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Lego Mindstorms Used To Make Artificial Bones

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the lego-leg dept.

Medicine 42

An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at Cambridge University have used Lego Mindstorms robots to create an artificial bone-like substance. The toy robots proved to be much easier to set up and vastly more economical than more high-tech solutions. Their research is featured in a video for the 2012 Google Science Fair."

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I can just picture it (4, Funny)

KuRa_Scvls (932317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339553)

This will make the perfect House episode

Re:I can just picture it (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339589)

Not quite edgy/ethically questionable enough.

Re:I can just picture it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339795)

Well, maybe they could steal the Mindstorms?

Re:I can just picture it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339951)

They'd have to be the birthday present of a child with terminal cancer, who dies before the Legos can be returned.

Re:I can just picture it (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339993)

Yup, I can actually see that.

Throw in a few inappopriate remarks similar to the already used "they need that energy for other things, like crying" .. maybe some moment about 3/4 through where House is shocked into a weird sense of guilt after witnessing some selfless act or something.

Re:I can just picture it (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340325)

I take it you watch box sets back to back and see the cutter plot shape. You know it's 33 mins into the story-line because this note was hit. 42mins, ending look between actors given. If I watch box sets too much I start to see it almost like an xml file. Each plot point is a branch opening and closing and it's all reusable.
The only thing that didn't do this, was the first Season of Dexter. Felt like the book's story playing out.

Re:I can just picture it (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341465)

Yup! I'm a box set junkie .. and some shows are definitely worse than others.

You also start picking up painfully repetitive elements that you'd otherwise miss / let slide. ST:TNG is horrible for this. Not just on major plot elements, but on minor character interation. Example:

When refering to the past (i.e. human achievement, historical events), it's almost always two people/events from real life, followed by one fictional.

The first 3 or 4 seasons of SG1 have to be the worst though. I mean I know they set a lot of the cliches we complain about now.. but good grief! They use some stuff so many times ("go on without me/we don't leave anyone behind" had to happen at least every 3'rd episode early on) it became cliche within it's own series!

Nope. Already been done. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39346195)

They already did that. Remember the one where House got shot? They used a cool robot in that one. Personally, I think slowly undressing Dr. Cameron and placing a drop of water in her bellybutton and then blowing softly on it is probably the best possible use for a $50,000+ medical robot... of course, SPOILER ALERT (for anyone who hasn't seen it yet) almost the whole thing turned out to be a damned dream sequence...

Love it (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339559)

Love stuff like this..

Where someone who would normally draw from a mostly vertical market (industrial robotics) draws from a more horizontal one (toys).

In the time it takes to even figure out who to call about getting information on the stuff they need built .. someone can run to Toys R' Us and get everything they need, and at a fraction of the cost!

Whoever saw their kid playing with lego and thought this up deserves like a free toaster or something.

Re:Love it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39340137)

have you seen how expensive fucking legos are? this isn't going to help.

Re:Love it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39342495)

have you seen how expensive fucking legos are? this isn't going to help.

That sounds...painful...

Re:Love it (4, Interesting)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340559)

Where someone who would normally draw from a mostly vertical market (industrial robotics) draws from a more horizontal one (toys).

The first experimental modern soft contact lenses made of water-permeable plastic gel were manufactured in the 1960's on a machine constructed from the parts of a local (Czech) clone of the Erector/Meccano construction kit (named Merkur).

Re:Love it (1)

EliSowash (2532508) | more than 2 years ago | (#39343209)

Whoever saw their kid playing with lego and thought this up deserves like a free toaster or something.

The way that bearded super scientist assembled that robot...it's clear he's the kid who played with lego.

Re:Love it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344085)

Their kid playing with Lego? I'd guess they were playing themselves, not the kids.

Chemical contamination ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339577)

I am not a scientist but I believe that dipping something in different chemical over and over will contaminate every chemical plate and reduce the effectiveness of the chemical. Lego robot are great but I worry about the technique.


Re:Chemical contamination ? (1, Informative)

karnal (22275) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339697)

Glad you prefaced this with the fact that you're not a scientist. I'm sure they (being the real scientists) have thought of this.

Re:Chemical contamination ? (1)

pulski (126566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39342483)

In fact they say it in the video. The part is dipped in a water bath after being exposed to each chemical. There is a separate water bath for each that can be seen clearly.

Rapid prototyping (2)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#39339727)

Lego is fantastic for cobbling something together quickly. I've used Lego scaffolding when building scale models, e.g. to hold a wing in the correct position when gluing it to the fuselage.

It has its limitations (Technic hole-and-pin structures tend not to be rigid, lots of play in geartrains), but still.

Re:Rapid prototyping (1)

WillAdams (45638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340209)

Lots of fun. Disagree w/ the characterization in the summary that Mindstorms aren't ``high tech'' though.

I use it to prototype sizing or joint structure for woodworking projects, and to actually make some functional archery accessories such as a fletching jig, spine tester and cresting machine.

Re:Rapid prototyping (4, Interesting)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340551)

The Mindstorms handle lots of the mundane details in robotics, like motor loading, sensor debounce, etc. You can add on your own sensors pretty easily too. I used v2 extensively to prototype stuff. For $300 you just can't beat the kit. Sure it's got limitations, but you know that going in. For a first-run, it's orders of magnitude cheaper than a 3D printer or machining parts.

FWIW, I'm a Professional Electrical Engineer.

Darn... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39339863)

I thought if I broke a bone, I could just snap it back together. But it is cool how they are using the Lego robots.

Re:Darn... (1)

kd4zqe (587495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340725)

I think it's more about creating an artificial bone to custom specifications that can be used in the creation of other items. As they stated, bone has a great strength to weight ratio, similar to the way spidersilk is stronger than steel fiber at the same scale. Nature is a hell of an engineer. It might take millions of years to get something right, but the field trials yield awesome results... and it never leaves Beta. Kinda like Google...

Megablocks (4, Funny)

Oswald McWeany (2428506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340079)

Can't wait for them to make artificial bones out of megablocks and use it for medical applications.

It'll cost less than half the price- but your arms will keep falling off.

Industrial-grade Mindstorms (5, Interesting)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340339)

This gets me wondering if Lego shouldn't open up a technical division that specializes in buildable, cost-effective robots based on Mindstorms for corporate and scientific use. Tighten up the tolerance and offer parts in materials other than plastic, like aluminum or stainless steel. Obviously they wouldn't be competing with industrial robots, but I can imagine that these things could fill quite a few needs and pricing would be attractive, particularly to academia.

Meccano No. 10 (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340969)

The Meccano construction kit, which was metal, had a "No. 10" set which was really aimed at universities and engineering companies. I once used one to build a test rig for a UL-type test in which a hot wire had to be pressed against an electronic assembly with a controlled force. It took a couple of hours to build something that would have taken a week for the machine shop to fabricate.

Slashdot Slashdot's Slashdot!!! (1)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340433)

Did we really just have an article posted where the only link points to another Slashdot article?

Re:Slashdot Slashdot's Slashdot!!! (1)

SecurityTheatre (2427858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341331)

And a video...

Re:Slashdot Slashdot's Slashdot!!! (1)

AJH16 (940784) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341703)

Ah, the video must be blocked at work. I don't see any video when I look at it.

Re:Slashdot Slashdot's Slashdot!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344161)

What video? All I see is a white area where the video should be. Don't tell me people still use Flash to display videos in 2012?

Re:Slashdot Slashdot's Slashdot!!! (1)

Anrego (830717) | more than 2 years ago | (#39341625)

It actually took me a while to notice the video.

I was like half way through writing a similar post when I noticed it :)

Nitpicking ... (1)

NothingWasAvailable (2594547) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340589)

As I watched, I noticed that the top actuator is not connected to anything ...

It took a couple of viewings to realize that the actuator on top is just a counter-weight, and that the two actuators lying on their sides turn the crane and the spool.

I want to show this to a group of Boy Scouts using Mindstorms to do the Robotics Merit Badge, and I wanted to make sure that it wasn't stop-action or something, and I'm pretty sure they'll notice that there's no cable attached to that actuator.

Bring Back Mechano! (3, Interesting)

nbauman (624611) | more than 2 years ago | (#39340685)

During WWII, when Alexander Flemming was developing penicillin, they couldn't get equipment, so one scientist brought his old Mechano set from the attic and used it to construct a shaker to agitate the flasks that they used to grow the mold.

Mechano has had its ups and downs since then (mostly downs), and when I tried to buy a set a few years ago for a friend's son (actually I wanted to use it myself), the current sets were a shadow of their former self. I hope they will or have come back.

Re:Bring Back Mechano! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39341267)

They have choke able parts! won't somebody think of the children?!?!

been there... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39341507)

well, almost. back in the 80's I needed a robot to pick up a moving object on a semiconductor fab conveyor belt. Rather than get a section of that expensive belt in my lab, I realized that Lego trains moved at almost exactly the same speed, so I used them instead to develop the 'swoop and pick' the robot needed.

The joy of experimental science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344269)

This kind of tinkering in the lab is very common in labs, and in my opinion is one of the great joys of experimental science. Since the best experiments and their follow ups are often unique, design and fabrication time takes precedence over quality of many of the supporting components. The chemicals or substrate in the bone example perhaps need high precision, but how they are placed in the solutions doesn't matter.

In our lab (biophysics) these devices often look very crude and wouldn't do well in a closeup for a press piece. In fact, one of them is built from an old Mindstorms kit, but many of them perform functions so simple that pulleys or analog circuits are adequate.

Dont get overexcited.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344979)

Although it looks like a quick and cheap solution, it has its limits - tolerances, lifetime etc is quite low.
It does not take "weeks in workshop" to build simple equipment like this - it takes maybe 2-3 days with CNC and normal 3d software (Solid Edge). And about 100 bucks in parts. Considering the opertaing costs of biolab, its peanuts anyway.
So, yes: toys can help you sometimes but no: its not a new paradigm or cure all solution for "super expensive pointless one-off workshop solutions".

Do not use squirrel bones (1)

atari2600a (1892574) | more than 2 years ago | (#39346957)

& I am deadly serious about this. It causes great problems; it's complicated. Do not send squirrel bones. Thank you.

loac (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39350569)

I happen to know that Lego mindstorm is also quite popular with people making lab-on-a-chip systems used to drive micro machined capillary pump systems. I often wonder why no one has made a killer labview/mindstorm like system based on arduino and open components. The driving force behind using mindstorms is simplicity, but the actual hardware components are really horrible to work with.

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