VEX Robotic Compactor
Entry ID #: 176
Created: Wed, Mar 3, 2010 12:43 AM
Have you ever been sitting in front of the TV, cleaning out your backpack, when the trash can somehow runs out of space? I have, and the only solutions I could devise were to either stop what I am doing and crush the paper with my foot or carry the bin to the dumpster and dispose of the trash. Both of these tasks required work, and neither is entertaining nor fun. My solution is the VEX Robotic Compactor. It uses high torque to generate enough force to compact the trash, so that fewer trips to the dumpster are required. Then, when I do have to take it over to the dumpster, I can drive it around and make taking out the trash fun! The VRC also has one great nonpractical use: if you have enough Star Wars “action figures” you are also able to reenact the trash compactor scene! The VRC works by converting the high-speed VEX motors into slow, high torque “beasts.” Six motors are geared way down and drive pinion gears across lines of rack gears. These rack and pinion setups provide the linear force to effectively crush any trash. The encoders are in place to prevent misalignment of the crushing units. There is one main safety feature, the touch sensor, and it is in place so people don’t stick their hand into the box when it is running and crush it by accident. They could self-mutilate on purpose by pressing the switch themselves, but that's their problem. The process I used to develop the VRC started with surveys. I was not sure what people wanted, or needed, from a robot. I went around and asked my friends and family what they would want. Roughly 50% of them said a robotic trash can. I took this idea further and made a robot that lowered the number of trips to the dumpster. I didn’t want to make just a box on wheels, so I brainstormed with pictures on my whiteboard and came up with a pretty clear idea of how to construct the robot. I started with the crushing unit, since I had never made anything like it before. The challenge came in deciding how to construct it, what assemblies I needed, and how to make all the parts I needed (I stole some off of the VEX CAD site and made a few others). The pattern feature was the most useful feature I used for this assignment, because it allowed me to place many screws very quickly. The robot is sturdy, and contains screws to imply that something strong was holding it together. This, combined with the extrude/cut tool allowed me to make selective cuts in the assembly without having to open up parts. Ultimately, Inventor was a key component in allowing me to design the VRC to solve everyday boredom and make a once odious household task fun!