If you were a child of the 1980s whose fascination extended to the contents of your local Radio Shack store, you may remember the Armatron robot arm as a particular object of desire. It was a table top robot arm operated not by motors or a microcontroller, but by a clever set of gears directed manually from a pair of joysticks. If you took a look at it with an eye to control from your 8-bit home computer you were likely to be disappointed, but nevertheless it was an excellent toy.
The Armatron may be long gone, but if you hanker for a similar device you should take a look at [3D Meister]’s finger controlled six axis arm. This is an arm similar to the Armatron in size, but with far more capabilities. Control is via cable loops to sliders at the arm’s base, and in addition to the usual arm movements there is an extra loop which can be used to operate any of a selection of tools including a gripper, a magnet, and a clipper. The video below the break shows the arm in action, and for the faint-hearted it should be noted that it contains the gratuitous death of some innocent plants.
[David Brown]’s entry for The Hackaday Prize is a design for a tool that normally exists only as an expensive piece of industrial equipment; out of the reach of normal experimenters, in other words. That tool is a 6-axis micro manipulator and is essentially a small robotic actuator that is capable of very small, very precise movements. It uses 3D printed parts and low-cost components.
The manipulator consists of six identical actuators, each consisting of a single piece of SLS 3D printed nylon with a custom PCB to control a motor and read positional feedback. The motor moves the central pivot point of the 3D printed assembly, which in turn deflects the entire piece by a small amount. By anchoring one point and attaching the other, a small amount of highly controllable movement can be achieved. Six actuators in total form a Gough-Stewart Platform for moving the toolhead.
Interestingly, this 6-Axis Micro Manipulator is a sort of side project. [David] is interested in creating his own digital UV exposer, which requires using UV laser diodes with fiber optic pig tails attached. In an industrial setting these are created by empirically determining the optimal position of a fiber optic with regards to the laser diode by manipulating it with a micro manipulator, then holding it steady while it is cemented in place. Seeing a distinct lack of micro manipulators in anything outside of lab or industrial settings, and recognizing that there would be applications outside of his own needs, [David] resolved to build one.