At the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, each day is begun with the sounding of a gong to mark the official start of the trading day. On April 21, the day began like any other – almost. As stock traders looked on, the gong was struck by a small, red and white 3D printed robot which gripped the mallet in a clamplike device as the assembled traders counted down. The robot bent over, hit the gong, and, if I’m not mistaken, looked pretty proud of itself as it took a bow.
The robot was created by a group of students from Nova College, an intermediate vocational education school in Haarlem. The project, sponsored by tech industry supplier RS Components, was conceived for the purpose of demonstrating that 3D printing and robotics, even in the hands of a group of intermediate students, can significantly disrupt major corporations and traditional manufacturing – and it was a success. A robot like the one the students designed would normally carry a price tag of about €100,000, a pretty major expense for even the most successful companies. The students’ robot cost about €1,000 – and it only took two months to complete, thanks to the ingenuity and dedication with which they applied themselves to the project.
“Research and testing of these kinds of advanced robotics and 3D printing is usually associated with technical universities,” Nova College instructor Tim van der Voord told 3D Print Magazine. “But even at the level of intermediate vocational education schools, disruptive technologies are applied without doubt. This generation of students has been raised in a digital world, is not afraid to take risks and innovates at full speed!”
The students had zero budget for the project, but 3D Makers Zone, which services industrial firms from a space in Haarlem with high-end 3D printers, gave them free access to all of its 3D printing equipment and materials, as well as hooking them up with RS Components for the non-3D printed parts. RS Components, a major multinational corporation that distributes electronics and other industrial tools in 32 countries, was happy to help. They offered the students €2,000 and told them to have at their online store, which the team did, purchasing servo motors, Arduino chips, Raspberry Pis, cables, batteries, ball bearings, a keyboard, and basic tools such as screws, nails and glue, with the total bill coming in at only €1,000.
“Sponsoring a team of students of the Nova College for that kind of project seemed like a logical step for RS Components,” said Istwan Koning of RS Components. “Not only do we sell 3D printers, filaments and 3D software, we also service many technical educational facilities. We foresee a bright future for 3D printing which will result in a drastic change in the economy, not least for listed companies.”
The finished robot, which sports the red logo of RS Components and somewhat resembles a little man with pincers for a head, was built over the course of two months at 3D Makers Zone. The students met a few times a week to brainstorm, design and prototype, which they were able to do quickly with the FDM printers at 3D Makers Zone. The little robot, after several design tweaks and reprints, was able to flawlessly execute the commands the students programmed into it, as you can see below: