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MAKER: Applications of 3-D Printing and Laser Cutting in the Development of Autonomous Robotics

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





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Make It!

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Paper Authors


William F Cohen OSU Department of Engineering Education

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William Cohen is a graduate teaching assistant for the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors program at The Ohio State University: a 2 semester course sequence for first-year engineering students focusing on programming in C/C++ and MATLAB, computer aided drawing in SolidWorks, and a 10 week autonomous robot design project. William has also received his B.S. in Chemical Engineering and M.S. in Nuclear Engineering from Ohio State.

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Jacob J. Enders The Ohio State University

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Jacob J. Enders is a Biomedical Engineering honors student at The Ohio State University and an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors program. He is a member of the Eminence Fellows scholarship program and is a research assistant studying cancer cell migration and metastasis using DNA force sensors. He will graduate with his B.S.B.M.E. in May 2018.

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Kelly L. Kolotka The Ohio State University

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B.S. Chemical Engineering, Minor: Biomedical Engineering, Class of 2018
Undergraduate Teaching Assistant for the FEH program
Department of Engineering Education

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Richard J. Freuler The Ohio State University

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Richard J. Freuler is the Director for the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors (FEH) Program in the OSU Department of Engineering Education. He teaches the two-semester FEH engineering course sequence and is active in engineering education research. He is also a Professor of Practice in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department and conducts scale model investigations of gas turbine installations for jet engine test cells and for marine and industrial applications of gas turbines at the Aerospace Research Center at Ohio State. Dr. Freuler earned his Bachelor of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering (1974), his B.S. in Computer and Information Science (1974), his M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering (1974), and his Ph.D. in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering (1991) all from The Ohio State University.

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Deborah M. Grzybowski The Ohio State University

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Dr. Deborah Grzybowski is a Professor of Practice in the Department of Engineering Education and the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at The Ohio State University. She received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering and her B.S. and M.S. in Chemical Engineering from The Ohio State University. Her research focuses on making engineering accessible to all students, including students with visual impairments, through the use of art-infused curriculum and models. Prior to becoming focused on student success and retention, her research interests included regulation of intracranial pressure and transport across the blood-brain barrier in addition to various ocular-cellular responses to fluid forces and the resulting implications in ocular pathologies.

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This paper demonstrates the efficacy of 3D printing and laser cutting for the customization of components in an autonomous robotic design project for first-year undergraduate engineering students. Interdisciplinary four-person student teams are challenged to design, build, and program a completely autonomous robot capable of performing a series of tasks which may include pushing buttons, flipping switches, distinguishing colored LED lights, and lifting, transporting and depositing objects. Additionally, robots must fit within a 9x9 inch footprint and be no more than 12 inches tall.

The use of 3D printing and laser cutting technology is provided to students to create custom chassis and unique mechanisms in order to build a robot fully capable of performing the given set of tasks. Students are concurrently taught the fundamentals of Computer Aided Drawing to aid in the design of the robot and of each individual component.

In this project, laser cutting is generally used as a means of creating a custom chassis. Only two materials, acrylic and laminated wood, are recommended to students for laser cutting. Students must provide a 2D vector graphic file of the desired part to the laser cutting technician in order for the piece to be completed. By utilizing the accuracy of the laser, chassis can be specifically designed based on the choices of drive train, motors, and other sensors and mechanisms.

3D printing is utilized to create mechanisms and other custom parts tailored for the specific set of tasks given for the project. Students are limited to using 100 grams of PLA filament for printing. The use of 3D printing has been evidently useful to students with ideas for unique, and frequently multipurpose, mechanisms. The ability to quickly create complex shapes that would otherwise be difficult to fabricate has increased the level of complexity and efficiency in students’ designs.

Each team is given an in-house prefabricated microcontroller to power and control the robot. The controller includes an array of DC motor, servo motor, and digital and analog I/O ports, which may be used to control the drivetrain and all sensors and mechanisms on the robot. Software to control the microcontroller is written in C++ using prewritten libraries specific to each port and its possible functions.

The project teaches the user mechanical design, electronic design, programming, CAD, preparation of a working drawing set, documentation, and teamwork. It helps the user to recognize the importance of a multidisciplinary team approach to product design.

This paper will provide the details for several prototype robots developed by student teams in a ten-week design build challenge. The goal of this paper is to present sufficient detail about the design build project to allow others to successfully develop a similar project.

Cohen, W. F., & Enders, J. J., & Kolotka, K. L., & Freuler, R. J., & Grzybowski, D. M. (2016, June), MAKER: Applications of 3-D Printing and Laser Cutting in the Development of Autonomous Robotics Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25605

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