A French artist and designer named Gael Langevin has taken the idea of a “build your own robot” kit to the next level through an ambitious hobbyist project called InMoov. The open-source project’s ultimate goal is a full-sized animatronic humanoid robot that can be printed and assembled by anyone with a 3D printer.
Langevin writes a detailed
blog about the project, charting its progress every step of the way by sharing sketches of his work and the trial-and-error process of designing the robot. The blog also includes the printer files for the robot for free download. The robot can then be assembled from those parts and off-the shelf electronics at a cost of less than $1,000. The robot’s parts are mainly made using acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, plastic material.
Through his InMoov project, French artist and designer Gael Langevin is working on a humanoid robot that can be printed with a 3D printer then assembled at home. So far he has completed the robot’s head, arms, and hands, and is working on its torso. (Source: Gael Langevin)
Langevin -- who works as a sculptor and model maker for Factices Ateliers -- has so far finished the head, arms, and hands of the robot, which looks like an albino and a slightly more lifelike C3PO from the Star Wars films. He is currently working on its torso, according to his blog.
To program the robot, Langevin used a number of sketch programming languages, including Serialterm, MyRobotLab, and Arduino.
Langevin’s blog also includes a forum where people working on building the robot can share tips, ask questions, and generally geek out over the project. It is also a help center for assembly of the robot at home, with a photographic step-by-step guide to building it.
The artist has some fairly ambitious plans for a homemade robot in terms of capabilities, according to the blog. Voice recognition and object detection are among Langevin’s goals for his 3D-printed humanoid robot, which in a recent video can be shown already responding with movement to voice commands (watch it below).
In addition to the printer, in order to assemble an InMoov robot, you will need:
I found this project fascinating, not just because it shows again the potential for 3D printing, but also because it shows the level of commitment that Langevin has to his robotics and design work. I can't imagine creating a project with this much detail and ambition during the free time outside what is probably a very demanding full-time job. Obviously, Langevin is really into this work and wants to share his innovation with the world, and his detailed blog will allow people to follow his commitment every step of the way. I admit I also found the idea that you could build such a lifelike robot at home using a 3D printer a tad bit creepy...but with the way robotics innovation is going, I should get more comfortable with the idea!
Thanks for covering this, Elizabeth. I love the convergence of 3D printing and robotics. In elegance, complexity, and functionality, this leaves the clunky robots I reported on using 3D printing in the dust: http://www.designnews.com/author.asp?section_id=1392&doc_id=241989
The beauty of 3D printing and of robotics is that both lend themselves to innovation from indepedent engineers, inventors and tinkerers. I think we'll be seeing a lot of ideas like this one for many years to come.
Yes, Charles, it seems some very interesting work is coming from robot enthusiasts, perhaps even more interesting than some university, military or privae-company research. Hobbyists of course have more flexibility and sometimes look at things from a different perspective, which may explain why their work is so creative. Of course, 3D printing--as you point out--is making the work of hobbyists and enthusiasts much easier as well, giving them a very powerful tool at home.
Elizabeth M, The applications of 3D printing are truly endless as by the InMoov Opensource Robotics project discussed in your article. It's amazing how tools that cost thousands of dollars are being democratized and founding homes within the hobbyists community. I'm very intrigued by the fact an artist/designer is capable of building a sophisticated machine with electronics and software with no formal training. I noticed the Arduino embedded within the robot's skelton which demonstrates Massimo Banzi's vision of a low cost microcontroller prototyping platform used in endless industrial and artistic applications. Great Article Elizabeth!
Thanks for reading and the compliment, mrdon. It is pretty amazing what you can do with time, interest, intelligence and money to afford some of the latest and greatest in home technology. I am still pretty awed by this project myself.
Interesting, but it seems that in the video presentation there was deliberate effort to not show many details well enough to understand them. And possibly the robot was running at a safe speed, with the concept of moving much faster once the code was perfected. Also, all we saw was the head, shoulders and arms. Is that all that there is to this robot right now?
Hi, William, to answer your question, yes, he has only completed the head, arms and hands of the robot and is working on the rest. As for the video being vague--if you look on the blog there are other videos and very detailed descriptions of his work and progress, as well as how to put the robot together etc. It gets pretty specific at times. This is a work in progress for sure.
This is indeed the starting of a new era in what can be made. The biggest limitations on what can be made have been reduced to limitations on material properties and limitations on what can be drawn in a 3D view. I am not aware of any printing system that works from the traditional three view drawings. The materials limitation is the same one that dogged DaVinci, in that the materials for his designs were simply not available yet. Likewise, the less expensive 3D printers are limited in material capabilities and material strength. Those systems delivering steel alloy parts are far above the hobby class, at least as far as prices go. Probably the best short term option would be for a way to purchase unused 3D printer time on machines able to use the desired materials. Sort of like "cloud" production facilities. Is anybody marketing that yet?
There are plenty of 3D printing companies out there willing to print your work for fairly cheap. However, I think you mean every-single 3D printer being used at all times. I have a friend who’s day job has one. It’s hardly ever used. How to organize a way to have it print any project, then ship it to the end customer seem impossible. However, I might be thinking too myopically.
There certainly are a lot of 3D printers around, but a lot fewer of those able to print steel or other metals. That capability is a lot more expensive, both machine and supplies, and it seems that organizations that own such a machine that is not fully utilized could do printing for others to provide a better ROI, based on a greater sysem utilization.
Ha, Ann, your comment made me laugh! But it's true...the French obviously have that "je ne sais quoi" even when it comes to robots. They're like Italians that way--always paying attention to style, even in the most unlikely places. I think as far as humanoid robots go, this one is one of the most attractive. (Yes, it feels strange to say that about a robot!)
I spent several years learning the language, but I also spent some time there as a young adult, and I think it forever changed my sense of cuisine and fashion. There's an immediately recognizable visual elegance (that word keeps coming up) to French design that's different from the sense of style in Italian design. If this were a robot designed by an Italian artist/designer, it would be subtly different.
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