A Robot’s Favourite Pen

A test of various pens using a robot

Some people are very picky about their pens. Entire forums exist to discuss the topic of pen superiority. However, it comes down to a personal choice. Some people like gel while others prefer ballpoint.

[Jens] built a drawing robot that produces drawings like the one seen here. It uses several linkages connected to two stepper motors, which give fine control over the pen. With the robot working [Jens] set out to find the best pen for robotic drawing.

Seven pens were tested on the machine, each drawing the same pattern. [Jens] found that gel and rollerball pens work the best on the robot, and started examining the performance of each.

The pens all performed differently, but two winners were chosen to use in the machine. The Pentel Energel Deluxe RTX and the Pilot G-2 07 beat out the competition since they maintained good lines at high speeds.

If you’re looking to build a drawing robot, [Jens]‘ research should help you pick the best pen for your application. For inspiration, a video of the robot in action is waiting after the break.

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Give Aging Technology a Chance

Robot Arm with PDA Brain

In our rush to develop new projects, a lot of the time we jump the gun and order new Arduinos and microprocessors, when with a bit of ingenuity you can recycle old tech for new purposes. [Eric Wiemers] has a Lynxmotion robot arm and needed a way to control it — sure he could use an Arduino or something… or he could try to make use of his trusty PDA that never left his side, well, 10 years ago anyway!

In 2001, Handspring released the Visor Neo — an affordable PDA competitor to the Palm Pilot. It had a super fast 33MHz processor, a whole 8MB of RAM and a 16 bit grayscale screen with a whopping 160 x 160 pixels. [Eric] was lucky enough to get his hands on one a year after it came out. Fast forward today and PDA’s are pretty much obsolete due to smart phones — but [Eric] didn’t want to just chuck it, it still worked after all!

At first he thought of just practicing coding and writing some apps for it — but let’s be honest, he’d never use it instead of his smart phone. He dug a bit deeper and discovered it was actually capable of serial output — this realization opened up a world of possibilities! Using a spare charging cradle, he tapped into the serial connections and added a Molex connector to allow him to hook it up to his Lynxmotion. He wrote his own control app with a GUI which means he can now control the robot arm without needing to drag around his laptop — success!

Think twice before throwing out your old tech. Perhaps that disused piece of junk can have a second chance in your next DIY project.

Printable Lamp Assembles Itself

Printable-Self-Assembling-Lamp

With the advent of 3D printers, printable circuits, and other “one-machine-to-rule-them-all” automated systems, printing fully functional items is fast becoming a reality. The lamp seen above starts out as a flat piece of cardboard with circuits printed onto it — apply some electricity and it will fold itself up, creating a lamp — it even has a capacitive touch sensor for turning it on!

This ingenuity comes straight from Harvard researchers who presented the project “Self-assembling Sensors for Printable Machines” at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) just last Tuesday in Hong Kong. It’s not fully printable (wires and the LED had to be soldered in by hand) but it’s an amazing proof of concept — there’s also an Arduino off-screen taking care of controlling it.

The cardboard is a sandwich of shape-memory polymers which are triggered by heat, generated by running electricity through thin layers of copper trace. It takes a long time to assemble so the following video has been sped up 32x speed.

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Micro-Robots Made at Home, Who Needs DARPA Funding?

microbots

We love it when this happens. Sometimes we post about cool technology that companies are developing which might start an outcry of “not a hack” — but then, just sometimes, it still inspires a few readers. [Jeroen Domburg] — who everyone knows as [Sprite_TM] and is a judge for The Hackaday Prize] — saw a recent video about micro robots, a project funded by DARPA, and decided to try making his own.

We shared the original story a few months ago about these replicator like micro-robots, which can quite literally swarm over surfaces, use tools, and manufacture micro-sized parts. The robots themselves are actually just dumb little magnets — the magic is in the surface underneath them.

This sparked an interest in several people, and [Mike] made a very simple version of it, capable of 1-dimensional movement. This inspired [Sprite_TM] to step it up a notch, with his own 2-dimensional version. He’s designed his own PCB that allows him to run current in various directions through the traces of the board — this effectively allows him to control a small neodymium magnet to go whichever way he wants.

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Industrial Light Painting Steps It Up A Few

industrial light painting

What would you do if you had access to an industrial ABB IRB 6640 robot? We’d probably make a giant 3D printer, but if you’re [Jeff Crossman] and [Kevyn McPhail], you’d make one of the most advanced light painting setups we’ve ever seen.

The setup itself is really quite simple — a single RGB LED is connected to a Teensy microcontroller on a tool-head for the robot — controlling the robot is the hard (fun?) part. To create the images, [Jeff] had several students come in to have their photographs taken using a Microsoft Kinect. This allowed him to create an RGB point cloud for the robot to recreate.

Using Rhino he created the tool paths required for the robot to build up a floating 3D image of the students for the camera taking the long exposure. Each demonstration made use of ~5000 points, which takes the robot arm about 25 minutes to place.

It’s a fascinating video, and yes it does seem like a bit of overkill, but hey — why not?

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The Un-Digital Robotic Arm

556When you think of a robotic arm, you’re probably thinking about digital control, microcontrollers, motor drivers, and possibly a feedback loop. Anyone who was lucky enough to have an Armatron knows this isn’t the case, but you’d still be surprised at how minimal a robotic arm can be.

[viswesh713] built a servo-powered robotic arm without a microcontroller, and with some interpretations, no digital control at all. Servos are controlled by PWM signals, with a 1 ms pulse rotating the shaft one way and a 2 ms pulse rotating the shaft the other way. What’s a cheap, popular chip that can easily be configured as a timer? Yep, the venerable 555.

The robotic arm is actually configured more like a Waldo with a master slave configuration. [viswesh] built a second arm with pots at the hinges, with the resistance of the pots controlling the signal output from a 556 dual timer chip. It’s extremely clever, at least until you realize this is how very early robotic actuators were controlled. Still, an impressive display of what can be done with a simple 555. Videos below.

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Velociraptor Robot Ready to Run with The Big Dogs

velociraptor-robot

[Jongwon Park] and his team of students at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have created a fast biped robot based upon the Velociraptor. Raptor weighs in at just 3Kg, and stands only 470mm tall, yet it is capable of running at 46 km/h. That’s almost as fast as Boston Dynamic’s Cheetah.

Raptor uses carbon fiber composite legs to absorb and release energy while running. The system is similar to that used in high performance prosthetic legs. A rotating tail assembly further helps to balance Raptor on rough terrain. We have to admit, the tail system does look a bit dangerous for any humans who might need to interact with the robot. It does work though, as evidenced by Raptor bounding over Styrofoam blocks.

The Raptor robot is quite impressive when running at full speed. Considering this project’s budget was nowhere near the resources of Boston Dynamics, it’s an amazing accomplishment. The video reminds us of  Boston Dynamics founder [Marc Raibert's] early robots at the MIT Leg Lab. We can’t wait to see what this team produces in the future.

[Read more...]

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