Pakistani Students Create 3D Printed Mobile Obstacle Avoidance Robots with Help from LearnOBots

learnobots3From my talks with several CEOs of large 3D printing companies, one topic always comes up, one that many of these companies are very passionate about. That topic is 3D printing in schools. It is inevitable that 3D printing will make its way into schools all around the world, but the question that remains is, “when?” Many schools in the United States, Europe, and Asia are already implementing 3D printing into the classroom environment, but the one major obstacle that still remains is that of utilization. How do educators build lesson plans and curricula around the technology in a way that will benefit students not only today, but in the future as well?

Pakistan is an up-and-coming nation when it comes to education. The country still maintains a very high illiteracy rate, but those numbers are tarnished by the older generations. School-aged children have a literacy rate almost twice that of their parents and grandparents.

learnobotsMany schools in Pakistan are really beginning to do an excellent job at modernizing the education system. Schools are beginning to focus more on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) curricula, and in doing so, technology has become a big part of education. One research company in particular, called LearnOBots, seems to be at the forefront of introducing technology into the classroom environment, and 3D printing is a big part of their ideology.

“LearnOBots was founded to inspire Pakistani kids towards STEAM education,” explained LearnOBots’ co-founder Shamyl Bin Mansoor to 3DPrint.com. “We use open source software and open source hardware to create products that we use to teach kids about STEAM. In Pakistan buying toys, tools and electronics that are usually imported is very difficult for most people as it is usually expensive due to additional import costs and tax. Our goal is to make technology and tools accessible locally so that we can inspire kids through Maker Education. 3D printing is helping us build these tools locally instead of mass manufacturing or importing from China.”

3D printing is huge for LearnOBots, and is increasingly so for Pakistan as a country. LearnOBots has teamed with schools to offer interesting workshops for educating children using 3D printing technology. While LearnOBots offers five different workshops for schools, including construction of LEGO Mindstorm Robot kits, the assembly of electronic snapcircuits, and the creation of solar houses, 3D printing also plays a major role. Two workshops in particular are based around 3D printing, one being a workshop on creating 3D printed mobile robots.

learnobots5Using a RepRap Prusa i3 FFF-based 3D printer, LearnOBots 3D prints a mobile robot from Thingiverse. Then they add Arduino to it, as well as several sensors. This goes along with a curriculum that they developed which teaches kids the basics about robotics and electronics.

“We also teach kids 3D modeling, using TinkerCad from AutoDesk,” Mansoor told us. “There are a number of useful tutorials that help the kids in quickly grasping concepts like creating basic shapes, moving around in the 3D environment, handling the camera, etc. The kids then design their own model which they 3D print on the printer. Our goal is to promote a local maker community that not only uses 3D printing, but [also] learns to make stuff, and as a result learns all about STEAM.”

The latest project was the aforementioned 3D printed mobile robots which are constructed to work their way around obstacles. After building and programming their robots, students race them to see whose can get to the finish line first. See video below:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xMUO4S2L2M?rel=0]

This provides students with a means of education that is both useful and fun at the same time. It should be interesting to see how this develops over the next few years, as Pakistan’s school system is definitely improving, thanks in part to workshops like those provided by LearnOBots.

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What do you think? Should more schools around the world be utilizing 3D printing technology like LearnOBots is doing in Pakistan? Discuss in the 3D Printed Mobile Obstacle Avoidance Robot forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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3&Dbot Mobile 3D Printer Has No Print Volume Limitations

puc-1What is one of the most important aspects of a 3D printer, according to consumers? Usually the build volume comes in at, or near the top of the list. Ranked up there with speed and resolution, the ability to print large objects without being confined to a small space is what many 3D printing enthusiasts lust over. The problem is, that currently, technology makes it very expensive if you wish to acquire the capabilities to print giant objects, not to mention the space one needs to house a giant delta-style, or Cartesian based 3D printer.

We have seen dozens of large-volume printers, both for the consumer segment of the market as well as for the manufacturing segment. The facts are that, using current technologies, one will always be limited by the size of the printer’s frame which acts as a housing for all the components that the extruder is attached to. Unless an entirely new system of 3D printing is established, we will always be limited in build volume, based on the price we are willing to spend to enlarge the printer itself.

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One design lab, located in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, called PUC-Rio, has decided that such limitations should not exist within this rapidly growing industry. They have come up with a solution which could very well be the future path towards the elimination of size constraints during the 3D printing process.

puc-5What they have created is a mobile 3D printing technology, which simply put, is ingenious. The printer, called the 3&Dbot, is tethered to a base with four wheels. The entire printer itself moves dependent on the print data fed to it by a computer. Described as an autonomous 3D printing robot, the machine is capable of printing without any constraints. Wherever the computer tells it to print, as long as it’s a flat surface, it has the capability to do so. The only constraint to the entire system is the height in which it can print, which could easily be modified to include a Z-axis extension for higher objects.

The 3&Dbot features an Arduino micro-controller with wireless communication, four industrial omni wheels, and TUIO fiducial markers. The extruder on this machine is not heated, but easily could be modified as well, to include a heating element. It is capable of printing in a variety of materials including ceramics, modeling clay, and any paste-like substances currently available.

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Just imagine if this technology were to be scaled up a bit. We could see printers tethered to tractor-like machines, capable of printing in cement for the fabrication of structures such as homes. This is certainly a very exciting new direction in which 3D printing could eventually be headed. It will be interesting to see if this technology is expanded upon and improved, as I imagine that accuracy is not quite where it would need to be for precise fabrication.

Let’s hear your thoughts on this exciting new 3D printing technology, in the 3&Dbot mobile printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.  Check out the video below of this incredible machine in action.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKYm3g-z4Zw]

Imaged: Designboom.com

Imaged: Designboom.com

[Imaged Sources: DesignBoom]

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