3D Printing & Imaging Robotics
Cloning the DARwin-OP
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.

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6 thoughts on “Cloning the DARwin-OP

  1. did someone say copyrigth? I dont like being mr negative but starting to clone my own comercial robot kit could bring some kind of problem with that old internet saying ” i’m not going to download a car”; I konw that it is a open source but whit the boom of the 3d printers what stop me to emule a bioloid or a NAO?

    1. Unless you can 3d print servos? I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I have already 3d printed Bioloid brackets and no one at Robotis is upset at all. They think it is cool!

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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