Iron Man Puts Yet Another Hacker Up In Arms

When Iron Man movie came out, we’d bet there wasn’t a single hacker that left the theater without daydreaming about having a few robotic lab assistants of their own. But unlike most of them, [Tony-Lin] decided to turn his celluloid dreams into a reality and started work on his robotic arm, Abot.

Abot is built from a combination of 5 mm nylon panels and 3D printed parts. One thing we found particularly interesting about this build is that the motor reductions for the joints are done using stages of pulleys and GT2 belting rather than planetary gear boxes or cycloidal drives. This produces a lightweight and affordable build.

He also designed his own driver boards for each motor using the STM32. They communicate with a CAN bus which uses USB connectors, an interesting choice. Just make sure not to try and charge your phone with it.

We have to admit to a little jealousy that [Tony] is moved himself a bit closer to being Tony Stark than the rest of us are likely to get. We’ll just have to live vicariously through the documentation of his project.

The 3D Printers, Scanners, And Art Robots Of Maker Faire Rome

How is it possible that a robot can sketch both better and worse than I can at the same time, and yet turn out an incredible work of art? Has 3D-scanning really come so far that a simple camera and motorized jig can have insane resolution? These are the kinds of questions that were running through my mind, and being answered by the creators of these brilliant machines, at Maker Faire Rome.

There was a high concentration of robots creating art and 3D printing on display and the Faire, so I saved the best examples just for this article. But you’ll also find hacks from a few groups of clever students, and hardware that made me realize industrial controllers can be anything but boring. Let’s take a look!

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Sixi 2, An Open Source 3D Printable 6 Axis Robot Arm

[Dan Royer] is taking some inspiration from Prusa’s business and is trying to build the same sort of enterprise around open source 3D printable robot arms. His 6 axis robot arm is certainly a strong first step on that road. 

As many people have learned, DIY robot arms are pretty difficult.  [Dan]’s arm has the additional complexity of being 3D printable with the ambitious goal of managing a 2kg payload at 840mm of reach. He’s already made significant progress. There’s a firmware, set of custom electronics, and a Fusion 360 project anyone can download and checkout. You can even control it with an Xbox controller.

The main board is an Arduino shield which outputs step and direction signals to stepper drivers. The gears are cycloidal and it appears there’s even some custom machining going on. When the parts are all laid out it becomes clear just how much effort has been put into this design.

It should be a pretty nice robot and might finally spur some of us to build the Iron Man style robot assistants we’ve always wanted. You can see the robot in action after the break.

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Long Live Jibo, Our Adorable Robot Companion

Jibo, the adorable robot made by Jibo, Inc., was getting phased out, but that didn’t stop [Guilherme Martins] from using his robot companion for one last hack.

When he found out that the company would be terminating production of new Jibos and shutting down their servers, he wanted to replace the brain of the robot so that it would continue to live on even after all of its software had become deprecated. By the time the project started, the SDK downloads had already been removed the from developer’s site, so they looked at other options for controlling Jibo.

The first challenge was to not break the form factor in order to disassemble Jibo. They only managed to remove the battery from the bottom, realizing that the glass frame held the brain room. From within the robot, they were able to find the endless rotation joint for the head and the heart of the electronics. Jibo uses a DC motor, encoder, and IR sensor at each of three distinct levels to detect reference points.

They decided to use Phidgets modules to interface with these devices. While the DC motor controller handles 2A and has an encoder port, the Phidgets are able to provide software with the encoder and PID built-in. The 4x Digital Input Module was used for detecting the IR switch and connecting the modules to the computer.

[Martins] decided to use LattePanda, a hackable Windows 10 development board, for the brain of the new Jibo. The board was luckily able to fit inside the compartment for Jibo, but since it requires more power the unit is powered with 12V regulated to 5V in order to have less current passing through the wires. The DC motors, meanwhile, run at 12V and the IR switches and encoders at 5V.

A program developed in Unity3D plays the eye animations, and a C# program interfaces with the Phidgets. The final configuration was to fit Jibo onto a robotic arm to augment its behaviors. We previously wrote about Toppi, the robotic arm artist, that was used as the base for Jibo’s new home.

You can check out the result in the video below.

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[Jessica] Is Soft On Robot Grippers

It is an old movie trope: a robot grips something and accidentally crushes it with its super robot strength. A little feedback goes a long way, of course, but futuristic robots may also want to employ soft grippers. [Jessica] shows how to build soft grippers made of several cast fingers. The fingers are cast from Ecoflex 00-50, and use air pressure.

A 3D-printed mold is used to cast the Ecoflex fingers, which are only workable for 18 minutes after mixing, so it’s necessary to work fast and have everything ready before you start.

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Humanizing Industrial Robots By Sticking A Jibo On Top

A great many robots exist in our modern world, and the vast majority of them are highly specialized machines. They do a job, and they do it well, but they don’t have much of a personality. [Guilherme Martins] was working on a fun project to build a robot arm that could create chocolate artworks, but it needed something to humanize it a bit more. Thankfully, Jibo was there to lend a hand.

For the uninitiated, Jibo was a companion robot produced by a startup company that later folded. Relying on the cloud meant that when the money ran out and the servers switched off, Jibo was essentially dead. [Guilherme] managed to salvage one of these units, however, and gave it a new life.

With the dead company unable to provide an SDK, the entire brains of the robot were replaced with a LattePanda, which is a Windows 10 single-board computer with an integrated Arduino microcontroller. This was combined with a series of Phidgets motor drivers to control all of Jibo’s joints, and with some Unity software to provide the charming expressions on the original screen.

With the Jibo body mounted upon the robot arm, a simple chocolate-decorating robot now has a personality. The robot can wave to humans, and emote as it goes about its day. It’s an interesting feature to add to a project, and one that certainly makes it more fun. We’ve seen projects tackle similar subject matter before, attempting to build friendly robot pets as companions. Video after the break.

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Hackaday Podcast Ep15: Going Low Frequency, Robotic Machines, Disk Usage For Budgets, And Cellphones Versus Weather

Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams discuss the highlights of the great hacks from the past week. On this episode we discuss wireless charging from scratch, Etch-A-Sketch selfies, the robot arm you really should build yourself, bicycle tires and steel nuts for anti-slip footwear, and bending the piezo-electric effect to act as a VLF antenna. Plus we delve into articles you can’t miss about 5G and robot firefighting.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (62.8 MB)

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