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Rotating and Lifting Head Pt1
Friday, 10 August 2007

ImageThis is the first part of my 914 rotating AND lifting head mod. I'm showing it as I build it, but I'm pretty confident it will work so look out for part two!. All designed and built by James - 914pcbots.com Admin.

Having been quite inspired by Dave Evan's 914 rotating head mod - as I think most people were, I decided to have a go myself. But, I also wanted a place to fit extra sensors so they could scan around, as well as a place to mount my IP web cams without removing the USB web cam in the 914's eye.

I decided it would be quite cool if the head could lift up as well as rotate. This would enable sensors and accessories to be housed under the head and for them to look outwards when the head was raised, if the whole lot rotated too then this would fill all my requirements. This would also allow many possibilities for future expansion of the 914 - and I wouldn't have to cut or drill the plastics. Sounds like a good plan right?... but then it was time to work out how to do it...

Firstly I ordered some professionally cut plastic parts made from 10mm thick High Density Polythene (HDPE). This is great stuff because it machines easily, but it's very sturdy which means that you can screw it together with machine screws in un-tapped holes and they stay there. I ordered two discs with holes in the middle (two in case I made a mistake with one), and then a whole lot of different width strips all one metre long to make the rest of the parts from.

I used eSheet in the UK for this - they were very helpful and very reasonably priced. I just described what I wanted to them and they cut and delivered it within a few days. I've used a 6" Lazy Susan bearing - the hole in my HDPE disc matches the hole on the bearing so cables can run through the middle. I've removed the top head plate from the chassis which will be permanent in order for the lifting mechanism to be fitted in it's place.

I bought some surplus stepper motors on eBay which are 5V/1A per phase and quite large looking, these will be used for both the rotating and lifting. I decided to use a 'direct drive' method for the rotating part as it was the easiest way to make it work - the steps of the motor are 1.8 degrees so this may be too jerky and I'll have to implement some gear reduction at a later stage - but there's plenty of space in the Bot's top two drive bays for this.

Now it was time to build the lifting part. Obviously the lifting mechanism has to stay parallel and raise vertically, but also collapse to a small space to fit under the head - at the same lifting high enough to be useful. I decided that it should raise up at least 4"/10cm or higher. I used the strips of HDPE to build a scissor-lift style mechanism, all the joints have 6mm bearings and all the cross braces / axis are 6mm threaded steel rod with locking nuts. This sits on top of the rotating disc so everything will rotate as one. The stepper motor is hinged and drives the mechanism up/along with a screw thread which runs inside a long threaded hex nut.

Inside the head shell there is another piece of HDPE fitted to it's very inside-top. This will be the new mounting point for the head plastic, the eye / web cam assembly will also be attached to this instead of mounting to the original head plate. As you can see, the head lifts up just over 4"/10cm and the whole thing rotates. There is more than enough space for the IP web cam and probably a small laser scanner and a lot more. Stuff can be mounted right out to the square corners of the Bot because the head shell rotates too, so no need to stick to the inside of the disc - provided whatever is mounted on there is above the top of the body plastics so it doesn't get caught on the corners.

When the head is down it is still free to rotate, and when the eye assembly is back in there (yes it does fit) it will look just like a standard 914.

The next steps are to check out the rotating stepper motor as it's not yet attached to the rotating top part, sort out the driver electronics and test some software, and generally finish it off cosmetically. I'd like to somehow cover the mechanism with an expanding concertina type of housing so you can't see the lifter when it's raised - although this may prove impractical so alternatively I may just flood the entire underneath with blue LED light.

You can also find all these pictures in the Image Gallery. and watch this space for part two!

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Embrace the 914!
Monday, 06 August 2007

Image

White Box Robotics have several target markets for the 914 PC Bot which are detailed on their website. One of the major markets is of course Education - and the 914 has already found a home in several schools, colleges and universities.

Here's a new piece of marketing material which is hot off the press from White Box Robotics, you can download it here: WhiteBoxRobotics_Education.pdf. This does not yet feature on the White Box Robotics web site, so feel free to pass it to anyone else who may find it interesting.

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914 Comic - Silicon City part 13
Sunday, 05 August 2007
Image Here's this weeks episode of the online 914 comic book which is written and illustrated by C6jones720. Comic episodes are published each week on Mondays and remain archived in the 914 Comic Series section.

This is the thirteenth and final part of the Silicon City story - next week we have a new theme.

Please click on the preview to the right to get this week's episode full size.

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Supercharger Powerpack
Friday, 03 August 2007

ImagePreviously C6Jones720 showed us his inductive in-flight refuelling system. In the ensuing discussion thread, someone suggested using a household kettle to make a direct electrical connection in order to drive more current and power the Bot and therfore charge the batteries at the same time.

Chris has now done just that, and again he has documented his work in a PDF that you can download here: 914SuperchargerPowerpack.pdf

It's often easier to modify an existing product that make something from scratch, but please be very careful with mains outlet powered appliances if you fancy a go yourself - electricity can kill!.

Discuss this article on the forums. (13 posts)

 
Robots Incorporated
Wednesday, 01 August 2007

ImageThere's a long article in IEEE Spectrum about Microsoft's robotics strategy which some of you may find interesting - mainly because it features a big picture of Tandy Trower, the General Manager of Microsoft's Robotics group, along with his White Box Robotics 914 PC Bot.

Also be sure to check out the other associated picture, again featuring the 914 PC Bot, as well as a bunch of other robots.

The article spans five pages which and goes into why and how Microsoft started a robotics division. I can't see much of a mention of the 914, but a picture speaks a thousand words.

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Electronic Design .NET review
Tuesday, 31 July 2007

ImageYou may remember the previous review of the 914 PC Bot which was written by William Wong for Electronic Design.

The previous article mainly focussed on the 914 hardware, so now William has written another article about the software - this time only about the 914 .NET controls provided by White Box Robotics, although I understand there will be a future article about Microsoft Robotics Studio. The review isn't very in-depth, but gives a good overview for those of you who haven't tried the .NET controls, or don't yet own a 914.

The article is in several parts and also features the iRobot Create and Lego Mindstorms. You can check it all out right here.

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914 Comic - Silicon City part 12
Sunday, 29 July 2007
Image Here's this weeks episode of the online 914 comic book which is written and illustrated by C6jones720. Comic episodes are published each week on Mondays and remain archived in the 914 Comic Series section.

This is the twelfth part of the Silicon City story - only one more episode to go.

Please click on the preview to the right to get this week's episode full size.

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K9 Java Control Project
Friday, 27 July 2007

ImageThis is an enthusiast software project that has been submitted by Billy G Moon.

Billy is working on a very interesting Java based 914 control application which he has named K9. This software communicates directly with the 914's M3 controller without using the .NET controls, MS Robotics Studio, Player, or any other existing framework. Billy has made the following downloads available to the community:

K9.zip (388Kb) The complete package containing everything (you can unzip the K9.jar file to get the source and docs)

K9_archive.zip (148Kb) The source and documentation on their own, as well as the compiled Java Classes.

Billy has provided lots of information on the application's usage, options and functionality. I've put all of that into a document which you can download here: K9info.pdf

The only issue I had when running it myself, was that I couldn't get the k9.exe file to work for some reason. However, if you go to a command prompt and run: "java -jar k9.jar" (with no quote marks) then it will work - which Billy tells me is all the k9.exe file does anyway.

I understand that Billy will provide future versions shortly, so watch out for further updates.

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In-flight refuelling
Wednesday, 25 July 2007

ImageYou will probably remember last week's Wireless Battery Charger project that was written by C7Jones720.

Chris has continued with his work on this subject, and has produced another document of his findings so far. You can download it here: In_flight_refuelling.pdf  (190Kb).

I believe Chris is intending to continue working on this as a permanent method of charging his 914, so watch out for future updates.

 

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B R A I N
Monday, 23 July 2007
This is an enthusiast software project written by Dave Evans, which he has named B.R.A.I.N.

Dave has used the White Box Robotics .NET controls to write a control system for his 914 with features such as real time video, speech, and motion detection. You can read about B.R.A.I.N. in full over at Dave's web site, there are some screen shots on this page, and be sure to check out the video too!.

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914 Comic - Silicon City part 11
Sunday, 22 July 2007
Image Here's this weeks episode of the online 914 comic book which is written and illustrated by C6jones720. Comic episodes are published each week on Mondays and remain archived in the 914 Comic Series section.

This the eleventh part of the Silicon City story.

Please click on the preview to the left to get this week's episode full size.



Discuss this article on the forums. (0 posts)
 
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