BaKaRoS – a modular system for realizing optical systems

Challenge

Photonics is a crosscutting technology for key topics such as autonomous driving, smart homes or robotics. Open innovation is helping drive completely new and creative approaches, especially in the field of light technology. The fundamental research question is: how can laypeople interested in technology work together with professional industrial developers on new ideas for light applications using a toolkit?

Method

Project partners are researching a photonic hardware toolkit in conjunction with an expert and simulation system to provide school and undergraduate students, interested laypeople, as well as professional industrial users easier access to photonics.

Fraunhofer IAO is responsible for three tasks in this project:

  • developing adapter components to add existing, marketable prototyping tools such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi or Lego® to the photonic toolkit.
  • compiling photonic technologies and providing access to makers.
  • connecting creative makers with industrial enterprises to generate common ideas.

In keeping with the theme of “research for people with people,” the BaKaRoS project ensures that target groups are continuously integrated into the research at an early stage. Lean prototyping workshops were thus conducted with the target groups (students, researchers, makers and developers) to test and optimize the elements of the photonic toolkit.

Result

These toolkit-based prototyping methods are particularly well suited to tackle ideas of varying degrees of complexity with minimum effort. Among other things, the workshops are used to build, test and further develop simple photonic applications such as a light-following robot vehicle or a microscope.

A PHOTONIC TOWER technology shelf was built that allows makers, researchers and students to test and implement their own ideas. These technologies have already been used to successfully implement innovative maker projects such as a light-controlled robot, a 3D scanner and a cell phone microscope. Innovators can borrow the technologies provided on the PHOTONIC TOWER shelf free of charge and share their project progress with the public. The only requirement is that they actively participate in a lean prototyping workshop organized by Fraunhofer IAO.

The BaKaRos project is being funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) under its “Open Photonics” funding program. It was launched in early December 2016 and runs through the end of November 2019. In addition to Fraunhofer IAO, the project consortium comprises fischertechnik GmbH, T-Systems International GmbH and the University of Stuttgart’s Institute of Applied Optics.