Watch Out Artists, Robots Take Your Job Next

Move over Claude Monet, there is a new act in town in the form of a robot capable of creating some pretty cool art.

We’ve seen robotic artists before but most of them are either cartesian-based or hanging drawbots. This is a full-fledged Sharpie-wielding robotic arm that draws with dots giving its work an impressionistic feel.

The actual robotic arm is a stock Interbotix WidowX. The folks over at Phantom Multimedia wrote some custom software that takes a graphic and breaks it down into a 1-bit representation. The code then goes through the bitmap at random, picking points to draw on the medium. The hard part of this project was figuring out how to translate the 2D image into 3D robotic arm movements. Since the arm has several joints, there are multiple mathematical solutions for arm position to move the marker to any given point. The team ended up writing an algorithm to determine the most efficient way to move from point to point. Even so, each drawing takes hours.

As if that wasn’t enough, the software was then reworked to probe positions. Instead of automatically moving the arm to a predetermined point, the arm is manually moved to a location and the data retrieved from the servo encoders is used to determine the position of a probe at the end of the arm. Each point taken in this manner can then be combined to generate a 3D model.

Continue reading “Watch Out Artists, Robots Take Your Job Next”

Retrotechtacular: 6CH industrial robot


With this robotic arm demo video from 1975 the future really is now. Think about it, there are entire factories full of the descendants of this technology where the human workers simply feed the beast and fix it when it breaks.

We’re pretty impressed by what’s shown off below. Not because we see something we didn’t know was possible, but because the technology was so advanced nearly forty years ago. Here the arm is laying out a wiring harness on a jig. We wonder if using a single color of wire is going to make it a major pain when they add the connectors?

Obviously the mechanics were solid. Time has brought further advances in precision, reduced costs that make robots available for even small factories (often palletizing products is done by a machine similar to this), and improvements in how tasks are programmed. After all, the ability to print a hard copy of the program as a punch tape isn’t quite cutting edge for this decade.

What does that mean for you? If you look hard enough you might be able to find an older generation robot arm to hack on.

Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: 6CH industrial robot”

Salvaged robot arm used for light painting and pen plotting

The members of Shackspace got their hands on an antiquated robot arm. It’s a Mitsubishi Movemaster RM-101 and was probably manufactured in the mid 1980’s. There’s almost nothing out there that tells you how to use the thing, and so they set out to figure out how to control the hardware.

This is a great example of how an EPROM dump can be really useful. After further inspection the team discovered that the arm is driven by a Z80 processor whose program is stored on an EPROM. The first thing the guys did was dump the memory since the aging storage will be useless if just a few bits become degraded. This dump will be really useful for others whose chip has already given up the ghost. The data from that dump was disassembled and painstakingly pawed through to figure out what commands were being sent to the arm. This technique worked, as the team was able to re-implement the control protocol and has already used the arm for some light painting and pen plotting (seen above). After the break you can see a control demonstration.

Continue reading “Salvaged robot arm used for light painting and pen plotting”

Salvaged robot arm makes a big 3d printer

Wow, building a precision 3d printer is amazingly easy if you can get your hands on an industrial-quality robot arm. [Dane] wrote in to tell us about this huge extruder printer made from an ’80s-era SCARA robot arm. It is capable of printing objects as large as 25″x12″x6.5″.

This 190 pound beast was acquired during a lab clean out. It was mechanically intact, but missing all of the control hardware. Building controllers was a bit of a challenge since the it’s designed with servo motors and precision feedback sensors. This is different from modern 3d printers which use stepper motors and no feedback sensors. A working controller was built up one component at a time, with a heated bed added to the mix to help prevent warping with large builds. We love the Frankenstein look of the controller hardware, which was mounted hodge-podge as each new module was brought online.

You can see some printing action in the clip after the break. A Linux box takes a design and spits out control instructions to the hardware.

Continue reading “Salvaged robot arm makes a big 3d printer”

Hot glue appendages may be predecessor to the flow metal of the T-1000

The T-1000 was the shape-shifting robot from T2 (the second Terminator movie). It was so amazing because it could assume the form and texture of anything; humans, piercing weapons, inanimate objects. This robot doesn’t even compare, except for one small trait. When it needs a tool, it can build it as its own appendage. This really is nothing more than making tools with a 3D printer. However, the normal boxy infrastructure is missing.

The print head is mounted on a single robot arm, and the tool is printed using hot melt glue in order to stick to a plate which makes up the business end of robot arm. In this case the robot needed to transport some water. It sets down the plate, uses the hot melt extruder to print a cup on that plate, then picks it up again and uses it to move water from one bowl to the other. You can see it all in the video clip below the fold.

Sure, it’s just baby steps. But hot melt glue sticks are light weight, and don’t require much energy to melt. This makes for a perfect combination as a portable tool shop.

Continue reading “Hot glue appendages may be predecessor to the flow metal of the T-1000″

Adding speech control to an old robotic arm

[Joris Laurenssen] has been hanging onto this robotic arm for about twenty years. His most recent project uses some familiar tools to add voice control for each of the arm’s joints.

The arm has its own controller which connects via a DB-25 port. [Joris’] first task was to figure out what type of commands are being sent through the connection. He did some testing to establish the levels of the signals, then hooked up his Arduino and had it read out the values coming through the standard parallel connection. This let him quickly establish the simple ASCII character syntax used to command movement from the device. There’s only eight command sets, and it didn’t take much work to whip up a sketch that can now drive the device.

The second portion of the project is to use voice commands to push these parallel signals to the arm. Instead of reinventing the wheel he decided to use the speech recognition feature of his Android phone. He used Scripting Layer for Android (SL4A) and a Python script to interpret commands, push them to his computer via Telnet, and finally drive the arm. We’ve embedded the video demo after the break. He gives the commands in Dutch but he overlaid comments in English so you can tell what’s going on.

Continue reading “Adding speech control to an old robotic arm”