A journey building drones and ROVs and other open hardware and Arduino based stuff
There were a lot of stands of companies doing robotics and projects funded by universities, so, even if interesting, not of immediate interest: but there were also a few interesting stands on drones, 3D printing and the stand of the Italian version (and partner) of Ponoko.
VirtualRobotix is a community of people using and developing multicopters centered around a closed source microcontroller but that uses the same Arducopter firmware as the APM2 used by the diydrones community. They showed their copters, the new microcontroller, the VR Brain (which differs from the APM mainly because it has much more memory on board and have more hardware encoded filters and not just the ones in the firmware).
LUSA stands for Low-cost Unmanned Solar Aircraft which is a park-flyer with more than 2 meters of wingspan and with the wings totally covered by solar cells. In the test they did, in a sunny day, the glider can fly on the power coming from the solar cells alone. Pretty impressive.
There were many 3D printers on show at the expo: makerbots, Repraps and various variations of the latter. But the one that more impressed is an all-Italian designed and built PowerWasp: the main difference with the other printers is that this one is a modular printer. It’s built on a very solid 3 axis structure, with an interchangeable tool bay, that can host the standard plastic extruder, but can also host Dremel or any other rotary tool thus making it a CNC mill. And it’s in the works and almost ready a needle that allows printing on clay.
Even cooler is their vision: they want to build a gigantic printer that can be used to “print” houses directly in clay (the adobe houses)
I also passed by the stand of the local partner of Ponoko, called Vectorealism: we discussed a bit about the problems I encountered with cutting the OpenROV lasercut layouts and they they gave me some good tips on how to adapt the design to have a better fit in the nodes. And we also discussed about the possibility of making the OpenROV layouts available directly on their “verified” gallery of open designs.
I had the impression that it’s among the community of makers that innovation seems to happen, as well as innovation in software happens in co-working spaces and small companies of “geeks”. Not in the forums for innovation funded by governments with hundreds of thousands of Euros of taxpayers money. It’s an exciting time to be a maker… now let’s build something!