Retired Welding Robot Picks Up Side Hustle As CNC Router

Who says you can’t teach an old robot new tricks? Nobody, actually. That saying is about dogs. But it applies to robots too, at least judging by the way this late-90s industrial beast was put to use in a way it was never intended: as a giant CNC router.

The machine in question is an ABB IRB6400, a six-axis, floor-mounted industrial machine that had a long career welding at a Eurorail factory in Austria before [Brian Brocken] made its acquaintance. He procured the non-working machine — no word on what he paid for it — and moved the 2-ton paperweight into his shop, itself a non-trivial endeavor. After a good scrubbing, [Brian] tried to get the machine started up. An error prevented the robot controller from booting; luckily, there’s a large community of ABB users, and [Brian] learned that one of the modules in the controller needed replacement.

After fixing that — and swapping out the controller’s long-dead backup batteries, plus replacing the original 1.44 MB floppy drive with a USB drive — he was able to bring the machine back to life. Unfortunately, the limited amount of internal memory made it difficult to use for anything complicated, so [Brian] came up with an application to stream coordinates to the controller over a serial port, allowing for unlimited operation. With that in place, plus a simple spindle mounted to the robot’s wrist with a 3D printed adapter, [Brian] was able to carve foam blocks into complex shapes. The video below shows everything from delivery to first chips — well, dust at least.

This build seems to be a significant escalation from [Brian]’s previous large-format CNC machine. He must have something interesting in mind, so stay tuned for details.

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Trobot: Kickstarting The 6-axis Minature Robot Arm

Having already made it to three hardware development versions, [Toby Baumgartner] is looking for some financial backing to make version four of this robot arm possible.

He’s modelling the arm after much larger ABB industrial robots. Like those, it mounts on a stationary base, and features movement along six axes. ┬áThe first couple of iterations even used ABB Software’s RobotStudio for control. This is the same software used by the full-sized robots, and features a special design language to integrate the robots into just about any production facility.

We don’t think the need for high-end software used with these small manipulator arms is very great, but we could see the finished product used for small-scale assembly line work some day. In the mean time these might be useful in your own projects. [Toby] has been using an mBed microcontroller board as the hardware driver. It communicates with the computer via an Ethernet connection and he’s even working on an Android interface right now.

Check out a video demonstration of version 2 and 3 embedded after the break.

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