Thursday, February 21, 2019

First automated robot assembly

This month saw the first important milestone toward Autonomous Robot Evolution: the Bristol and York team demonstrated automated assembly of a complete working robot, from evolved and 3D printed parts. In essence we demonstrated one robot assembling another.

Our evolved robots consist of 3 elements:

* pre-designed modules which we call organs (for sensors, actuators, controllers, etc),
* an evolved and 3D printed skeleton, and
* cables (with 3.5mm jack plugs) to connect the organs and the controller.

Note that the organs are not evolved but hand designed; the rationale for this approach is outlined here.

Here are 3 basic organs:

On the left is a sensor, in the middle a controller and on the right a motor + wheel assembly.

And here are screenshots from the video showing the steps involved:

Step 1 shows the skeleton in the process of 3D printing. In step 2 the skeleton has been manually moved from the print bed onto the assembly area: note the organ and cable bank at the back of the assembly area. Step 3 shows the robot arm inserting the organs into the skeleton. Step 4 shows the robot arm connecting the cables. Step 5 shows the wheels being manually added, and in step 6 the robot is complete. Step 7 shows the assembled robot powered and running.

And here is the complete video:

Our aim is of course to automate the whole process and right now the team are working on the two problems of (1) how to remove the 3D printed skeleton from the print bed ready for transfer to the assembly area, and (2) how best to secure the skeleton in the assembly area ready for the processes outlined above.

Related blog posts:

Autonomous Robot Evolution: from cradle to grave (July 2018)
Autonomous Robot Evolution: first challenges (Oct 2018)