Here are 3 of the best know 3D printed humanoid robots. While most of them are too expensive or complicated to be used in a school classroom, they show what is possible with 3D printing and robotics.
Jimmy is an open-source humanoid robot created by a collaboration between, Intel, Trossen Robotics, and Olin College. Though a very capable robot, Jimmy costs around $16,000 to purchase, which puts him out of reach of most k-12 schools.
The original PLEN humanoid was launched in 2007. But in 2015 PLEN-2 was presented on kickstarter. The robot is intended by its creators to "humanize robotics." Not difficult to consider watching the little robot.
An open-source project created by a french sculptor, the InMoov is one of the best and most difficult 3D printed humanoids to build. With several hundred pieces and cost of thousands of dollars it is not be the casual builder. But with capabilities such as speech recognition and visual tracking, it is an impressive machine.
The Poppy robot is a humanoid open-source project that is still developing. At this point it can't walk without assistance. This is really a robot for programmers. Its face and limited capabilities leave a lot of room for development and design of new capabilities.
There are not a lot of arduino robot kits out there which are good for STEM. Here are a few that we like.
One of very few robot arm kits available, the LittleArm is a versatile and affordable robot kit to learn about the arduino. The arm has four microservos which articulate its various joints. The arm comes loaded with the software needed to control it and record actions through a desktop computer. Users may reprogram the arm with their own code created in the Arduino IDE or with programs such as Scratch.
A good kit for experimenting with outdoor robotics, this tank can be outfitted with Bluetooth and any number of sensors, though none are included in the basic kit. Additionally, the kit does not have a breadboard requiring solder to modify or add circuits and sensors. This is a kit that would be ideal for junior-high to high school level students.
Another good mobile Arduno robot kit. The Bombini includes several touch sensors and is simple enough to be quickly assembled by students. But, the Bombini does require the purchase of additional components such as breadboards to be easily modifiable and built upon.
Sainsmart Robot Arm
This kit is really for much more advanced users. While the arm has many degrees of freedom it is relatively under powered and cannot lift compared to its overall size. There is also no software support for the arm. The remote is a great opportunity to learn about interfacing with the Arduino but it can be difficult.
A classic robot kit the BOEBot has been an introductory kit for many roboticists. It is a simple kit and is easily modifiable. The kit includes everything needed to get started including multiple sensors and electronic components, as well as a breadboard to mount them.
Robot Smart Car
A good kit for more advanced students, this mobile robot is large enough to support all kinds of applications, such as carrying items. It is relatively affordable and has the power needed to traverse any kind of floored surface.
The MBOT is a newer arduino-based robot kit. It is a quick and simple kit to assemble and comes with sensors to get started. The one disadvantage is that the MBOT is purely a programmable kit. After assembly there is little to no modification that can be done on the mechanics or electronics. The control board of the robot is also custom so it is not easily hacked or modified, making it difficult to craft new lessons around the robot.
If you are looking at using the the python version of the LittleArm GUI, there are a couple of considerations. The first, which will be discussed in this post, is called a dependency.
Dependencies are side programs which a particular piece of software needs in order to operate. For example your Windows operating system has a dependency on some type of browser such as Explorer or Chrome in order to update itself. Without that extra software the program won't work correctly. The LittleArm GUI has similar requirements.
Now, most python programs begin with the importing of the dependencies. These are lines of code in the program which tell the computer what dependencies need to be made available for the program. These lines of code for the LittleArm GUI are shown below.
Every one of those "import" statements calls one of the dependencies. But here is the kicker, if those dependencies are not installed on your computer, then the program will not run.
So you have to install the dependencies for the LittleArm GUI. In this case the only one you need is pyserial which is called in the fourth and fifth lines. The the first three statements import the "time" and Tkinter modules. Both of those modules come with any installation of python.
If you install the the latest version of pyserial, the module that allows python to use your computer communication ports, the LittleArm GUI should run just fine.
Robot arms are becoming more affordable and more common all the time. But most of them come from a factory. What are the Top Ten 3D printed robot arms which could be made by the average guy in a garage
1. LittleArm Arduino Robot Kit
The LittleArm is a 3D printed 4 axis robot which is controlled by an Arduino. The Arduino comes preinstalled with the software needed to interface with a Desktop Application. Using that software the arm can be trained to perform any number of actions with no prior programming experience. But since it is controlled by the arduino, new programs can be written from scratch.
2. Zortax 3D printed Robot Arm Prototypes
The Zortax arm was a demonstration of using 3D printing to create precision robot arms. While not available to purchase they are are a great demonstration of what is possible.
3. Eva: 3D Printed Robot by Automata
Eva is the first generation of an affordable industrial robot arm. Automata uses 3D printing to create the arm because of the affordability of the system and the adaptability that is provides as they develop the robot arm.
4. Instructables 3D printed Robot Arm
While neither a kit or an actual product this is an arm that you can build yourself. The robot arm is entirely 3D printed and is controlled through a set of buttons on the base.
5. Another Maker 3D printed robot arm
The Print-a-Bot robot arm is a good kit for beginners. It is simple to assemble and fairly reliable to print. The one caveat is that there is really no software ready to go for the arm. Requiring it to all be coded from scratch.
Three tools that every STEM teach interested in teaching making to their students should have.
A 3D printer used to be a something expensive. But now they are very affordable (almost $300 for a kit.) 3D printers are a great tool for teaching engineering because they actually let students invent completely new things without really having to worry about manufacturing. A 3D printer can create anything so they leave many more options for students than the standard click-and-snap kits like lego.
3D printers are especially useful if students are learning CAD, because it helps them understand how a visual, but abstract design, actually looks and feels in the real world when it is created.
The 3D printer is also ideal for teachers who want to just have more diverse projects and assignments. Since there is really no limit on what they can make, they are a much better investment than single use machine tools.
The Arduino is a microcontroller that allows students to learn to program and work with electronics. The Arduino is easily the best platform because there is a huge support base for it. Literally any question that a student has there is a tutorial or forum available with an answer.
The Arduino also supports various levels of programming experience. Beginners can use graphical block programs like Scratch to program an Arduino, and more advanced students can program directly in C. Then even higher students can learn to control the Arduino from a computer using Python. (Though that is generally at the High School Level.)
If you are able to have machine tools as part of your class you should consider a bandsaw. Bandsaws can create almost any kind of cut ranging from a straight line to to a circle and curve. They are also relatively safe. It is difficult for a student to be in danger of losing a finger on a Bandsaw.
The bandsaw is also very versatile in what materials is can cut. Your students can cut plastic, wood, or metal on a bandsaw and have no problems.