When I was a kid, well after my grandfather had retired, his workshop was like a veritable candyland for me. It was full of machines and gizmos and tools of all kinds that did things that I could only imagine. In his workshop he would fix up old cars, outdated electronics, or his favorite task, turn old things into decorations for my grandparents’ home. Some of his favorite projects were his small garden windmill that was constructed from old car parts and farming equipment and some old tractor tires that he repurposed into outdoor planters. But whenever I would visit, he would always take the time to build something for me, even if it was just a toy gun made from scraps or something that I could use as a spaceship for my G.I. Joe figures.
My grandfather enjoyed seeing me smile when he would present me with another one of his creations, and even more so when I would immediately start playing with it as if it was the very thing that I never knew that I always wanted. To this day memories of those times that I spent in his workshop still wash over me regularly when I see kids being doted on by loving grand dads. Thankfully it seems that I’m not the only one lucky enough to have a grandfather like that. The grandchildren of maker and Thingiverse user Willem van Dreumel are lucky enough to have walking 3D printed bug robots made for them, and hearing van Dreumel talk about his project reminded me a lot of my grandfather.
“As a retired aerospace engineer, I have plenty of time to develop “things”. Especially for my grandchildren, they love it when grandpa comes up with another silly project. My real hobby is electronics and microprocessors, but combining mechatronics with 3D printing gives [me] endless new possibilities,” van Dreumel told me via email.
It turns out that van Dreumel has even written a few books about his hobby, so the projects and toys that he makes for them must be pretty impressive, even I would imagine to other people’s grandchildren. I don’t know of a kid on the planet who wouldn’t be thrilled with a walking, 3D printed insect, except maybe the kids that didn’t like insects. Over on his Thingiverse page, van Dreumel was kind enough to share his 3D files and plans so that everyone can make a “Buggy” of their own.
Aside from being a cute toy that just about anyone could print out and construct, either for themselves, or for their children, Buggy also has a rather clever design behind its simplicity. It contains no electronics of any kind, just a simple DC geared motor and a design that takes advantage of gravity. Half of the legs on Buggy are freely hanging, while the other half are connected to the motor. This triangular configuration of working legs makes Buggy stable enough to walk without over complicating the design. And of course Buggy makes quite the satisfying clomping sound as it walks, which as far as I’m concerned is a lot more fun than the whine of a tiny motor.
Here is a brief video of Buggy clomping back and forth for our, and I’d presume, his grandchildrens amusement:
Van Dreumel designed Buggy in OpenSCAD and 3D printed most of the parts on his original plywood PrintrBot that he maintains because of the machines high level of accuracy. Provided that you can 3D print all of the parts and acquire the small DC motor this is a pretty great starter project for makers and new 3D printer owners of all ages and skill levels.