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In 2011, I worked on a project under Iowa State University Graduate Research Assistant, Koray Celik. The project involved developing a slip ring to transmit electrical power through a 360 degree rotating robotic arm. Essentially, the robot had a motor-driven hand capable of wrist rotation; however, the wires powering the hand motor restricted the rotation of the wrist. Dr. Celik offered to let me design and build a slip ring for the sake of experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the hours of design and fabrication, which makes sense considering I want to pursue robotics after earning my master's degree in mechanical engineering.
With help from fellow mechanical engineering student, Kale Brockmann, I designed and modeled a slip ring from common materials.
The brushes were made from two pieces of 12 gauge common household ground wire.
The rings were made from common copper plumbing fittings, machined in a lathe. The plastic insulater was made from a stock of plastic, also machined in a lathe.
The housing was made from a short piece of PVC pipe, heated and formed to the contour of the motor housing it enshrouds.
The first design was a success. For over two years now, the slip ring has worked without fail and without maintenance. I think the design was such a success because of the joy and excitement I experienced while working on it. Had it not been such a pleasurable experience, I might not have put in the extra thought and time to work through the minor details.