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Art and Science

15/10/2019

The prince's tears: 3D, robotic printing, art and vitrification

Research - Jean-Pierre Merlet - octobre 2019 The canister with 4 cables of 3mm which move it - Copyright : Anne-Valérie Gasc, "Vitrifications", Centre d'art Les Tanneries, Amilly, 2019. Photo : Aurélien Mole

Unusual meeting between the robotics team Hephaistos, a specialist in cable robots, and the artist Anne-Valérie Gasc during an exhibition "Vitrification - les larmes du prince" at the Centre d'art contemporain Les Tanneries dans le Loiret, mixing 3D printing, robotics and art. The opportunity to accumulate a lot of data to deepen knowledge in robotics and develop research axes.

At the beginning, there was first of all an artistic vision, that of Anne-Valérie Gasc whose work focused in architecture on the process of construction/destruction through different media, likely to upset our understanding of reality. She is looking for a very large machine to disperse glass powder.

And an improbable meeting with Yves Papegay, a researcher in the Inria Hephaistos research team, a specialist in parallel cable robots who explains the principle and use of parallel cable robots during a course at the Malaquais School of Architecture: they allow you to manipulate an object over large dimensions by connecting it to four cables whose length is controlled by means of winches.

After discussions with the artist and her curator Emmanuelle Chiappone-Piriou, the project took shape at the end of 2018 on the principle of an installation at the Centre d'art contemporain Les Tanneries in the village of Amilly. The goal: to deposit glass powder along a predefined trajectory, without any binder, to build a wall that is deconstructed as it is built by sliding the powder. This project involves a quick realization since the opening of the exhibition is scheduled for the end of June 2019.

For this purpose, the researchers of the Hephaistos project team, Yves Papegay and his team leader Jean-Pierre Merlet, reuse elements of one of their MARIONET CRANE cable robots, which must however be adapted to the task and the location. Their new playground: a 21-metre long by 8-metre wide rectangle on which glass powder is to be dispersed from a canister along a curved trajectory of 50 metres long, continuously. The canister is operated by 4 cables whose length varies between 5 and 26 meters. A kind of 3D printing according to a trajectory defined by the artist with several layers of powder of micro glass beads piled up until they form a kind of wall until the powder slips and the wall flows on each side and crumbles inexorably.

Operation reproduced five days a week under the watchful eye of a design student present on site to ensure the supply of the canister, check the proper functioning of the installation and keep a logbook of the experiment.

Marionet Crane Cable Robots

Through this project, the Hephaistos team succeeded in demonstrating the feasibility over a long period of time of using a parallel cable robot under the control of a non-expert.

It is also an opportunity to test in real life new robot control modes, in particular the use of onboard lidar sensors to detect the position of the canister in space and to collect data from the multiple sensors installed on the canister to determine the state of the system and discover new operating modes.

More than 700 GB of log files were collected, and a preliminary analysis showed behaviours that cannot be explained by current theory in this field, thus opening up new scientific perspectives.

A source of scientific data

Overall the robot operated for 174h18mn, i.e. 4h15mn/day operating conditions that are similar to those of an industrial process.

For 32 days between mid-July and the end of August the working robot worked for 73 hours, 45 hours of which were spent on the trajectory. He covered 4,757 metres, 3,893 of which were on the trajectory, scattering 1,500 kilograms of glass powder. This is certainly a world record for the distance covered in such conditions.

Quantified result

Overall the robot operated for 174 hours and 18 minutes, i.e. 4 hours and 15 minutes per day, operating conditions that are similar to those of an industrial process.

For 32 days between mid-July and the end of August the working robot worked for 73 hours, 45 hours of which were spent on the trajectory. He covered 4,757 metres, 3,893 of which were on the trajectory, scattering 1,500 kilograms of glass powder. This is certainly a world record for the distance covered in such conditions.

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