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By chance is anyone familiar with robotics?

robots androids science fiction

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#1 jadah

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Posted 31 January 2014 - 08:35 PM

Anyone familiar with robotics? Specifically, parts of a robot/android and the correct terms for them. Is a person that puts together robots considered a mechanic, engineer, or something entirely different?


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#2 RC Lewis

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Posted 01 February 2014 - 12:17 AM

Most of what I know came from Star Trek, but more on the real-world side, I came across the term "mechatronics" as the most applicable field. Mainly because it goes across mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer engineering. If you google that, you can find quite a bit of information.


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#3 jadah

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Posted 01 February 2014 - 12:39 AM

Thanks RC!

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#4 Russell

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Posted 04 March 2014 - 11:30 PM

Hiya Jadah, turns out in my spare time I actually build and program robots. I have been building them since my sophmore year in high school, over ten years ago. This includes large robots over 100 pounds and small ones under a pound. Robotics actually needs several fields of study (excuse my run on sentences):

 

Mechanical Engineering: For the frame, parts design, movement of the robot, and how the robot accomplishes its goals

Electrical Engineering: A robot needs to have a programming and bread board for his wiring. How these wires connect to the engines and also what resistance is needed to balance the voltage is needed as well, otherwise you can overheat and blow out the batteries. You also would never have guessed that an electrical motor draws more power right when it turns on and needs a capacitor in the circuit to make sure the voltage doesn't drop too much and adversely affects the whole system. Also, remember to put the capacitor in correctly. Double check too... I can tell you from personal experience that it does make a loud explosion.

Computer Engineering: This is what moves the robot and connects the inputs of the sensors to the outputs of the motors. The code has two sections, one for the start up of the system and the defining of the inputs/outputs and other stuff, and the second is the heartbeat of the robot, an endless cycle of repeating code. Typically the code will be written in a coding language similiar to C++.

Mathmatics: Any person designing robots knows the pain of finding a problem in the design in reference to torque approaching infinity (god I hate it when that happens!). Thats when you get the Mechanical Engineer to go back to the drawing board with the moving parts of the robot.

 

However, due to the multidisciplinary areas of study needed robotics is starting to become its own study of engineering requiring a team of people devoted to specific areas of study. One person doing it is possible, but very tough. I can speak from point of view of the one person doing it, as it is my hobby!

 

If you want to start off yourself, or anyone who does, I recommend the Arduino starter package before you move onto something more complicated and expensive.

 

Notable past projects:

Railgun

Gauss gun

Solar powered thermo-electric jet engine (stationary)

Magnetically levitated wind turbine

Robotic floor sweeper

Robotic trebuchet (heh, this was a fun one)

Robotic spring loaded ping pong launcher

Robotic tic-tac-toe player

 

Current project:

Powered exoskeleton (chest, back, one shoulder, half arm completed and programmed)



#5 AQCrew

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Posted 05 March 2014 - 07:46 PM

Wow.  This is exactly what this group is all about.  

 

Nice job, folks.



#6 Russell

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Posted 06 March 2014 - 03:33 PM

Well, time for my second post on this subject. I answered the second part of your question, now for your first.

 

A robot/android is built for specific purposes. Identifying why a robot is built will give a lot more answers. However I will try to explain generic terms for robots based on my personal experience within the robotic community and within basic physics 101.

 

Body: The body of a robot can be many different shapes and sizes. The body typically contains majority of the sensors for navigation and will most likely contain the processors and batteries. The reason for this is that it has the largest volume to hold these parts and makes the 'limbs' of the robot to be more purpose specific. This also allows the robot to retain most of the armor (if it needs it for combat or environmental purposes) to protect the most sensitive parts. The body can be thermally controlled as well, depending on the environment the robot is built to handle. For instance, in space a robot or satellite needs to combat extreme temperature changes that can be up to a few hundred degrees depending on Earth's position in its orbit. The body also contains the most important part of the robot that is often confused with the body, but actually usually extends throughout the body and limbs.

 

Skeleton: The skeleton of a robot is made to be modular, easily disassembled for maintenance purposes, and has as many contact points as possible for the purpose of anchoring other parts of the robot to it and future upgrades. For instance, check out Vex's metal parts kit and you will see how multipurpose the metal parts can be. The skeleton of an android is very similar to the skeleton of a human being. The only difference is dealing with ball joints, where a variety of different solutions can be found. I am found of a universal joint connected to two actuating pistons. A universal joint allows motion along two axes. The pistons are actually connected just beyond the joint. If you look at it from a side point of view you will see a ninety degree angle between the pistons. It may be helpful to visual this as an x and y graph that you studied in algebra when plotting equations. In a sense, this is actually how we visualize the motion of the limb when we are coding it (except in 3-d). This allows the pistons to along the two axes or only on one axis. You still need three more motors for an arm though. One for rotation of the arm, one for the elbow joint, and another for rotation of the wrist (don't mind the hand, that's a TOTALLY different and highly complicated story as each finger has 6 degrees of motion associated with it). In a sense, the Skeleton is what connects the body to the limbs and gives structure to both. The skeleton always needs to be designed first and the other parts are built onto it.

 

Limbs: Limbs are designed for specific purposes. Limbs for locomotion are often called legs. This includes tracks and normal bipedal (or tripedal, etc) legs for motion. If the limb is connected to external propellers then it is either designated as part of the body or called an arm. Arms are limbs that are used for any purpose beside locomotion (besides the propeller part, which is often up for debate and is dependent on how it is designed). The arms are typically used for combat purposes, while legs are been shown as having a dual purpose of combat and storage for androids. The limbs also contain 'skin,' which is the part of the limb designed to protect the skeleton and other parts inside (typically motors and sensors).

 

Head: Most often associated with the body and is not necessary most of the time. We build heads for robots as that is where our sensory organs are placed. We build androids in likeness of ourselves, even though its entirely unnecessary. Most of the sensors can be placed throughout the body and limbs where they can be better protected. Also, most tv shows often display that destroying the head of an android will kill it. Again this is our humanization of the android into our likeness. The processor (or brain) of the robot will most likely be placed within the body, as this is where it is better protected from as many external elements as possible. Remember, that processors are not limited in field of view like us. They can be programmed to see in 360 degrees at once, while we are much more limited. It is very hard to get our heads around this concept and others like it as well. This is also a very strong point for androids over us, as the sensors could essentially give it no blind spot. Again the tv shows usually get this wrong since it is easier for the normal person to understand a robot that sees just like us in our very limited predator evolved field of view. For instance, it is hard to people to realize that rabbits can't see the 10 degrees of view directly in front of them (they have prey evolved vision). They can't see forward. Also, in order to tell distance you must have two sensors with overlapping field of view. One sensor cannot and will not give you a sense of depth. This is why we can see depth and rabbits can't, as their eyesight does not overlap.

 

I have tried to keep the jargon down to a minimum. However, I would like to point out that tv shows normally show robots in a humanoid form for regular people to better connect to it. However, in real life this is not always the case. Robots are purpose specific. A robot built for hand to hand combat may be shaped like a human, or even have three arms equally spaced. That robot have have razor sharp blades attached to the skin of the limbs so every touch will induce a cut. A robot built for shooting may look like a platform with a omnidirectional turret on top, similar to a tank or a tank on legs. That turret could contain purpose specific firearms that the robot selects to use depending on the target that it is up against. Why use a rocket launcher against personnel if a 45 caliber will do? You have to think in terms of efficiency.

 

I also have to bring this part up, ammunition. Robots are not soldiers with bottomless pits of ammunition to pull it from. As well, weapons may be directly connected to the skeleton at the forearm, allowing the hand to be free while also giving a more instantaneous connection to the weapon. If this weapon requires ammunition, remember that a belt feed is need and that belt feed must have storage. This storage could be within the arm itself, for instance where your bicep might be. A bicep is not necessary on an android, as a single actuator in the triceps position can perform both functions of the bicep and tricep. If you place the ammo in the leg, remember it will need a mechanism to take that ammo from the leg through the body and then through the arm to where the weapon is placed.

 

I would recommend researching human biology and the purposes of muscles. You will find that muscles on opposite sides that move a joint back and forth by contraction can be substituted on an android by a single piston. Most of the terms for androids come from human biology with mechanical engineering jargon mixed in.

 

Look up the KISS principle of engineering as well (Keep it simple, stupid as my old workshop teacher and engineering professors would say). The more complicated a device is, the greater chances that something can go wrong (see Murphy's law as well).

 

Also remember that everything has weight. A robot can't have 6 inches of armor surrounding the body as how can it move? Even if it can move it probably can't move fast. This gives you the pros and cons as well for the robot, and give strategies for your characters to take them out (such as outflanking them to hit them in a weaker part of the armor, such as the backside). There can be a case where the armor in front is strengthened as this is the side presented to the enemy, while the backside is less armored because it is the side less shown.

 

Remember with bullets, as well as everything else, the faster it goes is more important then the weight of the bullet. Kinetic energy = (1/2) times (mass, not weight) times (velocity squared). Doubling the mass will double the energy. Doubling the velocity will quadruple the energy. Even though this equation hasn't always been known, it has been shown throughout history. You can look at medieval maces and see how the handle is actually hollow (most people are surprised at that). This is to decrease the overall weight of the mace and to increase the speed at which it can be swung, resulting in greater amounts of blunt force damage. The maces were made like this through years and years of testing by combat, until they became very efficient weapons.

 

Velocity is different from speed. Speed has no direction, just a quantity. Velocity has both direction and speed.

 

There are also two main types of 'motors' used. Electrical and actuated. Actuators are very powerful, and come in two different types (pneumatic and hydraulic). Hydraulic is heavier, but more responsive. Pneumatic is much lighter, but less quick to be responsive. The time difference can be as great as a few milliseconds (thousandths of a second). However these are typically very energy intensive.

 

Electrical motors are a different story. There are two different types, linear and rotational. We mostly think of the rotational, but I would like to bring up that linear does exist and does have its specific purposes and strengths over rotational. However, most joints will be using rotational. There are many things to consider, such as the gear box. The motor may spin at 70k rpm (rotations per minute) but the gear box might gear this down to 120 rotations per minute at the joint. Gearing down like this greatly increases the torque. Most people also don't know there are different types of gears. A worm gear may be put inside the gear box so when the motor stops the joint doesn't fall with gravity. This saves energy (since the motor does not need to be always on to combat gravity) but comes at a cost. This cost has a strength and weakness. That worm gear makes sure that the joint doesn't move without the motor moving too, unless you strip the gear through a large amount of force and break the worm gear internally. However, if your robot runs out of energy, that joint can't be moved. If you are in a powered exosuit, that means you cannot move that arm. As engineers, we have to consider if the pros outweigh the cons, and if they do we use them. Electrical motors can be less energy intensive (because they have a higher efficiency rate of conversion to kinetic motion from electrical power then actuators) but they can be fragile.

 

Overall, your greatest weight will be from the batteries or from the power source. If you are using futuristic fusion fuels, remember that a deuterium - tritium reaction is the cleanest known form of fusion and all fusion encompasses high temperatures inside specially built toroid chambers. If you are using fissile elements, you can look at the nuclear reactors of the Voyager program, which use the heat from the decaying elements to heat up one side of a Peltier device to induce an electrical current (look up thermoelectric effect).

 

Hope this all helps!

 

Edit:

I hope this also shows why a team of people are needed to design robots. I have wrote what I can from my memory but I am only one person myself.



#7 jadah

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Posted 06 March 2014 - 03:45 PM

Holy S! I had given up on this topic. Ha! Thank you so much! I may come to you with some more specific questions as I progress through my WIP.

 

Thanks again!

 

PS My robot is a "love bot" ;)


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#8 Russell

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Posted 06 March 2014 - 03:51 PM

Haha, then the robot will be designed to look like a human because of the psychological effect it entails. Those types are robots are most often referred to as s**bots. You can probably get them designed to replicate the actual feel and touch of a man or woman. For instance, biologically speaking women have more adipose tissue (fat tissue directly underneath the skin) then men. This causes a female to have softer skin then a male, which was evolutionary speaking an attractiveness trait. This would mean that a "female" robot would be designed with a softer skin to the touch then a "male" robot would be. The skin might also include an insulation layer to keep the sounds of the inside workings from leaking out. The skin might also be thermally heated to appear to be just like a human. However, how a robot deals with shedding excessive heat from their, erhm, um, "activities" will be something I would have to dwell on further.

 

When you get your specific questions please let me know!



#9 jadah

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Posted 06 March 2014 - 03:54 PM

So complicated. When you think about it, the simplest workings of a human body require so much detail...


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#10 Russell

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Posted 06 March 2014 - 03:58 PM

Haha yes. But the problem is, when you are writing about this in your novel just how much of the details is relevant to be told to the reader? Meanwhile, all of it is important to you. You have to know all or most of it in order to make it believable in the reader's imagination. Have to strike a balance between those two parts.



#11 jadah

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Posted 06 March 2014 - 04:00 PM

Well, I'd like to know the ins and outs of android mechanics so that I can understand my character and how he works...and, yes, make it more believable and realistic for the reader. Those tiny details are what matter most, in my opinion.


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#12 Russell

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Posted 06 March 2014 - 04:11 PM

Remember what I said about the skin, read what I wrote above and pay attention to the psychological effects the robot will need. The body will contain the majority of the processing parts, while the head will be there purely for psychological purposes. It may not do much besides give a notion of eyesight (the sensors could be ringed underneath the skin around the collarbone or neck, giving full directional awareness and be looking out of the pores). Hairs would have to be implanted, and maybe given a function to extrude out or in for certain, ahem, purposes depending on the clients, ahem, preferences.

 

The robot will mostly use electrical motors, with coding putting in a slight overshoot of motion with a rebound effect. That effect is used in Disney (and pioneered by them) to make the motion of robots look realistic rather then stop and go motion.

 

I would look up Animatronics. This would detail how robots move to appear more humanlike.

 

Look up and research how Disney builds its robots and how they function themselves (for instance, look at the President's Hall). There have been Discovery show videos about these things, very interesting to watch! Youtube probably has it on there.

 

The skeleton structure would most likely be modeled directly like a humans. The body might also contain storage sacs for well, ahem, certain fluids for certain purposes to prevent, ahem, overheating on the client's part. Slightly embarrassing...

 

Remember that those storage sacs or the batteries powering the motors would need to be recharged or refilled. It could be like peeling back a certain portion of the back of the robot to reveal inlets where the plugs are plugged in.

 

Let me know if you need anything more.



#13 DHTSFWriter

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 02:15 PM

I am. Do you need any help designing a robot. 



#14 jadah

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 02:49 PM

To take over the world, yes.

 

I mean............

 

Yeah, I guess I was just wondering about the general workings of a male sex robot. Lol, I feel so dirty asking!


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