If I unlimited resources to build whatever I wanted…
I am pursing the Center for Bits and Atoms because of my interest how we embed intelligence into the things that we make. This is composed of two areas: 1. How do we design things that can improve themselves as well as enhance our ability to make smarter devices? 2. How to we fabricate things in a way that they can evolve themselves?
The proposals below highlight my research interests that best align with the Center for Bits and Atoms lab and the projects that I would pursue to further my inquiry in these areas.
‘Truly Embedded’ Hardware
OBJECTIVE // Build an integrated CNC fabrication device that allows for the construction of circuitry that is embedded directly in the mechanisms and enclosure that make up a device. This would require the construction of a multi-functional fabrication tool that integrates a fused deposition modeler extruder tip, pick and place suction nozzle and heat stake tip. Additionally, this will require the development of a software tool to assist in the design and fabrication of the 3D circuitry.
APPROACH // I would loosely take the following steps to evaluate feasibility and evolve the potential technology:
Assess market of various conductive filaments for physical and electrical properties. Grind, blend and extrude custom carbon impregnated filament if necessary to achieve desire properties.
Characterize process of embedding various electrical components into conductive filament. Evaluate alternative means by which the components and wiring will be fused/attached electronically.
Prototype and explore various structural and electrical combinations; through-hole mushroom caps, SMT components “reflowed” with localized heating techniques.
Design and construct tabletop CNC fabricator utilizing FDM, pick and place nozzles and heat stake for interfacing with through hole components.
Develop a design methodology based on experience prototyping that can be converted into a workflow for a computer tool.
Build computer tool to allow for the routing of traces in plastic and the fabrication with a multitool device.
FUTURE APPLICATION // As rapid additive manufacturing technique become viable as economical and accessible means for producing custom components for consumers at a large scale, there is an opportunity to maximize the functionality of structural elements by embedding electronics and processing capacity into the plastic. In lieu of constraining design to accommodate the requirements of producing a PCB and fitting it inside an enclosure, the electronics will contribute to the structure of the device and be embedded within the wall thickness.
Physical Voxel Interpreter
OBJECTIVE // Build a Lego type of brick with various resistive properties for each stud that allow you to use measurements of the stacked resistance to interpret what the geometry looks like computationally. This would allow you to physically make a stack of bricks on top of each other creating a 3D model that would then be rendered in real time on a computer. This method would allow me to explore how we take things from physical building blocks and process them into geometric data.
APPROACH // This project consists of two components: an individual, universal brick and a mat that takes measurements at each stud to determine the stacked resistance. In order to construct the number of bricks that I would interested in making, I would design a custom injection molding tool and table top molding machine to produce the base substrate and subsequent overmold of conductive elastomeric material. Additionally, I would make a base plate that allows me to sample the resistance between any two studs in order to interpret the number of bricks stacked above that position. Using this data, we can construct a geometric model rendering the physical build.
FUTURE APPLICATION // The long term goal of this work would be to allow you to construct physical things in a manner that allows you to read and understand the geometry by interfacing with one element of it. Similar to the way that you can read the DNA of a single cell to understand the composition of the entire being, you could understand the geometry of the entire object by reading a single block. For example, you could build a bridge with these blocks with complex internal structures that are hard to assess their condition over time, but you could monitor and identify cracks in the entire bridge by reading the data from a single node.
Morphable Node Building Block
OBJECTIVE // To construct a electromechanical building block that snaps together and communicates with each new node that is added. Through sensors in each node, they can understand their particular geometry and through the mesh network that is created, they can communicate the accumulated geometry of the entire network to an exit point.
APPROACH // Each node would consist of a base element which would house the microcontroller that interprets the local geometry and facilitates the communication with the other nodes. There are various legs with a singular DoF (6 legs shown here) with markings that allows to append a encoder to the joint and determine the length of each one. Additionally, each leg is constructed to contain a wire that allows both RX/TX and power sharing with the adjacent node. The established mesh network would allow the geometry of each node and it’s orientation with respect to it’s neighbors to allow you to acquire the complete geometry of the collective structure by requesting the information from a single node. With this data, a holistic model of the entire structure can be reconstructed digitally.
Very Large Format CNC Lawn Mower
OBJECTIVE // Design and build a lawnmower that can be programmed and controlled remotely to allow you to precisely cut patterns and vectors into large agricultural plots.
APPROACH // The big question here would be whether or not this could be constructed on an open loop system, or whether you could build this without GPS location feedback. The design and construction of the base cutting hardware would be straightforward; a four wheeled robot with a z axis spindle that holds the blade and determines cut height. There would need to be a preprocessor that converts the images to a series of commands (potentially GCode), then once I have hardware that can interpret this and translate it to motion, I can assess whether tracking the rotation of the wheels has minimal enough error to render vectors/bitmaps sufficiently in the grass. After building the closed loop system, I would either use an agricultural GPS to provide position information, or
APPLICATION // Field and Crop marking. Autonomously marking large portions of land for aerial interpretation.