This is somewhat belated, but only recently have I actually gotten them all set up in the desired configuration. Welcome to the newest members of the mjbots factory line, another 2 Prusa MK3Ss! That makes 4 total, now all neatly lined up in a row:
The first two have had a greater than 60% duty cycle over the 3 years I’ve had them, and situations kept coming up where I was blocked on 3d printer bandwidth. For now at least that need is sated.
For the price, I’m definitely happy with it, but as I’ve been doing more soldering work, I’ve become less happy with the mounting stand. The arm it mounts to often does not reach far enough to get the optics over the part of the board in question, or the base is too tall or wide to fit under it. If you want to examine something from the side, you have to tip the entire base over. I have resorted to spinning the microscope around and counterbalancing the base with a large weight, which works for some definition of “works” but only improves the reach by a little bit.
I wanted to improve the situation, so built a 3d printed mounting fixture to position the microscope head. It provides for a few more degrees of freedom than the factory issued one, and provides a lot more reach:
The tubes are held together with M4 bolts with each axis having a thumbscrew used to lock it in place. The optics can now be tilted in the pitch or roll direction, and the total reach is around 25cm, up from the stock 7cm.
Looking at the failure, I was surprised I used so little material in the region in question. For now, I just made it 4x thicker and we’ll see how long that lasts, although ultimately it may need to be a different design or machined instead of 3d printed.
Another of the tasks I’ve set for myself with regards to future Mech Warfare competitions is redesigning the turret. The previous turret I built had some novel technical features, such as active inertial gimbal stabilization and automatic optical target tracking, however it had some problems too. The biggest one for my purposes now, was that it still used the old RS485 based protocol and not the new CAN-FD based one. Second, the turret had some dynamic stability and rigidity issues. The magazine consisted of an aluminum tube sticking out of the top which made the entire thing very top heavy. The 3d printed fork is the same I one I had made at Shapeways 5 years ago. It is amazingly flexible in the lateral direction, which results in a lot of undesired oscillation if the base platform isn’t perfectly stable. I’ve learned a lot about 3d printing and mechanical design in the meantime (but of course still have a seemingly infinite amount more to learn!) and think I can do better. Finally, cable management between the top and bottom was always challenging. You want to have a large range of motion, but keeping power and data flowing between the two rotating sections was never easy.
My concept with this redesign is twofold, first make the turret be basically an entirely separate robot with no wires connecting it to the main robot and second, try to use as many of the components from the quad A1 as I could to demonstrate their, well, flexibility. Thus, this turret will have a separate battery, power distribution board, raspberry pi, pi3 hat, and a moteus controller for each axis of motion. These are certainly overkill, but hey, the quad A1 can carry a lot of weight.
The unique bits will be a standalone FPV camera, another camera attached to the raspberry PI for target tracking, a targeting laser, and the AEG mechanism, including a new board to manage the firing and loading functions.
When I first designed the full rotation leg, I didn’t fully appreciate the importance of torque in the knee joint. Despite the fact that my first force based IK showed that when the legs are immediately under the body, the knee joint carries the entire load of the robot, I still managed to not add any reduction there.
The initial design used a 1:1 ratio, because that allowed me to use the same single piece 3d printed gear design I had used before. A 28 tooth gear with 5mm pitch resulted in a gear that was larger than the output plate on the qdd100 servo, so it could just be bolted directly on. To work with a smaller number of teeth, I had to split the gear into two parts, connected by pins, as the gear is now smaller than the qdd100 output plate.
So that I could use the same belts, I extended the upper leg about 8mm, and while I was at it, extended the lower leg by 15mm to make the overall leg a bit more symmetric.
We’ll see shortly how this works out when printed and assembled.
Previously, I described the overall plan for my improved foot. To make that work, I needed to cast a 3d printed part into the squash ball such that it would likely stay attached during operation, be suitable rigid and yet damped, and do so repeatably.
To start with, I used a random single yellow dot squash ball with a hole cut in one side using a pair of side cutters. For the casting foam, I just used Smooth-On Flex Foam-IT 17, which is what Ben Katz originally used at least. Initially I just mixed up a batch, poured it in to a random level, stuck my bracket in and hoped for the best.
Well, something sure happened! But not exactly what I wanted. The foam didn’t fill in the interior cavity, nor make a great connection overall with the bracket. On top of that, the process wouldn’t exactly be described as “repeatable”. Since I just eyeballed the level of foam, there was no way to get the same amount in.
For my next runs, I decided to do everything by weight. I tried a few different foam masses, curing orientations, and venting strategies. Eventually, I got something that seems to look pretty good. We’ll see how well it works on the actual machine shortly!
Here’s a bunch of different intermediate attempts:
And here’s a cutaway of the process I’ve settled on for now. This particular one has a slight bit of overfill on one edge that is more than is typical, but the inside fill is pretty good:
As mentioned long ago in my post on failing more gracefully, it was obvious I wanted to strengthen the lower leg and foot mechanism to remove the point of failure observed there. For now, I’m attempting to basically copy the original Mini-Cheetah foot principle, although with more 3d printing and less machining.
The basic idea is to print the entire lower leg in a single go laying on its side, so that delamination is unlikely. The foot bracket will be cast into a squash ball, then epoxied onto the lower leg.