Robotic hand: with 3D printing is now a reality
Padua high school students build a robotic hand with the CubePro
Alessandro Favaro, part of the 3DZ sales team, made us discover this fascinating case study related to a project of the Institute of Higher Education “I. Newton” Camposampiero (PD). Under the guidance of prof. Maurizio Galeazzo, Bordin Gianmarco and Jeremy Baido (class 5B Mechanical/Mechatronics) developed a remotely controlled robotic hand using a Cube 3D printer.
Although the robotics field is rapidly expanding, especially as regards “desktop” 3D printing, the most significant aspect of this case is that it was not a university project, but a study successfully carried on by students of the Technical Institute. Due to the availability of reliable 3D printers, that are even increasingly cheaper, as the Cube Pro (for which you can find all the information on 3DZ website) more and more schools have the possibility to equip themselves with a 3D printing device that gives students the ability to create more advanced designs and become familiar with technologies that will dominate the world of manufacturing of tomorrow. This kind of technological know-how may well complete the training of students.
“The students wanted to create an original design for their final examination, so we decided to combine our 3D modeling and electronics knowledge in order to create a robotic hand that can be controlled remotely through a glove,” says Prof. Galeazzo. “I took care of the aspects regarding the solid modelling, while prof. Giannino Basso dealt with setting up the automation systems for the electronic part. The students made then some researches and feasibility studies and the project was launched.“
Prof. Galeazzo has also worked to follow the use of the two extruders’Cube Pro 3D printer. After transforming them into digital, all components were printed in 3D without any particular problem. As for robotics, the hand uses as a brain an Arduino board and a series of micro-electric engines and, on the silk glove they put some electrical strain gauges, measuring instruments used to detect small dimensional deformation of a body subjected to mechanical stress. When these strain gauges lengthen and shorten they send some electrical signals to the Arduino board that controls the motors which, in turn, regulate the wires that allow the hand to open and close.
The robotic hand can move all the different phalanges and the wrist and is able to perform a grasp strong enough to grab a tennis ball.
“The only thing we miss now is the arm, but it should be quite easy to build as well as the elbow and the shoulder,” explains Professor Galeazzo. “We just need to extend the sensors up to integrate the entire limb. Since a few years ago all this would have been impossible to do without a 3D printer.”
The robotic hand project was so appreciated by the teachers that the kids already started to work on a new one even more fascinating: to rebuild the mechanism of the Antikythera Machine, the oldest mechanical calculator built by man.
“Digital models of it already exist,” explains the professor, “however we want to recreate our model using CAD programs and then realize the solid prototype.”
According to the professor, 3D printers are today essential for addressing complex prototyping projects both at industrial and scholastic level, in fact, many institutions are realising it, or they will soon. Especially because to get young people used to this kind of technologies will better prepare them to the labor market.
“We recently visited a local company that produces pumps for aquariums and they also make a significant use of all the new 3D technology: 3D scanner for reverse engineering, 3D modeling software to create spare parts and components and 3D printers to make them solid to create new prototypes. Only in the Padua area there are thousands of companies that manufacture objects using injection molds. The possibility to make a “print test” of a new prototype leads them to get huge advantages in terms of cost and time savings. Having the project on a screen or on a sheet of paper is one thing,” said prof. Galeazzo, “having the prototype in hand quickly and at low cost changes everything.”
Learn how to do it right from school is priceless.