Mechanism design and analysis students at NIU’s College of Engineering & Engineering Technology were recently assigned a challenging project—create a six-legged walking robot complete with a Hoeckens Linkage to compete with fellow student teams. Post-design, they enlisted the services of Rockford-based EIGERlab to print their creation utilizing additive manufacturing, commonly called 3D printing.
Haley Cummings, a junior mechanical engineering major on the student team, said, “We were given design constraints by the professor, which included adding a Hoeckens linkage. Translation, it had to have six legs, walk, and have three feet on the ground at all times. This mechanism makes the legs of the robot walk along a path guided by the front leg.”
NIU’s student design team consisting of Cummings, Veronica Finegan, Andrew Johnson, Nathan Marshall and John Seper, was given a motor, battery cases and an on-off switch. Plastic and access to laser-cutting machinery were also provided by the College of Engineering & Engineering Technology.
However, “Creating the robot with plastic would have proven too bulky given the movements necessary for our design,” Cummings noted.
“The walking mechanism will be printed as an assembly so it’ll be a fully functional model when we print it—no assembly necessary,” said Mike Cobert, EIGERlab’s assistant director.
The design was somewhat complex, and EIGERlab Prototyping Technician Jeff Metters added, “We print intricate designs on a regular basis, but it amazed me that such a complex design could be printed as one unit, and walk immediately after cleanup.”
EIGERlab’s Center for Product Development assists both startups and existing companies with all facets of design, engineering and 3D printing; anything that’s necessary to bring a product to market.
NIU engineering professor Behrooz Fallahi summed up the experience with the team: “In the end it was less about the competition and more about the challenge and completing the design process as well as gaining valuable experience.”
Recently acquired by NIU, EIGERlab is evolving to be the NIU EIGERlab Innovation Network, linking and leveraging innovation and entrepreneurship networks, service providers and higher education for the economic development of the region.