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Print your own 3D robots

Disney robotsWant to customise and 3D-print your own walking robots? Disney researcher Bernhard Thomaszewski is part of a team that invented software to let you do just that.

1) Drag and drop the skeleton
Create a virtual robot, using the drag-and-drop software to design its skeletal structure.

“So-called ‘bones’ represent the individual body parts and ‘joints’ represent the motors,” Bernhard says.

2) Decide what you want your robot to do
How will it walk? Trot? Canter? Gallop? And what you want the robot to do? Go straight? Speed up? Spin round?

Don’t worry about falling over… the software coordinates your robot’s limbs and its balance, so it can walk.

“My own favourite is the five-legged creature that we designed,” says Bernhard. “I like it because five legs are really unusual and hardly found in nature.”

3Disney robots) Press ‘print’
If you’re happy with how your virtual robot is moving, it’s time to 3D print it. A 3D printer will build the parts, typically by putting down many thin layers of a material until each shape is built.

The average robot needs 15–20 pieces of plastic, which you connect to motors using a screwdriver, and a bit of patience. Check out some of Disney’s prototypes in action below:

I wrote this article for CSIRO’s popular science magazine: Double Helix.