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Desktop Robotic Arms Help Multitask

Mon, 01/27/2014 - 2:15pm
Melissa Fassbender, Associate Editor

A team of “robot maniacs” have developed a desktop robotic arm. Currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, the uArm is a 4-axis, parallel-mechanism robot arm inspired by the ABB PalletPack robot that is available in either acrylic or wood.

“When people used to talk about robotics, they thought about expensive and complicated machines,” explains Aler Gu, UFactory product manager. “The uArm pulls the high techy-techy robotics from industry, and delivers them to the table of the general public at an affordable price.”

View: Kickstarter of the Week: ‘Robot Maniacs’ Build Desktop Robotic Arms

UFactory is a company located in Shenzhen, China with a focus on making open source hardware. “We are each full of passion to make more open source hardware platforms and share them out with all interested people around the world,” adds Gu.

After observing how the PalletPack worked, the team started sketching, translating the drawings into CAD before laser cutting the parts to build a prototype.

“The hardware design took a lot of effort to optimize,” says Gu. “For example, to counter-balance the front arm, we needed to design the electronics holder in a way that the arm stabilized well during both the rotation and extension of the arm. To solve this problem, we ended up embeding a big bearing in the rotation platform.”

The current version is powered by standard RC hobby servos, and controlled by an Arduino-compatible board with built-in inverse kinematics algorithms. This allows the arm to be directly controlled by coordinates, instead of individually altering each servo’s angle.

People with no programming experience can simply control the robot using their PC mouse or keyboard. Users with more experience, can easily write code as the project is completely open source. “This will greatly impact the education of robotics. It is not just for children, but for adults as well,” says Gu.

A suction cup or small gripper allows the user to move small objects, and although it can’t currently support highly accurate motion, the team hopes the Kickstarter funds will help develop a new version of the arm. They also plan on adding remote control applications on PC, Mac, and smart phones, and all design files will be available to the public.

“We can’t wait to see all the awesome projects people will make based on our uArm,” says Gu. “These platforms are great ways for learning electronics and robots. Hardware is often one of the big problems for people who want to learn about electronics and robots. So we design and offer some amazing hardware to solve this problem, and make it easier for assembling and programming.”

By “putting a robot arm on your desk” the team hopes to raise the collective interest in robotics. “We would love to see a future full of people who are just as interested in robotics as we are,” adds Gu.

For more information, visit www.kickstarter.com.

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