Modeling a robotic Lego arm – Summer Internship 2023
PDSVISION offers a summer internship program to engineering students, introducing them to the latest in engineering, IoT, and augmented reality software, from 2D and 3D modeling and visualization to engineering database management and image rendering programs.
In the summer of 2023, four MSc students received training and certifications in relevant applications included in the PDSVISION portfolio. They got to work on an IIoT project – building, modeling, and visualizing a 6-axis robotic Lego arm. This blog post describes the project and their time at PDSVISION.
“The purpose of this project was for us to learn and work with some of the different products that PDSVISION works with, but also to produce marketing material to use at upcoming student career fairs and more.”
Unboxing and organizing the parts
We started the project by unboxing and sorting all the Lego parts. Before the unboxing, we discussed a strategy for organizing our work. There would be a lot of different Lego pieces for us to keep track of, about a hundred unique parts and around 800 components in total.
We realized that a good naming convention for the parts would be crucial to make it easier to track the progress of the part creation and essential to be able to find the correct parts quickly later in the assembly stage. We named the parts after their physically recognizable attributes: Color, Length, Number of holes, Shape, and Functionality.
To organize our work, we decided to take pictures of each unique Lego piece and make a checklist in Excel with the corresponding name, image, attributes, and work status. For this project, we set the work status attribute to indicate whether the part had been created in Creo and Windchill PDMLink.
With all pieces sorted and documented, we could go on to create the CAD parts in Creo Parametric.
Setting up the workspace
Four interns working on a Lego robotic arm with a few parts and parties involved is a relatively small project. However, during the internship, the project was conducted as if operating in a larger commercial setting for learning purposes. Project planning and setting up a workspace before building the parts in Creo Parametric was treated as vital.
We needed to learn how to customize Creo Parametric to work efficiently with our project, but we also needed to use Windchill PDMLink. As none of us had previous experience with Windchill PDMLink, we attended a couple of online classes given by PTC, to learn how to create a workspace for our robotic arm project. Using Windchill was a great idea as the program enabled the seamless sharing of parts between ourselves, which helped during the assembly phase of the project. During this phase, we learned the importance of having a good project structure.
Modeling in Creo Parametric
After setting up the workspace, it was finally time to start modeling the parts. As we already had access to all the parts, we had to reverse-engineer the Lego robot. This proved challenging as the parts needed to fit together precisely, but measuring the parts exactly with a simple caliper was impossible. This meant we sometimes needed to make creative changes to the parts for the model to fit together. We modeled about 100 individual parts, many requiring a different modeling technique and use of function and feature in Creo Parametric. After modeling so many parts, in so many ways in CAD, it was easy to get all the certifications for Creo Parametric online. We can safely say that we improved our CAD skills a lot during this summer.
Assembling the physical robotic arm
When all the parts had been modeled, it was finally time to assemble the robot physically and digitally. Since we all had experience building with Legos in childhood, we thought assembling the physical pieces would be easy. However, the robotic arm was a bit more complex than the sets we had as children, so it took us a surprisingly long time to assemble. After a couple of days of intense building and modeling, the bright orange robotic arm was finally completed and ready to start operating.
Doing some programming
Now that the robot had been built, it was time to test it and see what it could do. To control the robot with our computers, we first had to go through an extensive installation of the software, but after that had been completed, it was time to start up the robot for the first time! Fortunately, we had assembled the robot correctly, and the robot moved perfectly (after some calibrations) in all directions!
After playing around with the robot for a while, we programmed the robot to do specific tasks. One task was picking up and sorting table tennis balls using one of the attachments. The other program ordered the robot to follow a narrow beam, illustrating the robot’s capability to move in 3D space. In the end, we were proud of what the robot could perform all on its own, and hopefully, it will catch some fellow students’ attention at the upcoming student fairs.
Illustrations of the finished model in KeyShot
We also wanted to find a way to illustrate and visualize the robot and create cool animations of the robot in action. Therefore, we were given the opportunity to take courses and get certified in the rendering program KeyShot. We were amazed by KeyShot’s ability to produce almost photorealistic animations and images. Did you know that many of the products you see in online shops are rendered? Using KeyShot, we added PDSVISON colors to the robot and created amazing animations and renderings of the robot. Some of the pictures produced will eventually be printed and displayed at the Stockholm Office.
Creating AR visualizations
We were introduced to the AR program Vuforia to visualize the robot further. In Vuforia, it was possible to implement the model of the robot and quickly create an immersive AR experience. The model of the robot could virtually be placed on any planar surface, and it was possible to walk and interact with the model in 3D space. We created a Vuforia setup guide for the robot arm to use at the student fairs coming up next year.
Additional project – a Vuforia game!
During the last weeks of the internship, we designed a textile patch to have as a giveaway at the student fairs. Students in Sweden wear special student uniforms that they like to cover in patches. We tried various concepts but decided to create a mini-game using Vuforia and a QR code, where you navigate a cube through a maze. We called it “PDSVISION Cube Runner”! You can try it out by scanning the QR code on the patch 🙂
Summarizing our time at PDSVISION
Our internship at PDSVISON was not just 8 hours of modeling parts in Creo or endless rendering hours in KeyShot. There was also time for us to get to know the rest of the staff at the Stockholm office, go to the office summer party, improve our table tennis skills after lunch, and have a fun time in general. Everyone was super welcoming and often swung by our office space to chat and follow up on the project. Extending beyond the robot project, we did other tasks now and then. We migrated customer data in Teams and updated the support knowledge base, which gave us more insight into PDSVISION and their work.
We have learned so much during the summer as we have worked with the modeling of parts, augmented reality software, visualization, engineering database management, and image rendering programs. We are thrilled with our results, and all the friendly people we met at the company also made our summer at PDSVISION a lot better.
We want to thank PDSVISION and the Stockholm office for this summer!
All the best,
Josef, Marcus, David & Anna