Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Transforming Tardis: Many more photos

  Since being uploaded to Thingiverse and discovered by the internet, my transforming Tardis toy has attracted a lot more attention than I expected.  I designed the toy as a challenge to myself, and as a fun project to keep my mind busy during a week off work with not much else to do.  My creation has been covered by cnet, Topless Robot, 3ders, technabob, neatorama, and other places, as well as rising straight to the first page on the Popular Things list on Thingiverse.  And they're all using the same quick photo sets I took on our front porch, with that same dirty worn plastic bench as a backdrop.

 I wasn't expecting this sudden level of internet fame.  Had I been, I would have taken some better photos in the first place.  Here's an attempt to rectify that.

The transformation sequence starts with folding down the legs.  The heels swing back and latch into the ankles to form the feet.

Swing the hips forward, line up the feet, and the robot can wobbily stand.  Now the shoulders fold out from behind the torso, and the hands slide forwards.  Incidentally, hands are really hard to draw in AutoCAD. 
Now the head comes out of the torso.  I experimented with several different methods to make this work, trying to make the head as large as possible.  The first revision head was about half this size, and looked ridiculously out-of-scale with the rest of the robot. Sliding the entire top panel aside let me make the head take up most of the free space inside the torso.  The head has a fairly complex movement, swinging forward on a pivot while also sliding upwards on a shaft, while at the same time two little doors on the sides of the police-box swing back and close off the open back of the torso.

The bowtie comes out at the same time as the head.  Of course the robot has a bowtie.  Bowties are cool.

 Pull the head firmly upwards, and then slide the panels shut, and the transformation is done.

 It can even stand on its own, provided you very carefully balance it.  The hip joints are too loose, despite several attempts to make plastic springs and friction locks.  It's just too top-heave and falls over easily.  I managed to get it to stand in place long enough to take these photos.

 Sitting down is easier.  Taking the weight off your feet is the right of all sentient beings.

The only parts of this toy that wasn't printed on my 3D printer are the 'police box' labels above the windows, and the plaque by the front door.  These were printed on construction paper and glued in place.  That didn't work quite as well as Id hoped - the glue damaged the ink on the plaque, and the police box labels don't stick well.  I need to find a way to print on actual stickers.

 From the back, you can see that the legs are make up mostly of hollow sections of exterior paneling.  I tried to design the transformation sequence to have a minimum of 'kibble' - pieces only functional during one mode and just hanging out getting in the way in the other - and to be as mechanically solid as possible.  I had to compromise a bit on the legs, there's not much I could do with the extra bits of wall panels that needed to get folded away somewhere.  I am proud of the way the ankle and heel hook together - it locks solidly enough that the bot can stand on the feet easily, and both those hooks also lock to other parts to help hold the shell together when it's in Tardis mode.

The head is on the end of a complex bit of plastic that also connects to the flat black plate that carries one of the 'police box' labels.  When transforming back into a Tardis, the shoulders swing back and tuck under this bar.  It's a bit tricky the first few times you try, but really helps lock the body together.

It can sort of stand even in this mode, but has to lie down to finish transforming the legs.  The feet and legs unfold and wrap around to make the bottom of the box.
And now it's a Tardis again.  Looks completely natural, except for the large seams and joints everywhere.  I tried to work with the natural form of the Tardis, using existing joints and breaks in the structure, but there's only so much I can do. 

Finishing this project this week was lucky timing.  There are at least three other attempts to make a Tardis Transformer that I've seen (although I didn't know about any of them when I started this project) one of which was just published this week.  Complete coincidence that we all were working on the same idea at the same time.  I think my design is the only one to be completely 3D-printable and held together without using any glue or screws.  Most importantly, I was the first to publish and get media attention.  Just lucky that the timing worked out this way.

I have had a lot of requests from people who want to buy these.  I'm not sure if that will ever be able to happen.  This toy infringes on two different well-protected intellectual properties, and I have no desire to have copyright lawyers after me.  It's also complicated to build, takes a lot of plastic to print, and really wobbly and fragile in the hip and knee joints.  That part I can do something about - I have a scaled-down version under design that will have about half as many parts and hopefully more robust legs- but I certainly can't set up a storefront or advertise online to sell them.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Making Tardis Prime

I haven't been posting much about my 3D printer lately mostly because I've been busy printing things with it.  The printer itself hasn't changed much since my last post - the biggest upgrade I've made was switching to a geared extruder motor to solve some overheating issues, and installing a Raspberry Pi print server so I can print over the wifi and don't need to keep my laptop physically plugged in to the printer.

What I have been doing with the printer is using it.  I've made custom toys, sculpture, artwork and a few useful things for around home.  Several of my better creations I've put up on Thingiverse.

My most recent creation is this:

This started a month ago after I saw someone wearing this T-shirt.  I can't look at something like that and not immediately start figuring out how to make it actually work.  I grabbed the 3D files for a printed Tardis box off Thingiverse and spent a few days figuring out how to turn it into a robot.

This turned out to be a much bigger project than I expected.  The resulting Transformer has over 70 printed parts and over a pound of plastic.  Designing and printing it, including several batches of failed prototype parts, used up most of a new reel of blue filament from Inventibles.  It came out a lot larger than I expected.  It was also a lot of fun to design and build - I'm getting a real hand for making complex 3D objects in AutoCAD, and being able to design a part, send it to the printer, and then have the actual finished piece an hour later is just amazing.  Getting a 3D printer was the best decision I've made in quite a while.

This toy is the first thing I've uploaded to Thingiverse to be Features, which was nice.  It's also getting a lot of attention on various tech blogs and news sites.  I do have to reiterate that the original idea was not mine and I wouldn't have started on this at all if I hadn't seen Jason Casteel's original artwork.  I just figured out how to actually make it work.

The current version is good enough to show off and upload to Thingiverse, but there's still room for improvement.  The hip joints are kind of weak and the torso is top-heavy enough that it doesn't reliably stand up on its own (which is why I have it leaning against a wall in the above shot).  I'm already working on designing a scaled-down, simpler, and more robust version.  If that goes well, I may have these on sale at the Geek Creation Show in August.