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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Servo Stock, The Future Of 3D Printers

printerIf you think about it, the RepRaps and other commercial 3D printers we have today are nothing like the printers that will be found in the workshops of the future. They’re more expensive than they need to be, and despite the RepRap project being around for a few years now, no one has cracked the nut of closed loop control yet. [mad hephaestus], [Alex], and [Will] over on the Hackaday Projects site are working on the future of 3D printing with the Servo Stock, a delta printer using servos and closed loop control to build a printer for about a quarter of the price as a traditional 3D printer.

The printer itself is a Kossel derivative that is highly modified to show off some interesting tech. Instead of steppers, the printer has three axes controlled by servos. On each axis is a small board containing a magnetic encoder, and a continuous rotation servo. With this setup, the guys are able to get 4096 steps per revolution with closed loop control that can drive the servo to with ±2 ticks.

The electronics and firmware are a clean sheet redesign of the usual 3D printer loadout. The motherboard uses a Pic32 running at 80MHz. Even the communication between the host and printer has been completely redesigned. Instead of Gcode, the team is using the Bowler protocol, a system of sending packets over serial, TCP/IP, or just about any other communications protocol you can think of.

Below is a video of the ServoStock interpreting Gcode on a computer and sending the codes and kinematics to the printer. It seems to work well, and using cheap servos and cut down electronics means this project might just be the first to break the $200 barrier for a ready to run 3D printer.

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Roboartist Draws What It Sees

roboartist-vector-image-machine

The perfect balance of simplicity and complexity have been struck with this automated artist. The Roboartist is a vector drawing robot project which [Niazangels], [Maxarjun], and [Ashwin] have been documenting for the last few days. The killer feature of the build is the ability to process what is seen through a webcam so that it may be sketched as ink on paper by the robotic arm.

The arm itself has four stages, and as you can see in the video below, remarkably little slop. The remaining slight wiggle is just enough to make the images seem as if they were not printed to perfection, and we like that effect!

Above is a still of Roboartist working on a portrait of [Heath Ledger] in his role as Joker from The Dark Knight. The image import feature was used for this. It runs a tweaked version of the Canny Edge Detector to determine where the pen strokes go. This is an alternative to capturing the subject through the webcam. For now MATLAB is part of the software chain, but future work seeks to upgrade to more Open Source tools. The hardware itself uses an Arduino Mega to take input via USB or Bluetooth and drives the quartet of servo motors accordingly.

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Tricked-out Arduino-controlled Time-Lapse is More Than Just a Timer

arduinoPhotoRig

[Hlesliebole] wanted a finer degree of remote control over his time-lapse shots, so he decided to build an Arduino-driven infrared shutter. He ended up creating this killer Arduino-controlled photography rig that does a whole lot more.

This hack was built for [Hlesliebole]’s Nikon D3100, but he says it should work with any DSLR and remote shutter. This initial build uses an LED as a stand-in for the remote shutter that he ordered.  He intends to update the post once it arrives and he integrates it.

[Hlesliebole] wired a 7-segment display to show the current time delay between photos. This can be set on the fly with a potentiometer, so there’s no need to stop and reprogram the Arduino. And while you’re grabbing a beer and watching the sun slowly sink, the rig can better capture that sunset because of a photoresistor. It detects the ambient light level and minimizes the number of throwaway dark shots.

If that weren’t enough, he’s built servo functionality into the code to support remote control over the camera’s physical position, allowing for panning or rotation over a scene. [Hlesliebole] doesn’t go into detail, but he assures us that there are many tutorials out there.  If you think you’re man enough, you could always work in this outstanding versatile motion dolly hack.

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Automated Aquarium is Kitchen-Sinky

fishtankAutomation

People have been converting their old Power Macs and Mac G5s into fish tanks for a few years now, but [Hayden’s] Internet-enabled tank is probably the most awesome ever crammed into an aquarium along with the water and the fish—and we’ve seen some fascinating builds this summer. After gutting the G5 and covering the basic acrylic work, [Hayden] started piling on the electronics: a webcam, timed LED lighting, an LCD for status readouts, filter and bubble control via a servo, an ultrasonic sensor to measure water levels, thermometer, scrolling matrix display, an automatic feeding mechanism, and more. He even snuck in the G5’s old mainboard solely for a cool backdrop.

The build uses both a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino Mega, which sit underneath the tank at the base. The Pi provides a web interface written in PHP and jQuery, which presents you with the tank’s status and allows changes to some settings. Nearly every component received some form of modification. [Hayden] stripped the webcam of its case and replaced the enclosure with a piece of acrylic and a mountain of silicone, making it both waterproof and slim enough to fit in the appropriate spot. Though he decided to stick with an Amazon-bought Eheim fish feeder, he disabled the unit’s autofeed timer and tapped in to the manual “feed” button to integrate it into his own system.

It’d take half of the front page to explain the rest of this thing. We’ve decided to let the aquarium tell you the rest of its features in the video below. Yeah…it can talk.

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Video Game Automation Hacks

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3rd party console game controllers sometimes sport a “rapid-fire” button to give gamers an unfair advantage. [Connor’s] project is along the same lines, but his hack had a different goal: automate the input of GTA5 cheat codes. [Connor] admits that this is his first Arduino hack, but aside from a small hiccup, he managed to pull it off. The build connects each button on a PS3 controller via some ribbon cable to its own digital out on an Arduino Uno . After plugging in some pretty straightforward code, [Connor] can simply press one button to automate a lengthy cheat code process.

[Matt’s] hack manages to save him even more user input in this second video game hack, which automates finger clicks in an Android game. [Matt] pieced together a couple of servos plugged into a PICAXE-18M2 microcontroller, which repeats one simple action in [Matt’s] Sims Freeplay game: continuously “freshening” (flushing?) a toilet. To mimic the same capacitive response of two fingers, [Matt] built the two contact surfaces out of some anti-static foam, then grounded them out with a wire to the ground on the board.

Check out a gallery of [Connor’s] controller and a video of [Matt’s] tablet hack after the break, then check out a rapid fire controller hack that attacks an XBox360 controller.

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