Longtime readers will no doubt recognize the build style used here as that of [Norbert Heinz], aka “Homofaciens” on YouTube. [Norbert] has a way of making trash do his bidding, and has shown us all kinds of seemingly impossible feats of mechatronics with just what’s lying around. In this case, his robot arm is made from scrap wooden roofing battens, or what we’d call furring strips here in the US. The softwood isn’t something you’d think would make a great material for building robots, but [Norbert] makes its characteristics work for him, like using wax-lubricated holes for hinge points. Steppers and lead screws cannibalized from an old CNC build, along with the drive electronics, provide the motion. It’s a bit — compliant — but precise enough to pick up nuts and stack them nicely. The video below gives an overview of the build, and detailed instructions are available too.
The convenience of just plugging in your car in the evening and not going into a gas station is great as long as you remember to do the plugging. You really don’t want to get caught with an empty battery while you’re in a rush. [Pat Larson]’s Tesla plugging robot might be a handy insurance policy if you count forgetfulness among your weaknesses.
The robot consists of a standard Tesla charging plug attached to a 2-axis robotic arm mounted on [Pat]’s garage wall. Everything is controlled by a Python script running on Raspberry Pi 4. After taking a picture with a camera module, it uses a Tensor Flow Lite machine learning model to determine the position of a reflector on the charging port cover. The platform moves back and forth to align with the charging port, after which it opens the charging port using the Tesla API. It then extends the arm towards the charging port, using ultrasonic proximity sensors for distance control, and again uses the camera module and Tensor Flow to look for the illuminated Tesla logo adjacent to the charging port. The charge plug is flipped out using a large servo, and after some final position adjustment, it takes the plunge. While robot won’t be winning any interior design contests, it does the job well, and adds a bit of convenience and peace of mind.
Whether you care to admit it or not, hair is important to self-image, and not being able to deal with it yourself feels like a real loss of independence. To help people with limited mobility, researchers at MIT CSAIL have created a hair-brushing robot that combines a camera with force feedback and closed-loop control to adjust to any hair type from straight to curly on the fly. They achieved this by examining hair as double helices of soft fibers and developed a mathematical model to untangle them much like a human would — by working from the bottom up.
It may look like a hairbrush strapped to a robot arm, but there’s more to it than that. Before it ever starts brushing, the robot’s camera takes a picture that gets cropped down to a rectangle of pure hair data. This image is converted to grayscale, and then the program analyzes the x/y image gradients. The straighter the hair, the more edges it has in the x-direction, whereas curly hair is more evenly distributed. Finally, the program computes the ratio of straightness to curliness, and uses this number to set the pain threshold.
The brush is equipped with sensors that measure the forces being exerted on the hair and scalp as it’s being brushed, and compares this input to a baseline established by a human who used it to brush their own hair. We think it would be awesome if the robot could grasp the section of hair first so the person can’t feel the pull against their scalp, and start by brushing out the ends before brushing from the scalp down, but we admit that would be asking a lot. Maybe they could get it to respond to exclamations like ‘ow’ and ‘ouch’. Human trials are still in the works. For now, watch it gently brush out various wigs after the break.
Even though we have wavy hair that tangles quite easily, we would probably let this robot brush our hair. But this haircut robot? We’re not that brave.
You can spend a lot of time trying to think of a clever title for a post about a CNC chainsaw. But you’ll finally realize, what else can you say but “CNC Chainsaw?” [Stuff Made Here] actually built such a beast, and you can watch it go in the video embedded below. A custom chainsaw on a Tormach robotic arm. So it is more like a robot using a chainsaw than a conventional CNC machine.
Instead of an XY motion, the machine uses what the video calls an “apple peeler” method and uses the Minkowski algorithm to adjust for the size of the chainsaw. The video is an odd juxtaposition of advanced topics like the Minkowski and basic things like G code.
[Adam]’s first robot arm build was a major disappointment, when the servos he had purchased for the build turned out to be terrible at holding an angle. With limited funds, he elected to improve on what he had, learning much about precision control techniques along the way. [Adam] taught himself how to implement industrial strength control loops using hobby hardware, by implementing additional encoders into servos and taking into account velocity and torque in addition to just position. With a magnetic encoder on the servo output shaft and a tiny optical encoder hand-built for inside the motor itself, much higher accuracy is achievable by allowing the control system to compensate for backlash.
We’ve all seen videos of blisteringly fast SCARA arms working on assembly lines, and more than a few of us have fantasied about having that same kind of technology for the home shop. Unfortunately, while the prices for things like 3D printers and oscilloscopes have dropped lower than what many would have believed possible a decade ago, high-performance robotics are still too pricey for the home player.
Unless of course, you’re willing to build it yourself. The PyBot designed by [jjRobots] is an open source robotic arm that should be well within the means of the average hardware hacker. One could argue that this is a project made entirely possible by desktop 3D printing; as not only are most of the structural components printed, but most of the mechanical elements are common 3D printer parts. Smooth rods, linear bearings, lead screws, and NEMA 17 motors are all exceptionally cheap these days thanks to the innumerable 3D printer kits that make use of them.
Those who’ve researched similar projects might notice that the design of this arm has clearly been influenced by the Mostly Printed SCARA (MPSCARA). But while that robot was designed to carry an extruder and act as a 3D printer, [jjRobots] intends for the PyBot to be more of a general purpose platform. By default it features a simple gripper, but that can easily be changed out for whatever tool or gadget you have in mind.
In the base of the arm is a custom control board that combines an Arduino M0, an ESP8266, and a trio of stepper motor drivers. But if you wanted to build your own version from the parts bin, you could certainly wire up all the principle components manually. As the name implies, the PyBot is controlled by Python tools running on the computer, so it should be relatively easy to get this capable arm to do your bidding.
One of the side effects of the rise of 3D printers has been the increased availability and low cost of 3D printer components, which are use fill for range of applications. [How To Mechatronics] capitalized on this and built a SCARA robot arm using 3D-printed parts and common 3D-printer components.
The basic SCARA mechanism is a two-link arm, similar to a human arm. The end of the second joint can move through the XY-plane by rotating at the base and elbow of the mechanism. [How To Mechatronics] added Z-motion by moving the base of the first arm on four vertical linear rods with a lead screw. A combination of thrust bearings and ball bearings allow for smooth rotation of each of the joints, which are belt-driven with NEMA17 stepper motors. Each joint has a microswitch at a certain position in its rotation to give it a home position. The jaws of the gripper slide on two parallel linear rods, and are actuated with a servo. For controlling the motors, an Arduino Uno and CNC stepper shield was used.
The arm is operated from a computer with a GUI written in Processing, which sends instructions to the Arduino over serial. The GUI allows for both direct forward kinematic control of the joints, and inverse kinematic control, which will automatically move the gripper to a specified coordinate. The GUI can also save positions, and then string them together to do complete tasks autonomously.
The base joint is a bit wobbly due to the weight of the rest of the arm, but this could be fixed by using a frame to support it at the top as well. We really like the fact that commonly available components were used, and the link in the first paragraph has detailed instructions and source files for building your own. If the remaining backlash can be solved, it could be a decent light duty CNC platform, especially with the small footprint and large travel area. Continue reading “3D Printed SCARA Arm With 3D Printer Components”→