A lifelong dream has been to have the ability to design a robot using a CAD program and then easily produce a prototype or finished product from that design right on my desktop. After a few months of tweaking my Reprap Mendel 3D printer, that dream has finally come true. I’ve always been interested in designing, modifying and refining robotic grippers. Last week I used Solidworks to create and test a new design that would lower the complexity and number of parts. The great thing about Solidworks is the motion study capability. It lets you simulate the movement or your assembly before creating a physical object. This tool saves a lot of time when figuring out if the assembly is functioning as desired. When the simulated design was working properly, I exported the parts as sterolithography files (.STL). Another program named Skeinforge was used to create g-code that the control software uses to direct the 3D printers movements. The grippers were printed using a strong biodegradable plastic called PLA. I really like the white plastic because it reminds me of the Star Wars storm trooper body armor suits.
Karl P. Williams