While the promise of printable, popup-capable, and self-folding robots is being demonstrated through innovative designs and new manufacturing methods such as PC-MEMS, the practical aspects of design are limiting the development process of such devices. Traditional three-dimensional CAD workflows are cumbersome for generating two-dimensional geometries of layered composites, requiring an intimate knowledge of the PC-MEMS manufacturing process to ensure a successful, manufacturable design. Because the manufacturing rules of this new paradigm are still mostly internalized by the designer during the design process, errors are frequent, requiring more design iterations and restricting the pool of designers to those with a high level of manufacturing expertise.
To facilitate faster prototyping and development of printable, popup, and self-folding devices, we have developed a design tool called popupCAD. By building this design tool around the specifics of the layered manufacturing PC-MEMS paradigm, we hope to speed workflow by encouraging design methods which are inherently manufacturable. The object-oriented structure of designs produced with popupCAD has the potential to reduce design flaws by encouraging modularity, reusing successful components rather than requiring designers to redraw them.
By encapsulating knowledge of each layers’ material properties and functional characteristics, popupCAD can also help build intuition in kinematics, stiffness, and manufacturability of the robots designed. This is accomplished via a suite of analytical tools built into the software. We hope that this analysis suite will give designers more immediate comparisons across differing design strategies, reducing the number of physical build iterations required.
Provisional Patent filed: “Algorithms For Developing Inherently Manufacturable Laminate Devices”
We have launched a website dedicated to popupCAD at http://www.popupcad.org/. This site will serve as a gateway to the source code, compiled downloads, design files shared by users, and user-generated plugins