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BuckyBot

A Mobile 3D printer to build Megastructures

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

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...

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  • 1 × Arduino Mega To act as master, sends postional data out to all microcontollers over serial comms
  • 1 × Shield Board for Arduino Mega I designed a shield board that adds all the functions for orientation, navigation, communication, and servo driving to one stack
  • 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 Have redesigned vertually everything from this design, but it's still basically Vlad's concept of a Hexapod
  • 1 × micro-extruder of pretty much my own design vacuum-jacketted to conserve energy, a real screw-type extruder

View all 16 components

  • No soup for BuckyBot in 2015

    Ranarchy04/08/2015 at 13:21 0 comments

    Well, shit. Since BuckyBot was a quarter-finalist in 2014, we're locked out of the 2015 competition. Rules is rules...

    Is OK, though. We continue with mega-domes. When we can start to actually build things with a BuckyBot, we intend to crowd source.

    So, stay tuned, skullers ...

  • Screw Google...

    Ranarchy04/06/2015 at 15:58 0 comments

    ... they just told me I'm too old to work on their UAV's.

  • Progress Since 2014

    Ranarchy04/03/2015 at 18:48 0 comments

    1. I have a new circuit board that does the bot location and orientation. It has GPS, a compass, 3-axis accelerometer, 3-axis gyros, and a barometer. All on a board 4.5 cm x 3.5 cm (roughly). The design will shortly be available on the ranarchy.com pages. Also, the bare boards will be available to the public at Cheap Dirty Boards.

    2. The LED controller to drive the leg servos didn't work out. Instead, I'm making a board using 18 one-shots and a good-ole 555-timer (with digital pots to control the servo pulse-width) that should drive the six legs of the BuckyBot.

    3. Extruder for the bot is almost complete. Most of this development will be parallel with the rest of the effort.

  • Is that a hint?

    Ranarchy04/03/2015 at 18:27 0 comments

    I haven't gotten around to entering the 2015 prize competition yet. So, I assume maybe the April 3 link on the blog might be a subtle suggestion. So, OK, we'll try again for 2015.

    Using transparent plastic or glass filament (in a clear epoxy matix), BuckyBot SHOULD be able to make a transparent/translucent dome and make a greenhouse.

    We've already explored solar distillation: Build a translucent dome over a salt lake/shallow bay. Sunlight warms up the water under the dome -- increasing humidity. At night, the dome inside surface will collect dew, which runs down the underside to the base of the dome. Fresh water from salt water! Catch basins around the base collect and hold the H2O.

  • MidSouthCon 33

    Ranarchy03/02/2015 at 21:38 0 comments

    Will be a panelist at MidSouthCon 33 upcoming in Memphis, March 20-22 if anybody wants to drop by.

  • New video available on youtube

    Ranarchy10/16/2014 at 21:51 0 comments

    In my opinion, it kicks ass... link over in the links list of this page. otherwise:

    http://youtu.be/uCyOZEDgA9U

  • everything moot! It's over...

    Ranarchy10/13/2014 at 18:48 0 comments

    ... and congratulations to the five semifinalists ...

    ... as for BuckyBot, it's on to kickstarter ...

    ... will maintain the project here, however.

  • Kick-Ass Video

    Ranarchy10/13/2014 at 15:58 0 comments

    Well, since I screwed-up posting my "completed" systems design document on Sept. 28, I've decided to run amok, and present a visceral, kick'em-in-the ... uh ... teeth! ... yea, teeth! ... video as a response to the "promotional" video requirement for Oct. 27. It is unclear to me if considered contestants will we "invited" to submit such a video, or if it is a requirement for continued consideration. It should all be over by then, I think.

    Regardless, I'll post it way before then ... maybe this coming weekend. My video editing is limited to Kdenlive and openshot and downloaded pics and vids. "Damnit Jim, I'm an engineer, not a videographer!"

    ... is it just me, or did some of the videos submitted so far look like they spent all their time on the videos rather than their design?

  • Gerbers for Arduino Mega Shield...

    Ranarchy10/03/2014 at 12:46 0 comments

    ... have been placed on the "Electronics Design" page of ranarchy.org. All layers in Gerber files in a zip with the numerical drill file.

  • Replaced the System Design Document ...

    Ranarchy10/01/2014 at 22:12 0 comments

    ...with the document that was finished, but not uploaded by Sept. 28th.  my bad...  Unfortunately, much more comprehensive than the one it replaces ... which was just a place holder (and is what the judges will see).

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Ranarchy wrote 05/07/2014 at 23:13 point
...sorry, that should be tornado....looks like tomato, doesn't it? Imagine a one Km tomato...

  Are you sure? yes | no

Ranarchy wrote 05/07/2014 at 23:12 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...

  Are you sure? yes | no

Ranarchy wrote 05/07/2014 at 23:12 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...

  Are you sure? yes | no

dave.m.mcdonough wrote 05/07/2014 at 22:33 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.

  Are you sure? yes | no

ianlee74 wrote 05/07/2014 at 14:27 point
I love this idea!

  Are you sure? yes | no

boby828 wrote 05/07/2014 at 03:41 point
Sounds pretty awesome! simple solution that can potentially be really useful and hasn't really ever been done, GO FOR IT!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Aleksandar Bradic wrote 05/06/2014 at 20:46 point
wow! can't wait to see this one :)

  Are you sure? yes | no

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