Interview with Dr Adrian Bowyer

 

Elio and Tobie visited Dr Adrian Bowyer, senior lecturer in theDepartment of Mechanical Engineering, at the University of Bath working in the Biomimetics Research Group.

Adrian Bowyer

 

Through his research, Adrian creates intersections between biology and engineering. Robots swim like fish or wriggle like worms, Darwinian evolution is deployed as a model for problem solving in mechanical systems, and machines can reproduce.

Underlying Adrian's work, there seems to be a belief that problem solving and creative thinking are tools that should be available for everyone. With a little patience, we can find pleasure and satisfaction through making our own things.

The documentation of our conversation is split into 9 sections:

There are a number of video clips from the discussion. Click to see movies, Quicktime 7 is required.

If you have any comments or questions about these clips, you can visit the forum.

 

1 The work of the Biomimetics group

Adrian Bowyer

 

Adrian's background (8.3 MB)

Adrian trained as a mechanical engineer, then worked in a mathmatics department, crossing to computing, returning to engineering

 

Biomimetics (4.9 MB)

A brief introduction to what Biomimetics is

 

Jumping vs. flying (5.4 MB)

How jumping can be more energy efficent than flying

 

Paddle worm (7.3 MB)

The movement of a paddle worm through mud influenced design of a colonic endoscope

 

Wood (11.2 MB)

Despite the weakness of its individual materials, wood has a tough composite structure

 

Fins (4.2 MB)

The advantages of using fins rather than propellers to move underwater vehicles

 

Researchers (3.9 MB)

A description of who is working on these projects, and how their roles are funded

 

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2 Translating natural systems into engineered systems

Adrian Bowyer

 

Motors as muscles (23.4 MB)

The ubiquitous electric motor could learn from the subtlety of muscular movements

 

Slavish (7.4 MB)

Drawing inspiration from nature is not the same as slavish copying

 

Evolution (14.7 MB)

Biological evolution is not necessarily the best way of designing a system

 

Products (13.2 MB)

Examples of products that have been influenced by nature

 

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3 Engaging with engineering

Adrian Bowyer

 

Aesthetics (6.6 MB)

Aesthetics and engineering in the collaborative work of Adrian and the artisit Jane Prophet

 

Learning (9.2 MB)

A project which translates the biomimetic research into teaching materials for secondary schools

 

News (4.9 MB)

Interviews for television, newspapers and the technical press are another form of output

 

Layers (4.8 MB)

These outputs can be imagined as a stack of layers, where each layer uses a different type of language

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4 Engineering and the media

Adrian Bowyer

 

Journalism (2.8 MB)

Journalism simplifies Adrian's research to communicate with a non-specialist readership

 

Acrylamide (9.4 MB)

An example of mis-reporting over the material acrylamide, and the danger it poses to humans

 

Different views (13.2 MB)

Researchers should be open to public scrutiny, and expect their work to be interpreted by the public

 

Making it work (7 MB)

Despite interpretations and story telling, engineering remains forcused on making things work technically

 

Stories and insights (4.3 MB)

Stories about the RepRap project don't offer new insights

 

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5 the RepRap project

Adrian Bowyer

 

Low cost (3.5 MB)

RepRap is purposefully a low cost project

 

Rapid prototyping (6.6 MB)

Rapid prototyping allows physical object to be build from computer files

 

Self assembly (4.4 MB)

The project was inspired by reproduction - a machine that can make versions of itself

 

Open source (8 MB)

Everyone is able to join the project and make their own RepRap machines

 

Widespread (3.8 MB)

caption27

One aim of making the intellectual property freely available this is to let the idea spread

 

 

6 Progress and other features of RepRap

Adrian Bowyer

 

Progress (3.3 MB)

The machine is already able to build the most complex part of itself

 

Documentation (3.1 MB)

All the designs and software are online and the project is supported by about ten people

 

Pricing (6 MB)

The machine is about the same price of a wahing machine, while commercial versions start at £15,000

 

Software (2.9 MB)

Sharing and giving away the software encourages rapid improvements to be made

 

Wave zero(2.8 MB)

Three additional machines are being built for use by other members of the RepRap team

 

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7 The social implications of RepRap

Adrian Bowyer

 

Early adopters (3.7 MB)

The first users of RepRap are likely to be technically minded

 

Evolution (6.1 MB)

As with the computer industry, the technology will become simpler and more widespread

 

Biomimesis (3.6 MB)

These machine replicate, like biological systems

 

Making (7.1 MB)

People will use the RepRap to make parts that can be assembled to make eveyday objects

 

Economics (6.9 MB)

A commercial company would not build a machine that they can't make money from

 

Patents (4.2 MB)

Patents can hold back on develpment as they restrict access to technology

 

Agriculture (3.7 MB)

RepRap invites us to look away from current models of manufacturing to our agricultural past

 

Micro-economy (2.2 MB)

Allowing people to make their own goods creates many, smaller economies

 

Grow your own (11.3 MB)

There is potential to grow the raw material the repRap uses to make things with

 

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8 The Tris project

Adrian Bowyer

 

TRIZ (7.2 MB)

TRIZ is a theory of inventive problem solving

 

Bike seat (4.1 MB)

A bike seat needs to be both narrow and broad - how an this be resolved?

 

Biology (6 MB)

An analysis of evolutionary problem solving in organisms provides a model for solving enginnering problems

 

Information (6.3 MB)

Engineers solve problems with energy and effort, nature relies on time and information

 

Social Fiction (6.3 MB)

Fiction imagines technology in radically different ways, where human behaviour is often unchallenged

 

Effort and return (5.6 MB)

Understanding the benefit of a technology encourages people to learn how to use it

 

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9 A quick tour

Adrian Bowyer

 

Demo (11.8 MB)

A demonstration of the RepRap machine with Ed Sells

 

Overview (9.1 MB)

A quick over view of the main electronic components and their function

 

Close up (1.8 MB)

To make an object the print head lays down material line by line, layer by layer

 

Support (3.6 MB)

Supports are added by a second print head to hold iregular shaped objects

 

TRIZ Matrix (6.5 MB)

A table for identifying principles to apply to problems

 

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Intervew by Elio and Tobie on 11th June 2007.


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