Tank Chair Update
JANUARY 13, 2013 | PACE NALBONE
Since our last update, the TankChair project has been working on cleaning up their design to handle higher current, a more solid circuit, and a sleek new look with waterjet-cut body panels.
TankChair's goal is to create a robotic chair capable of supporting the weight of a human while being teleoperated, or (eventually) navigating its environment by itself. It's much more than a wheelchair: it's more like an office chair, controlled by a pair of game-controller-like joysticks, and most importantly rolls around on a pair of heavy-duty tank treads.
Making such a chair requires facing a few unusual technical challenges: the chair must be able to handle a huge amount of weight, and must be powered by a huge amount of current. Previous designs have finished the design of the chassis and axels to be strong enough for a human rider, but this update has also cleaned up and upgraded the wiring to be more heavy-duty and safer. An Arduino mega breakout board with locking connectors is used to keep parts from shaking loose when the chair drives, and battery trays have been installed within the chassis.
The group is now working on improving their code base and manufacturing the rest of the parts needed for the chassis. In the short term, this means mounting the battery trays on the chassis and adding joystick enclosures. Once the group gets their circuit board back from fabrication, along with the connectors, they'll continue testing their new circuit design. Finally, once the circuits are completed they will be housed by waterjet-cut body panels. The group has designed the panels - which even feature TankChair's logo - but are waiting for access to the water jet before they'll be able to manufacture the parts.
Once it's all together, TankChair should be even more tank-like: sturdy and clean looking, with their well-designed circuitry well insulated from the remains of whatever they crush as they drive.