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The blank canvas for roboticist

What is DIRO:

          DIRO is a modular robot development platform capable of using third party components. In other words, it’s a blank canvas for a roboticist. What makes DIRO different than other robot kits and/or development platforms is that you are not limited on what parts you could use (within reason). Thus if you would like to use geared motors instead of servos you could, or let’s say you had vex motors and you didn’t want to buy servos or motors, you could use a vex motor mod to mount the motors onto DIRO. This becomes especially useful when you want to build a robot and not want to buy extra parts that an ordinary robot kit/development platform restricts you to.

The beginnings of DIRO:

           The idea of DIRO first came about when my friend and I were talking one day about how we got into robotics. We both realized that our beginnings were similar in the sense that we both started out making simple circuits, which then led to simple analog robots (like BEAM robots), then moved on to micro controllers which eventually led us to where we are today. We also realized that there was a big learning curve from when a beginner goes from building analog robots to more complicated robots with micro controllers, thus we decided we’ll try to figure a way to reduce that learning curve. We figured the easiest way was to use a kit robot, thus we decided to go through several robot kits and see what’s on the market. After a couple of hours it occurred to us that most of the kits were not only expensive, but also limited you on what you could use. Personally I didn't like how kits either required you to use just normal brush motors or just servos. To me it didn't make sense: when you first get into robotics, little brushed motors are ideal because it’s easy to make analog robots with them, but as you get more experience you begin to use servos which work better with micro-controllers. As we continued to talk, we figured the best type of kit should be modular thus we began to look at modular kits. Again after a couple of hours we began to realize that once again they were expensive, but also they restricted you to only using their parts. We figured the ideal robot kit must be ‘A’ relatively cheap, ‘B’ modular, and ‘C’ capable of using third party parts. Once we figured these three things out, we ended waiting a little while until a project came along that gave us an excuse to begin developing DIRO. In that time the first DIRO chassis was built and from there (after the project) I decided to keep on redesigning and testing the chassis till I came up with what we have today.

DIRO alpha 1: First DIRO made
DIRO alpha 1: First DIRO made
DIRO Alpha 2: First DIRO to be able to use both Pololu geared motors and servos through the use of mods
DIRO Alpha 2: First DIRO to be able to use both Pololu geared motors and servos through the use of mods
DIRO beta: First DIRO to not only use mods, but also had mounting holes and dedicated holes for running wire
DIRO beta: First DIRO to not only use mods, but also had mounting holes and dedicated holes for running wire
DIRO gamma (current DIRO): First DIRO to be able to do all the above plus be able to accept more mods
DIRO gamma (current DIRO): First DIRO to be able to do all the above plus be able to accept more mods

What you can do with it:

       There are lots of applications for DIRO, but currently it’s usually used for small robot development and prototyping robot electronics and programs. Personally I have used DIRO to make a robot enter into the Trinity Fire Fighting competition, to experiment different maze solving methods, and to go pretty fast by mounting an r/c car drive train onto it.

Trinity Fire Fighting competition robot
Trinity Fire Fighting competition robot
Maze navigating robot
Maze navigating robot
Pretty fast robot
Pretty fast robot

Production:

          The production of the DIRO chassis is dependent on how much money is raised. Currently the chassis is made using polyester resin in a silicon mold, which allows the cost of production to be relatively low on small amounts (less than five hundred give or take). In order to do this, multiple silicon molds are made and resin is poured into them every hour to an hour and a half, once dried the molds get sanded down so they are nice and smooth then painted. This process is ideal for now because it allows for changes to the chassis to be easily made (as suggestions come in) and doesn't have a high tooling cost. If however we go over that limit, depending on how much money is raised, the chassis will either be laser cut or injection molded in order to meet the demand. Ideally though, the chassis will be hand made in my work station and sent out. After the campaign is over, the plan is to first determine which method of production to go with, than purchase the proper materials to begin making the DIRO’s. I put January 2014 as the delivery date in order to prevent rush making of the chassis, but I hope to begin sending them out as soon as possible. If you look at the pictures below you’ll see an example of one of the molds used to make the chassis’ and the stages the chassis’ go through (mind you the last picture is of a DIRO made from an older mold, the ones made using the news molds come out a lot neater).

Design of chassis:

      What makes DIRO better than the competition is not only the mods, but also the design of the chassis. The chassis is designed so that depending on what you want to do with the robot, there is a specific side for it. For example, if you want to go through a maze, the round side of the DIRO is ideal, not only because it would allow you to round corners, but also if the robot is right against the wall (as in the side of the robot is on the wall) the wheels won’t get stuck and the robot would continue moving against the wall thanks to the way DIRO’s wheels are tucked in. On the other hand, lets say you want to make a robot that pushes objects, you would use the flat side of the chassis which would allow you to make a proper scoop and you could mount bigger wheels for traction thanks to the fact that there’s nothing restricting you on the sides.

Mods:

         By now it might be obvious but all a mod is, is an adapter for the DIRO. Currently our mods are printed out (using a 3D printer) and the mods we plan on sending out will more than likely be 3D printed, but you are not restricted on using only our mods. The point of the DIRO chassis was to design the chassis so that mods could easily be made and attached to the robot. Thus after the campaign is over the mods that we have designed and the platforms for the mods will hopefully be posted on our website for people to download or easily accessible through some other method (like you email us and we send you files). We will also offer to print out mods for those who don’t have access to a printer and will only charge for the plastic and shipping. Again though you are not restricted to only our mods; mods could easily be designed for your own personal needs.

Awards:

The awards for backing are as follows:

• Your name on our sponsor page on our website

• The basic DIRO mods, which include a normal caster, two wheels, and your choice of either a servo mod (the hubs used are just modified servo horns) or a Pololu gear motor mod (with appropriate hub). (refer to the picture below of the basic kit and imagine that without the DIRO chassis and remember you also have the option of gettint the servo mod instead (which I believe I show in the video))

• The DIRO chassis (black)

This one is one of the earlier chassis the ones that are offered are neater than this
This one is one of the earlier chassis the ones that are offered are neater than this

• The package of nuts and screws used to mount things onto DIRO (package is offered for those who are unable to get the right hardware at a local hardware store or those that just want the things needed in the same package).

• A DIRO basic robot kit, which includes the DIRO chassis, a normal caster, two Pololu geared motors, two hubs, wheels and the Pololu geared motor mount.


Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

So far the risk I see is having too many orders, but that's why I set the estimated delivery for January (hopefully I have them done before then). If it turns out that this Kickstarter does so well and have way too many orders, than I will more than likely get a metal mold made and have the chassis made out of ABS, but I'm not sure how long this would take, but I'll keep everyone updated. The second risk I see is the mod files wouldn't be downloadable from the website, in which case we'll email all those interested the files that we currently have.

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