Modular development platform and 3D printing let you build autonomous robots like Lego


Can you build robots 10X faster and 10X cheaper?

Yes, according to the CEO of a six-year-old Silicon Valley robotics company that created a 200-module development platform for autonomous robots. Pick the components you need for your particular solution, bolt them together with 3D printing for all the components you might need that are specific to your needs, and you have a much faster, much faster robot. .

“Traditionally, an approach will take two to three years [and] tens of millions to reach the market with a robot ”, OhmniLabs CEO Thuc Vu told me recently in a TechFirst podcast. “With our approach, because we have all the building blocks… we just like to combine them with our printers, with our 3D printing technology, and so it allows us to operate much faster. “

The result, Vu says, is a development timeline of three to six months and less than a million dollars of investment to bring a new robot to market. And that, he says, is unheard of.

Speed ​​can indeed be, but the concept is not. Not quite, at least. Blue Ocean Robotics, a “robotic risk factor” in Denmark, has something of a similar idea. Build the hardware and software components you need for virtually any robot, then extract, mix, burn the Jobsian way to create new iterations of robots for extremely varied tasks.

For OhmniLabs, it’s over 200 components: “a very rich and comprehensive library of robotic components, much like the building blocks that you can plug in and play on robots.

We’re talking about things on the hardware side like a transmission, processor, display unit, audio capabilities, and grippers for manipulating objects. On the software side, this includes elements such as computer vision modules, remote operation, 3D detection or perception modules, navigation software, etc.

The result is being able to build a few units of an experimental design very quickly, bring them to market, test them and adjust them before committing to production of 10,000 or more.

And, of course, the speed.

Listen to the interview behind this story:

“A team from Stanford and Target contacted us, asking us to build them a robot capable of using UV components to clean the most frequently touched surfaces,” says Vu. “And we managed to do it just a month after we spoke to them at [have] something to do a demonstration.

When there are specifics regarding a robotic design requirement that would typically require manufacturing, dies and subcontracting, OhmiLabs simply provides it through 3D printing.

“We just need to send the CAD files to the printers… and boom, the next day we have a new variant that we can experiment with,” says Vu.

The idea is similar to Blue Ocean Robotics, and it’s as old as engineering itself: don’t reinvent the wheel. Because most robots are mostly conglomerates of very similar technologies.

“70% [of each robot’s software stack] is generic; 30% is very specialized, ”says Claus Risager, CEO of Blue Ocean Robotics.

So whether you need a parcel delivery robot or a security robot, they will both need some form of locomotion, some form of environmental sensing, a way to navigate from where they are to where they need to be, potentially some form of mapping to be efficient and complete on routes and speed, on-board intelligence for autonomous operation, as well as a full battery communications and control for new information and new orders.

And it’s probably just scratching the surface.

But the result is powerful: opening up the design, manufacture, and use of robots to many more people, businesses, and uses.

“What we really wanted to do is democratize robotic technology, basically open it up so that many people can work together, can build different types of robots.” Seen said. “Kind of like driving the ubiquity of robots in this world and delivering value directly to the user, rather than just building robots. We want to be an ecosystem that can use our modular platform, and you can create your own flavor of robots for your own customers.

Intel inside, in a way, for the world of robotics.

Obtain a full transcript of our conversation, or subscribe to TechFirst.

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