I was looking at many serious robot builders how they make a 3D model of their robot before they actually start cutting metal (or plastic). I have never done that. I always think it out, maybe make a few sketches an paper so I can have a better view of some sub-assembly, then make a prototype out of Legos, figure out some rough dimensions that will work out and then I go ahead and build the thing. Most of the time is enough. Some times, I have to scrap that and start again (mostly on the arms…). How are other people doing it?
The Admin of the Society of Robots website and forum uses Solidworks and does a lot of stretch analysis and other stuff. But he’s an engineer. What about regular people. What do they use? Well, 3D software is pretty expensive, everybody knows that, however, there are a few demos or student versions and even a few freewares. The most popular freeware is Google Sketchup.
Google Sketchup was thought out so people can build things and actually populate the Google satellite map of Earth. Anyone can build his home, work or any favourite place in as much detail as wanted. Anything can be built. Sketchup does not shine in tons of features, but in the simplicity of use. And it also shines on sharing models. If everybody had had to make that chair again and again they would have lost interest and so many places would have never been built.
Amongst the friends at SoR, there is one who made a tutorial on modeling robots with Sketchup. And he also offered to collect robotic parts in his warehouse so people could start working on their robots by assembling regular parts together. Ok, if it’s so easy, I should try it too!
After downloading some parts from AirmanOO’s warehouse I started to put them together to form the image I had in my mind about this MiniEric robot I want to build. I managed to get the base ready in one afternoon! During the last long weekend I had more time to build the rest of the robot. It is still crude, needs more refinement and perhaps some parts need to be redesigned, but now I have a better image of it and best of all, I can share it! I guess after I will be building a prototype and figure out the last changes, I can make the suitable changes in the model and post it on the warehouse (and make a tutorial, of course) so anyone can build it. Sounds cool isn’t it?
Ok, after all this reading you’re dying to see what I’ve came up with right? Here are a few screen shots from different camera angles: