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Duco is a wall-climbing robot that paints circuit murals

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Arduino TeamOctober 6th, 2021

When we think of circuits, we tend to picture wires or PCB traces. But a circuit is anything that conducts electricity between components. Today we have more options than ever before thanks to material like conductive ink and thread. Utilizing conductive ink on a large scale, Duco is an open source wall-climbing robot that brings interactivity to vertical everyday surfaces.

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Duco’s inspiration came from Sandy Noble’s fantastic Polargraph, which was a hanging pen plotter robot that could draw large images. But those images didn’t serve any purpose beyond visual appeal. Duco takes the Polargraph idea into a whole new direction. By swapping between special pens, Duco can draw conductive, dielectric, cleaning, or decorative lines on walls. Those combine to create multilayer functional circuits.

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An Arduino Uno board controls Duco through a motor shield. It has two stepper motors, a servo motor, a linear actuator, and a UV light. It is capable of switching between two different pens — normally the conductive and dielectric ink. The UV light cures the ink after Duco applies it to a wall. Most of Duco’s frame parts were 3D-printed.

In one demonstration, Duco drew a working piano circuit onto a wall. Once the components, including control boards and speakers, were added to the circuit, people could play the piano by touching the conductive pads. In another demonstration, Duco turned a wall into a large capacitive touch sensor grid similar to a massive track pad. Duco’s creators even experimented with a laser module add-on, which let the robot cut the circuit “substrate” material.

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