All this required me to think very hard about what I've been doing, what sets it apart, why it is useful, and to whom. And one thing that came out of that was me realizing that some omnidirectional wheels need to be part of my framework because some users in my talk audience will need them. Existing omnidirectional wheel designs on the web didn't fit my design principles and needs very well. So I designed the one below.
With beads assembled
The key things about this design are as follows:
- It only requires one piece of hardware--some wire. I have some 16 or so gauge steel wire, but you can pick anything that feels right to you for your size of wheel, and input those dimensions into the OpenSCAD file.
- Everything can be changed easily in the OpenSCAD file. Number of beads, shape and size of the bead, gauge of the wire, etc. This will be more true after some cleanup on my part, when I get it ready for release on Thingiverse and elsewhere.
- Everything besides the steel wire is 3d printed. It is often easier to 3d print beads than to find beads that fit the wire closely.
- The 3d print does not have to be split in two in order to print. Assembly is simple and doesn't require any 'finicky steps.'
- This is because the channel for the wire is opened up, specifically at the point where printing more of the channel would break the 45 degree rule of thumb for 3d printing. It has a snap-in kind of feel.
- Hot glue can be used optionally to help tack down the wire where needed.
- The wheel hub/gear module will be added on top in the final version without any fuss. To illustrate how this can be a problem with other designs, consider the version where an enclosed channel is created by printing the wheel in halves split along the central X-Y plane of the wheel. In order to not break the 45 degree rule, you have to print the inside faces up. In order to print the wheel hub though, you need at least one outside face up. (My solution in that case would have been a triangular channel).
I'd like to come up with a few more variations on this, and maybe tackle a similarly informed design for Mecanum wheels or two-layered omni wheels.
Here's a first 3d print. The beads will be spray coated with Flexible Rubber, a product sold mostly for sealing up cars and boats. They'll be loaded on a skewer and finished in bulk, which is an important point when you have this many parts to finish. This will also make it more feasible for me to spend the time to apply multiple layers, to get a good thick rubber tire on each.
Looking good--only minor design changes and a little finishing work is needed for this particular mix of the OpenSCAD parameters to be more than a demonstration prototype.
Oh, and I should mention: this wheel cost about 63 cents! That's 60 cents of 3d printed plastic and a few cents worth of steel wire. The wheel is 6cm in diameter.