Getting Hackers Excited About Cable Robots

Ever since he looked into them as a way to water and care for his plants, [Tom] has been fascinated with cable robots. These high-flying gadgets can move in three dimensions over huge areas, provided you’ve got the ability to string up the aforementioned cables. But despite their flexibility, there hasn’t been a whole lot of hobbyist level development with these unique systems.

With his entry into the 2019 Hackaday Prize, [Tom] is hoping to change that. He’s learned a lot by building his own cable robots, and now wants to take it to the next level. Ideally with collaboration from the community, if he can find other hackers looking to outfit their homes or workshops with their own miniature sky cranes.

So what can you do with a cable robot? In the video after the break, [Tom] shows one of his creations dutifully transporting beer cans across the room and stacking them into a pyramid. Admittedly this isn’t a particularly useful capability (unless you run a bar, perhaps), but it does show the speed and dexterity of the system even when crossing large distances. If you’ve ever wanted to play the home edition of “Automate the Freight”, this one’s for you.

The system uses a trio of 36 volt stepper motors powered by a homebrew SLA7078 driver that [Tom] designed himself. Each stepper turns a geared-down spindle to which a strong cable is attached. With some clever routing around the workspace, careful orchestration of these small winches can be used to move the point where all the cables meet in 3D space. All that’s left is mounting your gadget of choice to this central point, and away you go.

We’ve seen the concept used commercially, but as far as hobbyist projects go, the most activity we’ve seen in this space would have to be the various room sized 3D printers that have popped up over the years. It would be interesting to see what kind of interesting projects the community could come up with if they had something with a little more muscle.

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3D Cable Robot Uses The Building As Its Exoskeleton.

There’s not much information about this commercial product, but it looks so interesting, we just had to share it. It doesn’t seem there is anything too magical happening here: some motors (presumably some type of servo or stepper with positioning feedback) some cables and pulleys, and an end effector of your choosing. Oh, and just some clever math to solve the inverse kinematics – not that inverse kinematics is all that easy! You can see the robot at work in the video after the break.

Most likely you’ve already seen the end results of such a three-dimensional cable driven system on your TV. If you’re a fan of most field sports, the SkyCam system is what’s used to deliver the stunning aerial shots that really put you into the game. We’ve covered this sort of mechanism before, but only in two dimensions. Usually we see the concept used as a white-board plotter like this extremely methodical Polargraph or one built with K’NEX.

We can’t help but wonder how this might be adapted into other situations?  Perhaps, you could use small light-weight cables (fishing line) and pulleys to make a living-room beer delivery system or TV remote retrieval claw?  Or could it become the mechanics of a really large format 3D printer? If any of you do rig up some sort of house-hold beverage fetching robot, be sure to let us know via the tipline.

Continue reading “3D Cable Robot Uses The Building As Its Exoskeleton.”