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SCUTTLE Robot Technical Description
The following section describes technical features of the SCUTTLE robot.
SCUTTLE is a robot design that can be built on your own with off-the-shelf parts and 3D printed parts. It can easily be modified. uses the following equipment: 12-volt DC gearmotors, metric screws consisting mainly of size M6 and M2.5 machine screws, ordinary industrial casters, standard 35mm DIN rail for mounting electronics. It has a PWM-controlled motor driver which favors 100hz or higher input frequency for good motor response, and has a maximum output of 5A per channel (60 watts per motor). The motors ordinarily consume only 1 to 2 watts each. The spec motors have a gearbox included, they are referred to as gearmotors by most vendors. The shaft has a 6mm diameter and the motor pulley has 15 teeth. The motor nominal speed is 250 rpm, giving the wheel a speed of 125rpm when driven by the 1:2 gear reduction of the pulley pair. Note that the 250rpm motor output shaft speed is an approximated value at 12 volt input and no-load condition. When a torque load is applied to the motor or when the voltage is less than 12 volts, the speed can vary anywhere between 0 and 250rpm max.
The SCUTTLE robot can be configured with any embedded computer. The following computers have been tested and integrated successfully on SCUTTLE robots: Raspberry Pi 3 and Pi 4, Jetson Nano, Beaglebone Blue, Texas Instruments TDA4VM-SK, and Intel-based CAPA55R. (The intel computer may not be an “embedded computer” but it certainly is a single-board computer aside from the modular RAM chips. For microcontrollers like ESP8266 and ESP32, these are capable to control all of SCUTTLE’s motion & communication systems, but are not integrated with the USB camera, microphone, and
SCUTTLE software is much easier than most mobile robots, because there are different options available. In one sense, you could call SCUTTLE a raspberry pi with wheels. That means any software you can run on a raspberry pi, you can run on a SCUTTLE. But, you are empowered with mobility and remote operation capability on top of the raspberry pi projects. The design also has the benefit of being powered with a reliable lithium-ion battery pack so all of your projects can be detached from the wall, and detached from any cords required for ordinary Pi projects.
Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) is a key desired function for any mobile robot. A new opportunity has come in 2022 for SCUTTLE users to achieve SLAM on their robots using a software called VIAM. Until now, effective SLAM navigation was near impossible without becoming experts in robot operating system (ROS). ROS requires a significant degree of expertise & linux command-line proficiency. For students, learning ROS is the main barrier to having SLAM capability in their functionality. Popular SLAM algorithms like Gmapping, HectorSLAM, and Cartographer have been supported by ROS for some time. VIAM will support all of these algorithms, but with a mission to make software much less complicated for users. That means VIAM will bring mobile robotics into the hands of a vastly more users.
Our origin is in college level education, (undergraduate engineering degree programs) where users are learners and the designs are intended to be understood & carried into user-owned projects by user adaptation. Our curriculum shares commonalities with many high school (secondary education) lesson plans and extracurricular experiential learning, so we wish to serve the middle and high school users just as well. In the decade of the 2020’s, learning has become age-indescriminant; youth access a spectrum of state-of-the-art knowledge at their fingertips, and experienced engineers return to the web for continued education in adjacent subject matter to their expertise. Simultaneously, new tools arrive monthly that put expert design functions in the hands of novices, from Fusion360 to EasyEDA to the whole rapid prototyping environment of 3D printing. We know if we offer the proper tools, aspiring engineers can create professional results.
Editorial comment by David Malawey: In 2017 I found myself guiding doctoral degreed engineers and professionals through our mechatronics labs and passively teaching them elements that were already mastered by some of our undergraduate learners. I had the realization that in mechatronics, everyone is a beginner in one aspect or another – robotics is too multidisciplinary for any individual to be a comprehensive robotics expert. Then, if we compile the basics and update them over time, SCUTTLE can be an enabling resource for teams at all skill levels.
Values & Building the Future:
The following section features ideas and values of the SCUTTLE team members:
The lead engineer of the SCUTTLE robot system design, David Malawey, has been involved in open source design communities since 2017, and he is a strong proponent of publishing quality components in mechatronics subsystems that are of sufficient quality and robustness to be reused by engineers and makers in other disciplines. He wants to contribute mechanical elements into the world of makers in the same way that linux and arduino elements have been contributed and reused to create millions of exciting outcomes, more freely and more rapidly than before open designs were available to the public.
David and his team believe that well-designed physical hardware components can completely change the space of robotics by making hardware achieve what software achieved 20 years ago: free and rapid duplication of design modules. He sees three magic factors that liberate a hardware design into this free space. First, the design must be digital. Second, the design must be parametric. Third, the design must be designed for manufacturing (DFM). A digital design of a mechanical part means that all of the properties of the mechanical part are described in the design itself. A good example would be Benchy, a model of a tugboat that has it’s size, geometry, color all contained in a digital file. An example of a non-digital design would be a handmade clay pot. No aspects of a clay figurine have been described in software so even if it comes with instructions, the model cannot be repeated precisely, nor it’s properties like strength and dimensions.
Next comes parametric designs: A parametric design has key aspects that are summarized with parameters. The SCUTTLE robot has a parametric wheel pulley with the number of teeth stored as a parameter. If the user wants to have a larger pulley, he or she can simply open the design and change the parameter for teeth, and the pulley’s diameter will adjust automatically. Parametric designs enable users with an immense power because they can manipulate design characteristics without rebuilding the whole model, and without much knowledge of the CAD software. When a digital design is also a parametric design, it becomes like a software program, wherein the parameter is a simple variable. With open source digital content (software or designs), novice users can reuse a software for unlimited new projects. By 2020 we have seen millions of repetitions of software modules like Arduino libraries, by engineers having little or no knowledge about how the software works. Instead of engineering foundational blocks, these users can be engineers of systems and outcomes.
Editorial comment by David: Making parametric models is like inventing the brick. Why would we make every home builder build every brick when they are busy building a house? After the brick was invented, homes were built faster and more reliably, and the number of bricks became just a parameter of a house. In this aspect we share a vision with VIAM robotics, aiming to make building blocks for software & control while we make building blocks for hardware & electronics integration.
The third special aspect of our SCUTTLE components is design for manufacturing (DFM). This simply means the manufacturing method is taken into consideration upsteam in the design. We make designs specially to be produced with the design method in mind, thus reducing waste, defects, and effort for the manufacturer. If the manufacturing method is a one of digital manufacturing, we reach a new paradigm of freedom. Digital manufacturing is much like a digital design, where the parameters of manufacturing are described in a digital file. A fully digitally manufactured part is one that is built by machines, and the parameters of the build process is controlled by discrete parameters (sound familiar?). The most popular digital manufacturing is 3D printing – specifically, fused deposition modeling (FDM). We favor FDM for one reason: it’s available to Makers, so it’s available to everyone. Nowadays, printing parts is easier than developing film – you can order a part online from a 3D printing service and have it delivered to your home for a few dollars. But, this is only possible if the design is suited for 3D printing and the part is compatible with the printer limitations. For this reason, we make each of our robot components as compatible as possible with 3D printing. Even the up/down orientation of the parts is planned in the design stage. Since our designers speak the same language as the manufacturers, the process of getting parts made on a new printer is extremely smooth.
Next let’s describe the overlap of the three magic factors: When the mechanical designs are Digital, Parametric, and DFM, the magic really happens. Users can now be designers. Any person can click to open a digital file, type to change the shape, and click to print a copy of the part. And, the whole process is reliable and repeatable. Building a robot becomes less like engineering, and more like using microsoft paint. Imagine designing a business card: You open a document template, you modify the design in a software, you save the file with your favorite colors, and you order it from a print shop. Without knowing it, you designed for manufacturing just by fitting your image into the 3×5 inch box, and exporting a file that is compatible with the print shop.
Global accessibility & equity
The SCUTTLE team wants to make robotics available globally and they take this goal very seriously. Engineering is a power to solve problems and every individual should be enabled with this power if they want it. SCUTTLE is unique among mobile robots in that it is comprised of engineering components that we have discovered on all continents. Just like the Raspberry Pi, SCUTTLE is both a learning tool and a fully capable solution for industrial endeavors. That means it is a bridge from the learning environment to the business environment. That means the design must be usable, adaptable, open, and available. For off-the-shelf components, the SCUTTLE designers searched and purchased parts from vendors in different parts of the world to maximize the odds that the components are available and affordable in your country. It is the only payload-grade (10+ kg) robot chassis that can be built in your lab (or potentially your living room) in any country.
Open source is not enough. If one reviews open source software, it has penetrated the world and made amazing outcomes. Why hasn’t open hardware done the same? Popular “open hardware” projects as of 2023 consist 90% of circuit board designs (or PCB’s). The wonderful thing about open source PCB is that they have the three magic elements noted above. They are parametric, because the designs consist of variables like trace width and resistor values. They’re digital designs, because all the circuit traces are saved in a file. They’re designed for manufacturing, because they only contain copper features that can be built by autonomous machines. Another fantastic feature of open PCBs is that the design parameters and manufacturing parameters are often saved in the cloud where users can do all the steps in one place. For example, you can find a design, adjust a design, and order a design to be shipped, all in one online store. Comparing other open hardware to open PCB designs, the barriers are much larger and the systems are not as refined.
We wish to soon see an online hub that integrates 3D design libraries, enables modifications, and supports ordering. They are coming. And when they arrive, SCUTTLE components will be very well-adapted for this kind of system. All of the components exist but have not yet been integrated: The current examples: vention.io allows users to configure assemblies from extrusions and order them. GrabCAD offers libraries of 3D designs in native CAD file types, allowing users to download and modify them. Thingiverse offers hundreds of thousands of free and open 3D printable CAD models, but features fixed designs instead of parametric ones. McMaster Carr and Automationdirect now offer 3D models of most of their off-the-shelf parts, finally giving access to the 3D parameters of standard hardware. Fusion 360 and 3DEXPERIENCE offer cloud-based versions of professional 3D modeling softwares, for free and $10 per month respectively.