Tangential Fabrications

or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Computer



Jan '12 - Aug '13

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    Apologies, robots, and slow panning shots...

    Aaron Willette
    Jul 8, '13 12:03 PM EST

    So its been a bit since I've upheld my bloggerly duties due to the typically student excuses: academic deadlines, not sleeping, etc. But as of a week ago that's all done with and I'm done with my time as a student here at the University of Michigan. I won't be going too far though as working as a research assistant in the FABLab paid off: a couple months back I was hired as the coordinator for the lab. I'll be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the lab and forwarding its research trajectories - similar to what I was doing as a GSRA, but different enough to make it interesting. Staying at Michigan wasn't something I had planned on doing, but after the lab's expansion (more on this later) it was hard to argue against some more time on the shop floor. I'll try to discuss what's happening in the FABLab as, in my opinion, its one of the more interesting place in the school/building/campus. Plus now that I have the time I want to go back to some interviews I had started working on earlier but never could make the time to complete. So stay tuned for what I hope will be some really fun, fabrication-centric discussions.

    So a lot has gone on it the past year outside of the typical classroom activities: I presented a research paper with colleagues at ACADIA 2012 in San Francisco, participated in a workshop led by Francois Roche, spent a week in Stuttgart with my class working at the ICD with Sean Ahlquist, presented at the [en]Coding Architecture conference at CMU, spent spring break at Ball-Nogues Studio, did some 5-axis milling for the UM Solar Car team, and helped with Matter Design's precast stair Helix. In hindsight those are all interesting things I should have blogged, but yeah, graduate school and whatnot. No one cares for excuses, so its time to back into the routine...

    As I mentioned earlier, the FABLab has done some growing beyond hiring a full-time coordinator. Back in March we received some new machines here in the lab. First up was our new HAAS VF2 vertical milling center.

    The HAAS's primary task is to support the development of custom tooling for our industrial robots, but in many ways it has displaced our older CNC bedmill for any high-quality metal machining work just because its significantly more rigid/fast and has through-tool coolant. While use of the HAAS is extremely limited, it has opened up the bedmill so that more students can be trained on the machine without worry that any mishaps will impact other ongoing lab work. The difference between the two machines is night and day and I'm continually impressed by the capabilities of the HAAS.

    The other big change in the FABLab was the expansion of the robotics lab. Up until this March we only had a single robot, our trusty KUKA KR-100 that helped put the lab on a lot of people's radar; in March we received four new robots: two KR-120s and two KR-Agilus machines. And that day was like Christmas for us.

    So we've temporarily decommissioned the KR-100, laid down a 2nd linear track, and have the two KR-120s working in a shared work cell. I got to personally handle a good portion of the setup on our Agilus machines, handling the design and fabrication of the framework for their work cell, along with the install of the robots. I worked closely with Wes McGee on making adjustment to SuperMatterTools to generate the KRL code for the robots as it had to be tweaked to allow for an inverted machine. I also took the liberty of naming the Agilus machines Mitey and Titey, as it only seemed fit.

    So of course we've been working with the robots since installing them, having a number of student projects come out of the lab with the KR-120s and I've continued to work with the Agilus machines, installing I/O components on the controller so they can 'talk' to each other when working in unison and similar things. We've been extremely lucky to have the talented Adam Smith from Synecdoche Design doing some video work for the school, below there's a recent teaser he put together for the FABLab that starts to hint at just a portion of whats been going on with these machines.

    current listening: Ghost B.C. - Infestissumam 
    previously known simply as 'Ghost', they've got that retro-metal sound that bands like Witchcraft and Graveyard have down pat (and Black Sabbath is trying to recapture), but with a pop twist. Oh yeah: their singer dresses as a satanic pope, whats not to love?

    TCAUP Robot Teaser

    • 1 Comment

    • gruen

      Fascinating to see TCAUP change. I'm completely jealous of all those toys.

      Jul 10, 13 9:16 am

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An in-the-trenches view of digital fabrication, academic research, post-hardcore music and whiskey. Not necessarily in that order and often in combination.

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