes the Pixhawk Micro Aerial Vehicle, and its winning performance in the 2009 EMAV competition.

We look forward to seeing their videos from future competitions.

ROS Tutorials Online and IRL

Willow Garage will be running a full day tutorial session on May 7th at ICRA 2010.

You don't have to wait until May since there are a series of tutorials already available online. The first few might seem a bit tedious and boring but the reasoning will become clear as you get to later tutorials (or will already be clear if you have used Player/Stage). You only need a computer to run the basic tutorials and get an idea as to how useful ROS could be for your robot, so get started and don't wait for your PR2 to show up.

Lamina Emergent Mechanisms

This paper shows how Lamina Emergent Mechanisms allow useful mechanical structures to be fabricated entirely out of planar materials.


The photos above are from Joseph O. Jacobsen's masters thesis on "Fundamental Components for Lamina Emergent Mechanisms", which is suggest reading for more detailed information.

These mechanisms look to be useful for building structures out of silicon for MEMS devices and for use in robotics by using similar manufacturing techniques that were used to create the indestructible DASH robot. I am sure I can think of something to use this for...

[From: Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics]

Compliant Robotic Manipulators

While not quite as disturbing as the sea snake robot, the biologically inspired OctArm is compliant manipulator that can be used for a wide range of tasks.

For those of you interested in continuum robotics, this month's Journal of Mechanisms and Robotics from ASME has an interesting paper "On the Kinematics of the Octopus's Arm".

[From: IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine YouTube Channel]

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

RS-232 - 253 = RS-485

If RS-232 isn't enough fun for you, you can always try RS-485 to get around its limitations. The main benefits of RS-485 are longer range, higher speeds, higher noise rejection and support for multiple end-points. The main downside is that it cannot support full duplex communications. This tutorial has some information about why you might want to consider RS-485 for your next project.

Monday, February 15, 2010

ZMP RoboCar

This looks pretty awesome.

The Ackermann steering configuration of the drive system and the integrated support for a laser range-finder and other sensors make this look like an ideal platform for a university level class on automotive robotics.

[From: Robonable]

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Thing-a-Week #5: Clean Room Inlet Fan/Filter

This one is a little late but it will be worth it.

It's the parts to make your own DIY cleanroom using easy to obtain components. Currently this is untested and experimental due to the holiday weekend and also since it is still printing.

These parts are used to build a positive pressure glove box style clean room.
The goal is to produce somewhere around a Class 10,000 cleanroom environment in a small space that is useful for taking apart things like hard drives, cameras and lasers.

Available for download at Thingiverse. Previous weekly things can be found here.

I'll post updates next week when it's up and running.