Vinyl Vertex

I believe we are in an age where local manufacturing will become a dominant form of goods distribution.  Aiding us along this path there will be a number of technological advances, advances in electronics, and advances in materials.  Yesterday, I discovered something refreshingly simple though.  What I discovered was that simplicity of design comes from taking a fresh look at what is right in front of you.

I have been puzzling with many different designs for constructing tetrahedrons.  Why this form?  Because it is a pretty solid self sufficient and stable building block, when properly constructed.  There are at least two challenges when constructing a tetrahedron.  The first has to do with selecting the structural material.  This can be anything from pipe cleaners to carbon fiber rods.  The material you select will determine the relative strength and rigidity of your structure.  The second design choice is what type of vertex system you will use to bring the structural material together.  The material chosen here will determine how rigid and durable the joints themselves are.

While constructing the PolyBot robot:  One of the design constraints I have set for myself is loosely defined as simplicity.  I want the thing to be easily constructed.  A minimal number of parts, which are easily obtainable.  I want it to be buildable in a very short amount of time, by anyone with average DIY skills.

One of the aspects of the design is the frame.  I am always trying to improve the simplicity of the frame.  Yesterday I had an epiphany and thought, “why don’t I use vinyl tubing to bring the structural members together.  The result was the following frame:

Tetrahedron with Vinyl Tubing Vertices

The construction was fairly simple.  Just cut some tubing, and slip the rods into the ends.  When you need more than two rods to come together, you punch a hold through the middle of a couple of pieces of tubing, and join them with a screw, or rivet, or whatever fastener you so happen to have for the job.

One of the cool things about locally driven innovation is that it is very easy for anyone to participate.  In this particular case, within 4 hours of posting this particular technique, another designer posted an item that used the same technique:  That design is for a completely different purpose, but utilizes the same technique.  The funniest thing of all is it comes from Mr. Kim of  I was originally inspired by their usage of vinyl as a pully on a stepper motor shaft.  I guess that just goes to show you that inspiration can come from anywhere, and once you are inspired, if you share that inspiration, you’ll spark other people as well.

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