Soldering, hardware debugging, writing software. Those were some of the things I expected to be doing working at work as an electrical engineer. One thing I wouldn't have placed on that list: 3D Computer Aided Design (CAD). This blogpost is a short description of my journey into a software package, predominantly used by the mechanicals engineers in our team.
It's in this CAD software where all the mechanical parts of the exoskeleton are born, reshaped and put together into larger assemblies until there's an exoskeleton. As long as all these parts live inside the same software package all is well. But that might not be the case for all the electronics and cabling. To make sure that we can nicely merge the two worlds of mechanics and electronics we make sure to integrate the electronics and cabling into the CAD software. This starts with trying to figure out how large a certain Printed Circuit Board is going to be before it has been designed. Then, creating 3D mock-ups and finally bargaining for and settling on maximum dimensions with my mechanical teammembers.
One good example of the dependency from both sides are our motorcontrollers. These pieces of electronics, discussed in more detail in a previous post, drive an electromotor and make the joints of the exoskeleton move. The only reason why the 'bones' of the exoskeleton are relatively wide is because there needs to be enough space to mount these motorcontrollers. Physically seen the bones would have been plenty strong if they would have been centimeters less wide.
When you have all your electronics and a nice location on the exoskeleton for them you can start worrying about cables. Connecting all the electronics in a 3D CAD program is a time consuming task, but one big advantage is that with this complete picture you can think of integrated solutions for managing your cabling. It also allows easier production of the cables, because sizes are now known.
Thanks for reading! To stay up to date about our project, check out our website at projectmarch.nl or find us on our social media!
- Tristan Wieffering