Video Friday: Android Printing

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

4 min read
Video Friday: Android Printing

Your weekly selection of awesome robot videos

Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We'll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here's what we have so far ( send us your events!):

RO-MAN 2021 – August 8-12, 2021 – [Online Event]

DARPA SubT Finals – September 21-23, 2021 – Louisville, KY, USA

WeRobot 2021 – September 23-25, 2021 – Coral Gables, FL, USA

IROS 2021 – September 27-1, 2021 – [Online Event]

ROSCon 2021 – October 21-23, 2021 – New Orleans, LA, USA

Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today's videos.


Designing an actuated android face is complicated and time consuming, but Hiroshi Ishiguro's lab has come up with a system to use a multi-material 3D printer to produce an android head (including skin and mechanical components) all at once. Just shove an actuator pack in the back, and you're good to go.

With 31 degrees of freedom, the idea is that you'd be able to quickly iterate on designs without having to do a bunch of actuator adjustments at the same time.

[ Paper ]

The OSU Dynamic Robotics Laboratory's research team, led by Agility Robotics' Jonathan Hurst, combined expertise from biomechanics and robot controls with new machine learning tools to accomplish something new: train a bipedal robot to run a full 5K on a single battery charge!

In preparation for the previous video, Cassie ran a 5k on a turf field, clocking in a (world record?) time of 43:59.

[ Agility Robotics ]

GITAI's prototype lunar rover testing regimen is amazing and ridiculous—and definitely watch until the end.

Please do all of this stuff on the moon. Please?

[ GITAI ]

My advice: mute this video and use the following video as a soundtrack starting at about 50 seconds in.

[ ODRI ]

We all know that in theory, a repetitive motion from a fixed position is not all that hard for robots. But there's a lot of air to cover between the half line and the hoop, right?

[ Toyota ]

Thanks, Harry!

Here's some super cool research presented at RSS, showing some highly dexterous fingertips made of tiny delta robots.

[ Project Page ]

If you missed the drone show at the Olympics opening ceremony, it was sufficiently impressive, with 1824 drones in attendance.

I'm pretty sure I saw at least one drone falling out of the sky, though.

[ NBC ]

The question with UBTECH's Walker X is whether it's going to be another ASIMO (cool to watch but doesn't do much), or something that's, you know, useful.

[ UBTECH ]

We usually think of telepresence as one operator and one robot, but the efficient thing to do is have a human who can be sometimes in the loop for a bunch of different robots. Here's a good start.

[ i-BOTICS ]

Thanks, Fan!

This is a little weird, but I like it!

[ Azumi Maekawa ]

Thanks, Fan!

When you've got too many drones on your drone.

[ NIMBUS Lab ]

Good to see Relay out there Relaying.

[ Savioke ]

Recently, the European Union funded the project PULSAR (Prototype of an Ultra Large Structure Assembly Robot) through the Space Robotic Technologies program within Horizon 2020. PULSAR aims to develop and demonstrate the technology that will allow on-orbit precise assembly of a segmented mirror using an autonomous robotic system.

[ Pulsar ]

I will once again point out that if a kitchen robot can't do prep or cleanup, I don't consider it to be all that useful.

[ Moley ]

Pro tip: You can always tell when someone is trying to sell something to the military when it has generic hard rock as its soundtrack.

[ Lockheed Martin ]

In episode seven of The Robot Brains Podcast, our guest is ABB's Marc Segura. Marc is the Managing Director of consumer segments and service robotics at ABB. In this clip Marc explains the differences between Boston Dynamics' and ABB's robots.

[ Robot Brains ]

I'd suggest skipping through the vast majority of this domino robot video, but the bits where they actually talk about the mechanical stuff are interesting.

[ YouTube ]

Spot, Boston Dynamics quadrupedal robot product, can reliably walk nearly anywhere a human can, but what does it do? While legged mobility is a necessary skill for many use cases, it's not the only requirement for valuable producing applications. This talk will focus on the work we have done to develop Spot for remote and autonomous sensing applications: i) Encapsulating Spot's mobility in an extensible API, ii) Building an autonomous capability, iii) Making it easy to add sensing to build value producing solutions.

[ ICRA Legged Robots ]

The Conversation (0)

The Inner Beauty of Basic Electronics

Open Circuits showcases the surprising complexity of passive components

5 min read
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A photo of a high-stability film resistor with the letters "MIS" in yellow.
All photos by Eric Schlaepfer & Windell H. Oskay
Blue

Eric Schlaepfer was trying to fix a broken piece of test equipment when he came across the cause of the problem—a troubled tantalum capacitor. The component had somehow shorted out, and he wanted to know why. So he polished it down for a look inside. He never found the source of the short, but he and his collaborator, Windell H. Oskay, discovered something even better: a breathtaking hidden world inside electronics. What followed were hours and hours of polishing, cleaning, and photography that resulted in Open Circuits: The Inner Beauty of Electronic Components (No Starch Press, 2022), an excerpt of which follows. As the authors write, everything about these components is deliberately designed to meet specific technical needs, but that design leads to “accidental beauty: the emergent aesthetics of things you were never expected to see.”

From a book that spans the wide world of electronics, what we at IEEE Spectrum found surprisingly compelling were the insides of things we don’t spend much time thinking about, passive components. Transistors, LEDs, and other semiconductors may be where the action is, but the simple physics of resistors, capacitors, and inductors have their own sort of splendor.

High-Stability Film Resistor

A photo of a high-stability film resistor with the letters "MIS" in yellow.

All photos by Eric Schlaepfer & Windell H. Oskay

This high-stability film resistor, about 4 millimeters in diameter, is made in much the same way as its inexpensive carbon-film cousin, but with exacting precision. A ceramic rod is coated with a fine layer of resistive film (thin metal, metal oxide, or carbon) and then a perfectly uniform helical groove is machined into the film.

Instead of coating the resistor with an epoxy, it’s hermetically sealed in a lustrous little glass envelope. This makes the resistor more robust, ideal for specialized cases such as precision reference instrumentation, where long-term stability of the resistor is critical. The glass envelope provides better isolation against moisture and other environmental changes than standard coatings like epoxy.

15-Turn Trimmer Potentiometer

A photo of a blue chip
A photo of a blue chip on a circuit board.

It takes 15 rotations of an adjustment screw to move a 15-turn trimmer potentiometer from one end of its resistive range to the other. Circuits that need to be adjusted with fine resolution control use this type of trimmer pot instead of the single-turn variety.

The resistive element in this trimmer is a strip of cermet—a composite of ceramic and metal—silk-screened on a white ceramic substrate. Screen-printed metal links each end of the strip to the connecting wires. It’s a flattened, linear version of the horseshoe-shaped resistive element in single-turn trimmers.

Turning the adjustment screw moves a plastic slider along a track. The wiper is a spring finger, a spring-loaded metal contact, attached to the slider. It makes contact between a metal strip and the selected point on the strip of resistive film.

Ceramic Disc Capacitor

A cutaway of a Ceramic Disc Capacitor
A photo of a Ceramic Disc Capacitor

Capacitors are fundamental electronic components that store energy in the form of static electricity. They’re used in countless ways, including for bulk energy storage, to smooth out electronic signals, and as computer memory cells. The simplest capacitor consists of two parallel metal plates with a gap between them, but capacitors can take many forms so long as there are two conductive surfaces, called electrodes, separated by an insulator.

A ceramic disc capacitor is a low-cost capacitor that is frequently found in appliances and toys. Its insulator is a ceramic disc, and its two parallel plates are extremely thin metal coatings that are evaporated or sputtered onto the disc’s outer surfaces. Connecting wires are attached using solder, and the whole assembly is dipped into a porous coating material that dries hard and protects the capacitor from damage.

Film Capacitor

An image of a cut away of a capacitor
A photo of a green capacitor.

Film capacitors are frequently found in high-quality audio equipment, such as headphone amplifiers, record players, graphic equalizers, and radio tuners. Their key feature is that the dielectric material is a plastic film, such as polyester or polypropylene.

The metal electrodes of this film capacitor are vacuum-deposited on the surfaces of long strips of plastic film. After the leads are attached, the films are rolled up and dipped into an epoxy that binds the assembly together. Then the completed assembly is dipped in a tough outer coating and marked with its value.

Other types of film capacitors are made by stacking flat layers of metallized plastic film, rather than rolling up layers of film.

Dipped Tantalum Capacitor

A photo of a cutaway of a Dipped Tantalum Capacitor

At the core of this capacitor is a porous pellet of tantalum metal. The pellet is made from tantalum powder and sintered, or compressed at a high temperature, into a dense, spongelike solid.

Just like a kitchen sponge, the resulting pellet has a high surface area per unit volume. The pellet is then anodized, creating an insulating oxide layer with an equally high surface area. This process packs a lot of capacitance into a compact device, using spongelike geometry rather than the stacked or rolled layers that most other capacitors use.

The device’s positive terminal, or anode, is connected directly to the tantalum metal. The negative terminal, or cathode, is formed by a thin layer of conductive manganese dioxide coating the pellet.

Axial Inductor

An image of a cutaway of a Axial Inductor
A photo of a collection of cut wires

Inductors are fundamental electronic components that store energy in the form of a magnetic field. They’re used, for example, in some types of power supplies to convert between voltages by alternately storing and releasing energy. This energy-efficient design helps maximize the battery life of cellphones and other portable electronics.

Inductors typically consist of a coil of insulated wire wrapped around a core of magnetic material like iron or ferrite, a ceramic filled with iron oxide. Current flowing around the core produces a magnetic field that acts as a sort of flywheel for current, smoothing out changes in the current as it flows through the inductor.

This axial inductor has a number of turns of varnished copper wire wrapped around a ferrite form and soldered to copper leads on its two ends. It has several layers of protection: a clear varnish over the windings, a light-green coating around the solder joints, and a striking green outer coating to protect the whole component and provide a surface for the colorful stripes that indicate its inductance value.

Power Supply Transformer

A photo of a collection of cut wires
A photo of a yellow element on a circuit board.

This transformer has multiple sets of windings and is used in a power supply to create multiple output AC voltages from a single AC input such as a wall outlet.

The small wires nearer the center are “high impedance” turns of magnet wire. These windings carry a higher voltage but a lower current. They’re protected by several layers of tape, a copper-foil electrostatic shield, and more tape.

The outer “low impedance” windings are made with thicker insulated wire and fewer turns. They handle a lower voltage but a higher current.

All of the windings are wrapped around a black plastic bobbin. Two pieces of ferrite ceramic are bonded together to form the magnetic core at the heart of the transformer.

This article appears in the February 2023 print issue.

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