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BuckyBot

A Mobile 3D printer to build Megastructures

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This project was created on 05/06/2014 and last updated 4 days ago.

Description
BuckyBot: A mobile 3D printer to build a 1 Km Dia. dome (yes, that's 1,000 meters)
Details

Hello, I’m Philip Cox. I’ve been an Aerospace Systems Engineer for the last thirty years. I’ve done a lot of things, but I hope that the best is still ahead of me.

I’d like to present to you a concept that’s been cooking in my head for the past few decades. Let’s start with a little background … In R. Buckminster Fuller’s “critical path” he presents and illustration of Manhattan island with a huge geodesic dome covering much of the borough.

Bucky was the inventor (some say ‘popularizer’) of the geodesic dome – he envisioned covering entire cities with vast domes to protect them.  Bucky pointed to a number of reasons why such mega-structures are desirable. He was also quick to point out, however, the difficulties humanity would have building such structures using then-current construction technology. Undeterred, he extrapolated other possibilities of his geodesics.

Fuller realized that geodesic construction might permit one to make structures so large that the volume of air enclosed in them could actually outweigh the materials comprising the structure. If one enclosed heated air, the structure could conceivably become buoyant in the atmosphere – a vast hot-air balloon. I once sat down and calculated just how big one such geodesic dirigibles would have to be – it turns out that a sphere 800 meters or larger is the threshold at which the air inside the structure begins to out weigh the containing structure.

His concept appeared roughly twenty years before George Lucas gave us the floating city of Bespin. 

Fuller had no way to construct such a beast, of course. Which brings me to the sticking point: We can imagine mega-structures on Earth and in space, but we have devoted little or no effort into developing techniques to build them. Human construction technology remains mired in the past. We continue to build using traditional, waddle-and-daub, tinker-toy construction methodologies – only applying new materials as they’ve become available. Imagine the expense in resources required to build a dome over Manhattan one beam at a time... now imagine building a one kilometer sphere in space, one stick at a time, each lifted from Earth. We aren’t going to do it. That doesn’t mean, however, that we can’t build mega-structures. I’ve pondered this question over my entire life. I’ve come to the conclusion that, to build big, we have to think small. . ..

Diatoms and Radiolaria have been making their own geodesic shells for over 500 million years. They secrete silica to form rigid frameworks to armor themselves or increase their apparent surface area for photosynthesis. These microscopic creatures secrete their structure – typically using a simple geometrical initiator, like a circle, triangle, hexagon, or some other simple geometric shape. If you perked up at the mention of an ‘initiator’, you probably suspect, now, where I’m going with this . . . fractals. In short, fractal constructions require an Initiator, a Generator, and a Rule (or Rules) of orientation. Time is too short here for further details of fractals, so, I’ll cut to the chase. The project I’ve been working on for years (mostly as a design exercise) is to create little open-source construction robots – I’ve been calling them BuckyBots – to build mega-structures.

A BuckyBot consists of a small 3D printer in which the print head has up to (maybe) 6 Degrees-of-Freedom. It makes a simple 3-dimensional fractal initiator, such as a tetrahedron, over and over, and over. That’s all it does – ever. It has the ability to climb, like a spider, onto and over the tetrahedrons it has already built to add another course to the structure. We give it simple orientation rules so that it changes its orientation relative to previous “cells”. Eventually, by following simple rules, it will construct a closed shape – like a dome, or a box, or whatever 3-dimensional shape we fancy. It can build any stiffening interior structure as required. Multiple BuckyBots can work in concert to speed construction. They would work autonomously, requiring little supervision.

Currently, I’m modifying a RepRap Mendel to crawl. Then, I plan to have it build a 2 meter diameter hemisphere on the nice, level concrete floor of my garage (I’ll draw a 2 m circle on the slab for it to follow for the first course ‘round. Then, I’ll take it outside and teach it to work over open ground while building a 10 meter diameter hemisphere. From there, I’ll double the diameter of each succeeding dome until I can’t make it work anymore, or I reach 1,000 meters diameter (maybe rent a dry lake out west from the BLM).

I better hurry, I turn 60 this year.

EVERYTHING will be open-source and posted for all. All hardware and software will use open-source tools. I love the penguin….

VISIT www.ranarchy.org  FOR DETAILS ON THE BUCKYBOT Read more »

Components
  • 1 × RepRap Mendel Hardware (piece at a time from ebay) was gonna use steppers and wade's extruder, but thought better of it (too heavy)
  • 1 × Arduinos (Nano, Uno, & Mega) To act as master, sends postional data out to all microcontollers over serial comms
  • 7 × PIC24F08 microcontroller1 one for each leg (6), and the orientation board
  • 1 × Custom Orientation/Navigation Board (see www.ranarchy.org) Will be posting this schematic and parts list as I get it built. Has GPS, compass, accelerometers...
  • 1 × Vlad's Hexabot Design from GrabCad gonna steal from grabCAD, but use my own actuators
  • 1 × micro-extruder of pretty much my own design uses a cheap vibrator motor to cram the filament into the nozzle
  • 1 × wireless comms central processor (probably a laptop) monitors Bot position(s) and issues orientation commands
  • 6 × Servo Control boards for legs Each PCB is approx 30 mm x 15 mm. See log for link to design data. Chec it out at: http://www.ranarchy.org/SERVO%20BOARD.html
  • 1 × Omega KHLV-0502 Kapton heater for the extruder heating element to turn ABS to putty
  • 6 × F6-14M Thrust Bearings Each Leg needs a thrust Bearing between it and the Spyder Chassis. http://www.astbearings.com/product.html?product=F6-14M

See all components

Project logs
  • Integrating Extruder Design with HexaBot Spyder

    4 days ago • 0 comments

    This is how it fits generally with the spyder.  The extruder itself will have 2 DOF (pitch and roll ... yaw not required).  A third DOF will be vertical translation of the extruder.  Examining the geometric transform requirements to print using only these extruder DOF's.  I can use the Spyder motion to provide translation in X,Y, and Z, if and when necessary.  Higher res image and pdf file will be up on ranarchy.org soon.

  • Extruder design almost complete

    4 days ago • 0 comments

    I think the motor is a little overkill, but it also fits the spyder design... for full resolution and/or pdf file, I will add this to ranarchy.org, along with drawing of how it fits into the Spyder/Hexapod portion of the BuckyBot...

  • Extruder Design begun

    9 days ago • 0 comments

    Check out the details as they are posted at: 

    http://www.ranarchy.org/Extruder%20Design.html

View all 32 project logs

Discussions

davedarko wrote 10 days ago null point

Don't be disappointed by the outcome of the first voting! Your project seems to be very ambiguous and as soon as you will post a video of a crawling 3D printing hexapod it will change. Right now you are setting the first milestones as it seems and this may occur not as far developed as the projects of the top 15 list, so they might be skeptical about it's outcome. Just keep on working on it, find some guys who want to make more out of their hexapods to join you and post updates, videos, pictures, notes, sketches and stuff. I hope you don't feel offended by an arduino-blinky-stuff-developing greenhorn, but you should not look to the left and right but on your project :) I believe in your 3D printing hexapod! Good luck with it!

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coxrandy wrote 10 days ago 1 point

I concur ... hope that will be the case. These are all really cool projects, with obviously clever protagonists, but how do they measure up to the stated goals of the contest? Regardless, TheHackadayPrize has spurred me into actually putting BuckyBot theory into practice, which I plan to continue REGARDLESS of the competition outcome.

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coxrandy wrote 15 days ago null point

I gotta say, I'm kinda dissapointed in the voting so far ... BuckyBot wasn't even listed in the top 15 concepts. I thought the Hackaday Prize was trying to promote culture-changing hacks. It makes me wonder what's wrong with the concept? Just too far a stretch for believability?

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ehughes wrote 11 days ago null point

I say nothing! I am also a bit disappointed with the number of things that are at the top of the list. I am not sure we another Arduino dev board controlling some leds, etc. As far as the voting, it seemed that the questions they post (Which project most likely to be used in another project) might bias the results. I think questions like these don't represent the best projects for this topic space. I.E. Big/new ideas can sometimes be hard to recognize next to the 100 other project that more of the same.

I honestly think it will work itself out by the time the the official judges get to it.

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Adam Fabio wrote 17 days ago null point

Thanks for entering The Hackaday Prize! I'm following buckybot closely! Awesome stuff.
Usually I say don't forget to update - but with 26 updates as of this comment, i'd say you're doing pretty darn good :) Keep up the good work, and good luck on your way to SPaaaaaaace!

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ehughes wrote 21 days ago null point

I really like this "Big" idea. (no pun intended). Good luck!

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coxrandy wrote 21 days ago null point

Yeah, I saw this before on Hackaday. Not nearly as grandiose concept as the Buckybot, though. The more people we get thinking along these lines, the better for us all, isn't it? Power to them...

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zakqwy wrote a month ago null point

Hi Randy--can you start posting more stuff on this page? I'm having trouble finding my way around your website; for example, the link you posted recently for the schematic PDF doesn't appear to work. Any way you can upload all your files to a Dropbox repo and share 'em that way? Maybe a directory structure like this:

- CAD part and assembly model files
- Gerbers and schematic files
- Firmware/code
- BOM spreadsheets
- Pictures, diagrams, etc

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coxrandy wrote a month ago null point

...will make it all better ... I'll either fix the ranarchy.org pages, or make a dropbox. Believe it or not, I have a work breakdown structure for BuckyBot ... just haven't had time to put it up, yet.

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zakqwy wrote a month ago null point

All good man. Looks like you're making great progress!

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coxrandy wrote a month ago null point

added design document (schematic and gerber files)

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coxrandy wrote 2 months ago null point

www.ranarchy.org is up now ... creating content for it ...

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coxrandy wrote 2 months ago null point

There is now a facebook page for the BuckyBot...

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ebaziuk wrote 3 months ago null point

I'm working on something similar, how do I make contact?

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coxrandy wrote 3 months ago null point

drop me a line at: coxrandy@knology.net
I am workin on establishing a website dedicated to the project, so, my contact email for BuckyBots will change in a week or two.

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trev_614 wrote 3 months ago null point

Something like this would have been great for use in containing dust form Chernobyl. I think I read somewhere that they are working on massive steel dome to cover the crumbling reactor building to contain radioactive dust that may be released as the building falls apart.

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coxrandy wrote 3 months ago null point

Please post your suggestions for uses of structures built by BuckyBot here ... I'm trying to accumulate as many as possible. The hack/make community can think of many more than just my old, decrepit neurons can manage ...

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Jake wrote 3 months ago null point

This could have some really cool applications in 3rd world countries, for buildings after disasters, disaster protection in the first place, and loads more! Can't wait to see how this turns out:)

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coxrandy wrote 3 months ago null point

...sorry, that should be tornado....looks like tomato, doesn't it? Imagine a one Km tomato...

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coxrandy wrote 3 months ago null point

Many reasons to do it. Reduce heat loss, sequester pollutants, protect from weather, reduce solar insolation. dome doesn't have to be solid unless you put a skin on it. Read my description, then read "Critical Path" by R. Buckminster Fuller. Doesn't have to be a dome... could be a big cube (if you're a Borg). Heat produced by city produces draft and forces convection if designed properly. Ask the folks in Oklahoma if they would live under a dome that would withstand an F5 tornato...

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coxrandy wrote 3 months ago null point

Many reasons to do it. Reduce heat loss, sequester pollutants, protect from weather, reduce solar insolation. dome doesn't have to be solid unless you put a skin on it. Read my description, then read "Critical Path" by R. Buckminster Fuller. Doesn't have to be a dome... could be a big cube (if you're a Borg). Heat produced by city produces draft and forces convection if designed properly. Ask the folks in Oklahoma if they would live under a dome that would withstand an F5 tornato...

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dave.m.mcdonough wrote 3 months ago null point

Interesting concept, but WHY would you want a dome over the whole city? It seems like a really efficient way to create a dangerously bad air environment.

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ianlee74 wrote 3 months ago null point

I love this idea!

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boby828 wrote 3 months ago null point

Sounds pretty awesome! simple solution that can potentially be really useful and hasn't really ever been done, GO FOR IT!

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Aleksandar Bradic wrote 3 months ago 1 point

wow! can't wait to see this one :)

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