Manufacturing & Robotics
Accessible Robotics through Digital and Physical Prototyping
Charlie Ranscombe
Department of Interior Architecture & Industrial Design
Gergana Rusenova
Department of Interior Architecture & Industrial Design

Through the use of Adobe Illustrator, students with little to no experience in robotics are able to create digital artwork or create a machine that will be performed with the ProtoLAB’s collaborative robot.
In this project, students will produce individual works which will link the digital and physical environment. Working with various artifacts and processes, the students will use illustrator as a bridging software, between traditional CAD software and our laser cutters in order to utilise the robot.
In an emerging world of advanced manufacturing, this process provides a valuable introduction to a highly sought-after skill.
Resources
Shareable teaching and learning resources for this project coming soon!

Problem 
Learning robotics and how to program different types of robots is generally seen as a daunting and unattainable skill. The goal of this project was to engage design students with robotics and technology in a way that was accessible for them. This was achieved by linking digital design with rapid prototyping and physical fabrication. By drawing upon students' current skillsets and knowledge, this project used Adobe Illustrator as a bridging software to show students that robotics is possible for them. 

Project Overview 
Through the use of Adobe Illustrator, students with little to no experience in robotics are able to create digital artwork or create a machine that will be performed with the ProtoLAB’s collaborative robot. In this project, students will produce individual works which will link the digital and physical environment. Working with various artifacts and processes, the students will use illustrator as a bridging software, between traditional CAD software and our laser cutters in order to utilise the robot. In an emerging world of advanced manufacturing, this process provides a valuable introduction to a highly sought-after skill. 
Through this project, we also aimed to encourage further utilisation of the incredible resources offered in the ProtoLAB. The ProtoLAB is a state-of-the-art prototyping facility for the Swinburne School of Design and Architecture. It is equipped with a wide variety of prototyping and advanced manufacturing capabilities and staff with broad technical knowledge that enables effective coaching and upskilling of students.  

Emergent Outcomes  
This project used a range of different software to allow students to design artwork or create a machine that will be performed with the robot. Adobe Illustrator was used as a bridging platform to engage students with robotics and technology. These processes provided a more integrated learning experience for students across multiple disciplines. 
  The outcomes included:  
        - Students create drawings and light paintings with the Kuka robots: this process allows students to create vector line drawings through Adobe Illustrator which are then exported to and programmed with RoboDK (software that integrates robot simulation and programming for robots). A code created with RoboDK will be sent to and performed by our Kuka robot with a pen or light end-effector. While the final outcomes from the drawings are presented on paper, the light paintings are created through post-processing the long exposure photos in Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. 
        -  Our Kuka robots are accompanied by an end-effector within our projects with students, these end-effectors are small machines designed to be attached to the end of the robot arm. Some of the end-effectors that are being used in these learning outcomes include, a pen and a programmable LED lighting attachment. Our senior students also have the opportunity to design their own end-effectors that can do a variety of operations including gripping objects, and 3d printing. These are designed using Adobe Illustrator to produce rapid prototyping on the laser cutter for a cost-effective turnaround. A lesson plan was created which showed the students how to create a 3D box (in place of an end-effector) which effectively gives the students all the skills needed to create an end-effector for the robot. 

Digital Literacy Outcomes  
This process mainly focused on developing the Digital Literacy Pillar of ‘Technology Literacy’. The aim of the project was to give students the confidence to learn and use Robotics, and we believe this was achieved through focusing on this pillar. 

Key Learnings 
Through this project, it was found that active learning, rather than passive learning, is a much more effective teaching style. By creating our lessons and projects based on ‘student-centred learning’ , and making a conscious effort to make active learning the priority throughout the process, we found that the students were much more involved and interested. 
It was extremely valuable to challenge our teaching and learning assumptions that we might not have even realised we came into the project with. Breaking down these assumptions and going into the project with an open mind helped the team members create more thoughtful and impactful projects.  

Impact (data from student surveys, student feedback, reflections) 

As this project will be properly implemented in semester 1 and 2 or 2023, student surveys will be completed next year. This is what we found from our soft launch of the project this year: 
During the first class of the semester, students were daunted by the introduction to robotics in design. However, as the initial exercises of robotic dancing and drawing were being taught, students were able to grasp these abstract concepts concepts with more ease. This was largely due to their prior knowledge in Adobe Illustrator and 3D modelling software.  
As the students progress towards their final assessments, students are asked to make physical models of their machine designs. Without the use of Illustrator students would take a much longer time to go through a series of tests and prototyping. Illustrator has allowed students to create 2D flat pack designs from their 3D geometries, and these 2D designs were then quickly cut out on a laser cutter. 
Students who took advantage of this process were able to refine their design much more successfully, as they are encouraged to start physical prototypes earlier on in the semester and reflect on moments of failure within these tests. 
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