While 3D printing is a futuristic technology that’s mind-blowing all on its own, just as it stands today, it is fueled by a community that is inspired and moving at rapid speed on a daily basis. While the general public is still looking at many basic 3D printed items in awe — and well-deservedly so — the making community has already long bypassed the elementary, and sees many things hastily in need of improvement already; that, of course, is what the 3D world is made up of — just as the printing process is a layer-by-layer approach, working continually to make a product — the maker community and world of innovation is one layer after another of inspiration, improvement, and new and unique 3D printed projects.
Lithuanian designer and programmer Paulius Liekis is one such 3D printing enthusiast who is a fan of robotics and hexapods, but he has plenty of inspiration, energy, and passion leading the way to new ideas.
One of his favorite movies is the sci-fi anime Ghost in the Shell. Liekis was rather challenged by the project he bestowed upon himself, as he had no foundation to go on — with no ‘blueprints’ for creating the T08A2/R3000 spider tank from the movie. He had to use his own perception for scaling, and was also able to work from screenshots and two smaller models that weren’t of very high quality.
“I love robotics and I love hexapods, but every hexapod online looks very rudimentary. Some look better than others, but they all move the same way,” Liekis told 3DPrint.com. “Same basic moves: shift up, shift forward, walk, turn, etc. I wanted mine to be different — I wanted it to look good, but it also had to move in a nice way.”
Liekis originally planned on a more arts-and-crafts type project using Styrofoam for the body; however, in the interim he’d purchased an XYZ Da Vinci 1.0 3D printer, and it was off to the races from there, offering much greater ease for designing pieces with more complicated geometry. Without a previous foundation to work from, for the most part he was on his own, and even more challenge presented itself as Liekis persisted in making a comprehensive model that could move.
“If you look at the tank in a movie it has a shape of a robot, but movement is more similar to a dog or some other live animal. You can feel emotion from its pose, you can see that it’s angry or that it’s trying to protect itself,” says Liekis.
Liekis noted that if one is to work on a project of this scope completely alone, it definitely helps to have a start by already possessing diverse skills in 3D design and 3D printing, scale modeling, and electronics, as well as of course with robotics.
“I’ve spent a piece of my professional career working as a programmer of animation systems like Frostbite engine for Battlefield: Bad Company games, the Unity game engine, etc., so animation and movement is a significant part of how I perceive things,” Liekis told 3DPrint.com.
Regardless, numerous peers thought he might be a bit over-ambitious with this project. With little experience in robotics and only the basics in 3D printing, the project was a labor of love that Liekis worked on for roughly a year, stopping and starting while he had other projects going on as well. The designer calculates he probably spent about two months working on the project full time.
“I never really tracked the time I spent on this. Time doesn’t matter when you do what you love,” says Liekis. “I’m a programmer at heart, although I work as CEO/programmer at my own company, Pixel Punch, these days. I love everything that is related to 3D printing, CNC and robotics, and I definitely see myself working in these areas in the future.”
For the project, Liekis said there was a great deal of 3D printing, post-processing, and painting involved. It’s still a work in progress, but right now you can see from the pictures and video that he has assembled a very impressive piece.
Using his XYZ Da Vinci 1.0 3D printer, he estimates he spent about 200 hours in the 3D printing process, using settings for printing “almost hollow parts with thin walls to make them light,” with 0.2 mm layers. Everything on the outside of the robot is 3D printed except for the belly connecting the legs.
“For the robot, I built a frame using plywood, servo brackets and some aluminum inside, but it’s fully covered by 3D printed ‘skin,’” Liekis told us.
During a great deal of post-processing, Liekis went over the 3D printed parts with repeated acetone, lots of sanding paper and files, dissolved ABS plastic for filling holes and gluing parts, lots of putty, and airbrushed paint.
- Two Raspberry Pi micro computers (for motion control and face tracking)
- 28 servos (18 for legs, 4 for the body, and 6 for weapons)
- One camera (for face tracking)
- Three servo drivers
- Two lasers
- One distance sensor
- One PS3 controller
Liekis still plans to improve some of the electronics, as well as the painting, and we promise to keep you updated as it becomes finished in his eyes. In the meantime, if you haven’t seen Ghost in the Shell, perhaps indeed this is worth checking out. After seeing the amount of inspiration Liekis got out of the flick, it’s definitely on our movie list.
Also on your list might be checking out the Toyze app, which Liekis co-founded, and we’ve both reported on and followed since last year. An app that allows you to customize and order 3D printed characters from games, Toyze is only set up for producing static figurines currently, but Liekis projects that soon you’ll be able more complex, mechanized characters like his robot.
Have you seen Ghost in the Shell? Either way, what do you think of Liekis’ replica from the movie? Have you attempted 3D printing any robotics? Share with us in the 3D Printed Robotic Tank Replica forum thread over at 3DPB.com. Below is a video of Liekis testing the robotic hexapod’s arms.