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The commercial version of DARwin-OP, left, and Michael's 3D-printed clone, right.

The commercial version of DARwin-OP, left, and Michael’s 3D-printed clone.

comingtobayareamakerfaire_2013Kansas City programmer Michael Overstreet leads something of a double life as an amateur robotics rockstar. Overstreet and his humanoid robot, Boomer, have competed in the last six RoboGames competitions and have won several medals over the years—six bronzes in various categories, as well as both silver and gold in the obstacle run event.

The DARwin-OP (Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence — Open Platform) is a 3 kg, 46 cm-tall advanced humanoid robot platform developed by Dr. Dennis Hong and co-workers at Virginia Tech’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, the University of Pennsylvania, Purdue University, and South Korean robotics manufacturer Robotis, with $1.2 million in support from the US National Science Foundation. DARwin-OP won the gold medal in the autonomous RoboCup Soccer Humanoid League, Kid Size, in 2011 and 2012.

The Dynamixel MX-28, arguably the most advanced  commercial robotics servo in the world today.

The Dynamixel MX-28 may be the most advanced robot servo in the world today.

Overstreet first saw DARwin-OP at a conference in 2010, and immediately wanted one of his own to experiment with. A major problem, of course, was the price: as a cutting-edge, high-performance R&D platform for commercial and academic robotics, a new DARwin-OP sells for $12,000. Though a significant fraction of the cost is tied up in the twenty top-of-the-line Dynamixel MX-28 servo actuators the design requires to perform at spec, Michael believed he could build his own “clone” of the fully open-source design, at substantial savings, by 3D printing as many pieces as he could in fused filament, on home equipment.

After downloading the published part models and doing some fine-tuning with Autodesk 123D, Overstreet used an Up! Plus 3D printer to create more than 70 working parts from 33 models, many of which required several iterations to adapt for the new process and material. It took months to print a complete clone, and cost just a hair over $6000. That’s a big chunk of change, to be sure, but just half the price of the commercial version.

Michael Overstreet and DARwin-OP clone

Michael’s 3D models are available on Thingiverse, and both he and his DARwin-OP will be appearing at Bay Area Maker Faire next month, where he plans to show off the working robot and what it can do.

MAKE Vol 34 — Digital Edition — “How I Printed a Humanoid”

MAKE Volume 34: Join the robot uprising! As MAKE's Volume 34 makes clear, there’s never been a better time to delve into robotics, whether you’re a tinkerer or a more serious explorer. With the powerful tools and expertise now available, the next great leap in robot evolution is just as likely to come from your garage as a research lab. The current issue of MAKE will get you started. Explore robot prototyping systems, ride along with the inventors of the OpenROV submersible, and learn how you can 3D-print your own cutting-edge humanoid robot for half the price. Plus, build a coffee-can Arduino robot, a lip balm linear actuator, a smartphone servo controller, and much more

On newsstands now, by subscription, or available in the Maker Shed

Buy now!

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.


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