UberBlox™ was designed from the ground up to be a powerful yet easy to use construction system. By going through a long design, prototyping, and testing process, we have made the first steps in creating a system that we hope incorporates sound principles and a clear layout for future expansion.
The currently implemented UberBlox™ system uses the Metric System of measurement since this is the most widely used system in the world. All UberBlox™ parts and components are manufactured under the Metric System, except where a particular part demands a certain feature in Imperial units (e.g. a screw thread). The system can however implement sub-classes in imperial units in the future if needed.
Nodes, Bars, Connectors, and “ifaces”
UberBlox™ is based on a Node-Bar construction method, collectively called BLOX. Nodes are UberBlox™ parts that represent the end of, or a connection point within, an UberBlox™ structure.
Nodes are then spanned and connected using Bars of one or more UberBlox-Unit lengths (see here). Nodes can also be connected to other Nodes using UberBlox™ Connectors. In this way almost any structure can be created in a simple manner.
Nodes and Bars have unique features to allow them to connect together in a precise and rigid way. On each side of a Node there is a feature called an “UberBlox™ Interface” or an iface for short (see image below). Either a Bar’s end or a Connector simply “plugs” into a Node’s iface and is locked in place using the iface’s one to four embedded (pre-assembled) set-screws. The rigidity and locking effect is maximized by using all four set-screws of an iface, but you only need to tighten one screw on each part to have a basic connection.
Nodes come in different varieties depending on their use and function. The most basic Node is a six-sided Node, or NODE in the UberBlox™ Classification System (explained later). In its most basic form a Node is a cube which has one iface per side, six in total.
It is important to note that Nodes come with all their own set-screws pre-assembled in them. You simply take a Node and connect it to a Bar or another Node (in that case with a Connector) using a common set-screw driver. The strategically placed openings within each Node and Bar allow for a driver to access the set-screws even after they are assembled together, for easy modifications or disassembly.
Nodes, Bars, and Connectors are precision manufactured to allow proper fit and minimize tolerance stack-up as parts are joined and a structure is built. All major components are made of metal for strength and rigidity, mostly aluminum alloys, zinc-aluminum alloys, or steel alloys.
Sub-Assemblies and Modules
In order to allow flexibility in designing structures with UberBlox™, the system comes with supporting components as sub-assemblies and modules. Some of these are static (meaning they are rigid and don’t move) and some are dynamic (meaning they move, or allow movement, in a rotary or linear way). Some perform full functions such as the Spindle Module.
Motors and Actuators
UberBlox™ comes with a sub-system for allowing automation into a design. There is support for electromechanical devices and components such as motors and actuators. Below are some examples of motors with their corresponding adapter Nodes.
Off-The-Shelf (OTS) Parts and Components
For times when a structure requires more than just Nodes and Bars, the system allows off-the-shelf (OTS) parts to be incorporated as needed.
Under the UberBlox™ Classification System, there are two sections, one for metric OTS parts (MECM for MEchanical Component – Metric) and another for imperial OTS parts (MECI for MEchanical Component – Imperial).
For example, if a design requires a certain compression spring with imperial dimensions, you will likely find it under the MECI-SPRG-COMP sub-class. Or if you need a metric socket-head cap screw, MECM-SCRW-SHCS is the sub-class.
See “The UberBlox™ Classification System (UCS)” page for further explanation of these naming conventions.
“Brain-Boxes”: UberBlox™ Controllers
UberBlox™ comes with its own controllers called “Brain-Boxes”. They bring you a standardized way of controlling your machines and robots.
Our current Brain-Box designs contain popular boards such as Arduino and Raspberry Pi, plus the necessary electronics, drivers, and connections, all placed inside a standardized UberBlox™ box that physically fits the rest of the system, either as a separate control box, or as an integral physical part of a design.
Almost all Brain-Boxes can handle multiple automation and control tasks, depending on your machine design requirements.
Much like the rest of the UberBlox™ system, Brain-Boxes can be re-used from one design to another.
Our current CNC Brain-Boxes are geared towards CNC machines that run small stepper motors, but they can be used to control other machines with similar requirements.
There is a Brain-Box dedicated to controlling simple 3D Printers. Another contains DC motor drivers for control of geared DC motors. The system also has smaller Brain-Boxes dedicated to simple or programmable control of single motors (steppers, DC) for simpler projects.
UberBlox™ CNC Brain-Boxes use standard G-Code as their programming language. We use Grbl to achieve this with our Arduino-Based CNC Brain-Box, for example.
For 3D Printing, there are currently several free applications for slicing and G-Code generation that are compatible with our Arduino-Based FDM 3D Printing Brain-Box. An example is Repetier-Host.
For general programming of Arduino, you can use Arduino’s own programming language, or one of several visual programming tools based on Blockly, or programming environments such as miniBloq, or S4A. These are particularly useful for those who are new to programming, making them great learning tools.
In the future we plan to integrate some of these programming and software solutions directly into our offerings to make it easier for those who want a more out-of-the-box experience.
While designing and developing UberBlox™, we methodically created 3D assets to help us in the process. Most of the components and sub-assemblies of the current implementation of UberBlox™ now exist in digital format. This has allowed us to build a virtual catalog of parts under the UberBlox™ Classification System.
We plan to make these and future 3D models available to the UberBlox™ community shortly.