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The Inspiration

I was initially challenged by the idea of producing precise inflatable shapes with Mylar for my soft robots class, I did some iterations with the laser cut that worked great but I have to do all the sealing by hand with an ironing tip that is normally used for arts and crafts projects.

In my research I came across two interesting projects, the first book was about creating artwork pieces with cut pieces of fabric using a soldering tip, all the process is done by hand and the author created intricate patterns with this technique.

Also, the project developed by MIT Media Lab: aeroMorph, uses a robot to obtain origami inflatable forms.

The Proposal

I wanted to have a robot that helped me in the creation of seal inflatable shapes made of Mylar.

After a conversation with my XYZ teacher Ben Light, we determined that the best approach will be to use the current technology available and adapt to my requirements. We decide between the X-Carve and the Axi Draw, choosing the last one.

The Axi-Draw

A simple and precise plotter that draws and write on any surface.

After using and exploring this robot, I loved the precision, and smoothness of its mechanism. It can be controlled with the Inkscape software which allows the creation of any design.

When working with the Mylar for the inflatables structures there is a need for two processes: 1- to seal the two layers of material and 2- to cut the final shape, these two processes give us the idea of integrating the use of two machines, positioning in a way that allowed me to seal and cut the Mylar without moving the material.

First Iteration

For this first prototype, I needed to raise the level of the robots in order to have more vertical space to place the ironing tip. I used materials that I already have, a plywood base, and 3'inch wood cubes from a previous project. glass from a frame and an iron tip

I started working with one Axidraw, studying the movement and the force and heat necessary to hold the two layers of material together

The Creation Process

It was necessary to create a sturdy base to attach the robot and limit from falling over the material, initially, I thought about securing the axidraw to the cubes with metal l shapes but quickly dismissed this idea after realizing that the placement of the two machines should be very precise to obtain a precise final piece.

Then I studied the architecture of the AxiDraw and made a technical draw in illustrator, the AxiDraw has 2 metal plates underneath that act as legs, these metal plates are attached with two M4 screws.

I also determined the maximum ratio of the plotter movement in order to place the two robots using an inverse proportion.

I decided to use 1/4 thin acrylic as the base for the machines, which gave me the desirable structure and stabilization for the AxiDraw.

I created all the necessary files in illustrator for the laser cut

The Fabrication Process

I laser cut the acrylic, etch a 1x1' grid in the wood base, and also etch guides for the placement of the 3' wood cubes.

Pasted and screwed the cubes accordingly, then I place this piece back in the laser cut in order to etch a guide mark for the holes of the screws.

After doing the initial holes in the cubes I cover them with a silver gorilla tape to follow the aesthetic aspect of my design. Then I painted the base with a thin layer of acrylic silver paint and I replace the original pen holder attachment with a tube clamp that helped me to hold the ironing tip.

I attached the two AxiDraws to the acrylic following the placement of the underneath screws and the holes previously done in the acrylic. Then I place this piece over the base and cubes and attached it with screws following the marked guidelines.

I took the piece of glass and cover the edges with black gorilla tape then I placed it in the center over the etched grid line. Ultimately, I created a foam template that will help me to hold in place the material over the base.

"Voila" the hot dancers were ready to rock!

Having everything in place I started experimenting with the InkScape software and studying the synchronization of the two AxiDraws, ...Ops! I crashed them.

I Used two computers as the Inkscape can only control one machine at a time. I timed the reaction time of each one and implement The "#2 follows the #1" rule to sync the print button on each computer and have these robots do the "square Dance" precisely and whit 0 crashes.

As a further development, I will tune the tip level and the heat control and will develop a series of inflatable Mylar designs for my soft robots class final.


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