18th March 2018

Who am I ?

My name is Harry Thorpe, I am currently the Lead R&D Engineer (Robotics) at Process Vision Ltd. We primarily work on innovations to the oil and gas market. That’s me on the left, and on the right is my beautiful wife, Sheiya (you must go check out her website too – LINK). I picked this photo as its very apt, as moments leading up to that photo were full of me trying to explain the benefits of a see-through tap, which is very similar to what I am about to write. She is an amazing person working as a creative officer in the TV industry working on shows like Master Chef, Ninja Warrior, etc. She is just AMAZING.

I intend this Who am I page to just be a very informal, informative place to learn more about “who I am” as well as some of the things I’m interested in.

As any good engineer does, I will break up the sections so that its easier to jump to the bits you’re interested in.

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 Machines and all things wonderful

CNC Router

So, to start with this section I feel like I should start off near the start. During my time at Bradfield College, along with learning so many invaluable skills, I became obsessive with the idea of CNC. While I was being obsessed, an opportunity to make whatever I like presented itself in my A-Level DT project. I decided to look into the idea of a CNC router that could make itself and use modular parts. However, with most things of this scale, I initially misjudged the range of area’s that needed to be documented for the project and never ended up making a second one. However, once I got the machine home at my own workshop I did replace some of the parts with CNC cut ones to make the whole machine a little bit more finish.

During this project, I really enjoyed sitting down for a whole afternoon and laser cutting as well as lacing together my own energy chain as buying this much length was out of the question. All jokes aside there were definitely some aspects of this build I didn’t think I would enjoy, notably; building a 1kW toroidal transformer power supply, wiring all the stepper motor drivers. Surprisingly, these were some of the best parts of building this CNC router.

Whilst ordering parts of this project, I meet a ball screw manufacturer from China, north Shenzhen. Whilst talking to the supplier Fred, I started to learn more about the manufacturing processes involved in making ball screws and nuts. This introduction to the application of CNC, in this case, CNC grinding continue to fuel my obsession with CNC.

Here is a collection of some of the things I’ve made using this machine.

CNC Mill

With the obsession planted, it was clear of the next step. I then went off and found an old, well taken care of Warco Knee Manual Mill. The plan was to use most of the control electronics, like the stepper drivers and power supply across the two machines as the main control unit was built into a cabinet on wheels. Oh, btw the computer that runs Mach3 (CNC controller) is connected to a router which then allows me to control the stepper drivers using an RDC 🙂 , I know NOT SAFE! but so far has worked very well besides there is an emergency stop button which will kill everything.

I then went off to eBay and bought some large Nema stepper motors with the dual shaft, with the idea in the future to add feedback control. These stepper motors were well suited for the application, as can be seen in their sheer size. I initially went through some complex designs, however, ended up going for a more basic set up. I ended up using some flexible couplers, (provided by my supplier in Shenzhen, Fred) to couple the stepper motors to the motion shafts of the mill. This approach worked successfully for the x and y-axis, which in a sense was enough for the next step. So after calibration the steps per pulse and gibs of the machine to remove as much backlash as possible, then resorting to software compensation of the backlash I was ready to start machining! I started with just a circle and dropped the quill of the machine (z-axis) to gain control over the height of the end mill. A video of this can be found on the project page.

The next stage was to use the finished x and y to make the z move.  You can see that was pretty fun … I ended up having to mount the stepper motor to the side of the machine and investigate the use of HTD5mm timing belts. This was worth the effort as I ended up having some hands-on use of timing belt which opened my eyes to its use in other projects. Then BANG !!! and some other horrible noises the bearings in the quill were gone, well not really but it was time to change them. I really couldn’t continue knowing the crappy angular contact bearings were gonna affect my surface finishes 😛 .

Here is some of the things this machine has made… again pop to the project page to find more photos.


Delta Robot

Again, following my obsession with all things computer controlled and after coming back from Shenzhen. I was totally blinded by the possible applications of a pick and place robot. After doing some research and modelling, I ended up with a delta design.

The model made in Fusion 360 was set up with joints to see the potential workspace this robot could have. After some development and help from my CNC Router, I constructed a test frame and all that was left was to make some sort of bracket to mount the stepper motors to the frame. These mounts were again modelled in fusion 360 and 3D printed.

After doing some development and slight modification and re-writing of stepper motor control library for the Arduino the motor could then start to be controlled using the easy driver. More research and studying were required to learn the IK to control this type of robot as no longer was I working with a Cartesian problem.

After some more development. And yes, a coffee mug does as a good and stable test platform :D.

And more coffee…

and some eBay orders….

It was done !

Bin Moving Robot

For GCSE, I needed to find a problem and come up with a creative solution as part of my DT class. Now, I may admit I was possibly pushing towards a robot the whole time. But I did also come up with other ideas 😛 ( I swear, look to the right this is one of the pages from my portfolio that was also submitted with the end robot.). You can find the full portfolio with cool pictures on the project page.

This robot was the first time I had started to look at heavier weight robot designs. For this structure, I decided to try out a different type of steering to demonstrate some of the machining skills I had acquired. Long story short, don’t even try to have a steering mechanism like this, ITS JUST CRAZYNESS.

The end application for this robot was to travel down a long driveway with the bin and boxes ready for collection. I experimented with using a laptop and GPS as well as an Arduino to control the wheelchair motors so it was possible to send an email to the laptop and a predetermined route could be followed. This worked somewhat, however without the addition of external sensors to avoid lack of environmental awareness when the GPS lost signal, the platform could not be used reliably.

Soft Robotics

My current final year project at university is to investigate the characteristics of a soft robotic module and experiment with the different methods of control.

There really is so much more to say, if you are interested to visit the projects section of the website and check out what else I get up to.