Design Engineering

3D printed humanoid robot goes open source

Mike McLeod   

Automation Motion Control Machine Building 3D printing Additive Manufacturing Robotics slideshow

Small, child-like Poppy robot takes two days to assemble and program from open-source, off-the-shelf and additive manufactured components.

14-July-poppy-3D-printed-robot-625If you’ve ever dreamed of manufacturing your own legion of mechanical minions, a group of robotics researchers at the Inria Flowers Lab in Bordeaux-France may have a solution. The group recently released the physical design and control software, plus BOM and assembly instructions, for a 3D printable humanoid robot, called Poppy.

Released as an open source project on GitHub and GrabCAD, the plans include CAD files for the robot’s body parts in common 3D formats (STL, Step, SolidWorks, etc.) as well as the group’s internally developed PyPot robot control software library.

However, standing only 85cm tall, Poppy walks like a human toddler (i.e. with assistance), and therefore may draw more “aawwws” than “AARGHs” for the average would-be overlord’s liking. Still, the diminutive robot weighs only 3.5 kg and replicates a natural human gait via a semi-passive knee joint assisted by traction springs.

In addition, the robot’s multi-articulated trunk houses five motors allowing the reproduction of the main DOFs of the human spine. In total, Poppy relies on 22 motors to actuate its leg, hip, spine, arm and neck joints.


The robot’s latticed body parts are laser sintered from polyamide material to keep weight down but still provide a stiff skeletal structure to support it’s motors and electronics. Its Arduino controller, control software and physical design support numerous sensors types including position, speed, load, temperature, acceleration and pressure.

14-July-poppy-3D-printed-robot-parts-625To keep programmability within the reach of amateur roboticists, Poppy’s PyPot controller library is coded in the open source Python language and works on multiple platforms (Linux, Windows, OSX). With it, programmers can synchronize up to 10 motors on the same bus at 100Hz. In addition, the software allows for synchronous/asynchronous low-level motor commands, hierarchical high-level primitives and remote access (via socket or HTTP requests).

According to the researchers, assembling Poppy’s either off-the-shelf or 3D printed components takes two to three days and, overall, costs relatively little for this type of robot — 7500-8000€ (approximately CAD$10,850 – $11,570). However, the group hopes that releasing this educational project to the Creative Commons will spur the hacker community to figure out ways to bring the price tag lower still.


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