MyArmBot: Open Source, Wireless, Arduino-Android Fit Robot project video thumbnail
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$1,007 pledged of $6,000 goal
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By Luis Lopez DBA 2LResearch
$1,007 pledged of $6,000 goal
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About this project

Project Overview

We envision an inexpensive personal robot design that anyone can use as a programmable arm in schools, hobbies, and many untold applications.  It should be open source so that anyone can modify the design - not just the software but the hardware too! Low cost 3D printers make this idea possible.  

This will be the first of a new kind of robot - The MyArmBot.  

The idea of open source hardware and software is bigger than anything we can think of.  We want future generations to take these robot designs, improve them, and evolve them into things we can only imagine right now. The idea is to make it easy for anyone to take these designs way beyond what we can do and evolve things out of other's imaginations.   

This type of arm design is modular and can be combined to build multi-armed or multi-legged machines, or scaled down to make fingers and hands. It is wireless, uses advanced battery technology, runs for hours on a charge and can go anywhere.  

Open SCAD and STL files will ship with all the MyArmBots.  This project will produce a reliable design so that all these files will also be out on the internet for anyone to use and modify for free.  This has the potential to change personal robotics in a powerful and interesting way.

This project targets final development with an aim towards injection molding of the 3D parts.  Thus producing low cost, easy to assemble, kits and plug and play robots.  The goal is to make a reliable, affordable design so that robot arms can be put anywhere. 

All the MyArmBot designs will be put out as open source projects a few months after we begin shipping injection molded kits.  This way, anyone with a 3D printer and a soldering iron can build one, modify it, or print spare parts.  And, best of all, as open source this design can branch out and evolve into who knows what?   Of course, supporters will have early access to the MyArmBot 3D files and will also receive a custom Arduino BlueTooth breakout board and parts list, Arduino sketches and Android control app source codes, etc.  

This Kick Starter project will help with related tooling costs and enable us to complete the remaining steps from here on towards a clean design and mass-produced product. These tasks include refining the Arduino and Android software, sourcing all the Arduino Bluetooth electronic parts, getting some great rewards into backer`s hands, refining the current servo design, adding a USB connector to the MyArmBot, developing a 'professional' stepper version, and deriving an inverse kinematics library, etc.

Our current design uses servos, however, this project enables us to develop more advanced models that use stepper motors for better accuracy.  And ... if this project catapults us into a dedicated business ... we will add endpoint location sensors and adaptive processing for astonishing accuracy - based on my previous insect vision work. Imagine multiple MyArmBots using a 'bug-eye' monitored, shared work-space to accomplish all kinds of complex assembly tasks - including advanced 3D printing!   (Hummmmm ... another cool Kickstarter Project?)

All designs will use Arduino compatible devices and code for the robot operating system so you will be able to use the open source development environments to make it do whatever you want.  All the Bluetooth controller software will initially be on Android (an Apple IOS version will launch as an open source project) and all the source code for these apps will be open.  Software and source code for using a PC connection and control via Bluetooth will also be made open - and lots of example code of course.

Estimated Timeline
Estimated Timeline

I can't wait to see where all these new technologies will take us.  I am excited to share these designs with all like-minded creators. The internet of things is just now getting here and these affordable robot arms can help really cool and weird things show up everywhere.   :)

So Where do MyArmBots Come From?

About 3 years ago I (Luis Lopez) was involved in a project to create Android connected hardware for a product.  Android devices are wireless, so, I developed hardware and software to connect the Android devices using both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.  The Wi Fi connections were done using a Rabbit microprocessor connected to a Wi-Fi router using embedded C code.  That approach ended up in a product prototype back in 2011.  

A Rabbit micro server (upper left), and a Bluetooth Arduino compatible Bee (upper right).  The BT-Bee custom breakout (lower right) and Rabbit server host board were designed for a 2011 project.
A Rabbit micro server (upper left), and a Bluetooth Arduino compatible Bee (upper right). The BT-Bee custom breakout (lower right) and Rabbit server host board were designed for a 2011 project.

However, my explorations into the Bluetooth world stuck with me, and I really hate to waste perfectly good embedded code and PC boards. Using this Arduino platform for Bluetooth connectivity was so much fun I decided to bring back some old robot designs I had played with years ago.  It was easy to program this board to be a generic Bluetooth servo controller so off I went to the lab.

More years ago than I want to admit to, I built and sold hexapod walking robots that used insect vision for navigation.  I do have some old video 'tapes' of these things and keep a few robot bodies around the lab in dusty boxes. Unfortunately, videos of those old machines are still trapped on VHS and 8mm magnetic tape.  I will try to pull them into my digital cloud while this project runs and share them later on.  I simply do not have easy access to them the moment.  However, I still have a few robot chassis available and here are a couple of pictures of these ancient carcasses.

Walking stick robot equipped with compound eye sensors - no electronics package installed
Walking stick robot equipped with compound eye sensors - no electronics package installed
A 1998 Version of a 3D printed Robot - Some what in disrepair
A 1998 Version of a 3D printed Robot - Some what in disrepair

In any case, I did begin to update some of my early robot concepts using my new Arduino blue-tooth board.  It provides easy wireless servo control using Android Apps. This board controls up to 12 servos on its own and links up with other servo boards (like the ones from Sparkfun) using the Arduino chip to chip serial interface (i.e. the WIRE library).   It enables a good number of servos to be controlled via blue-tooth by just adding more servo driver boards.  Below is a picture of this blue-tooth board.

Bluetooth Arduino servo board
Bluetooth Arduino servo board

Using this board I developed Android apps to control a variety of robots. I used this as the main board on the MyArmBots.  However, there is a need to build a new Android controller app specific to the MyArmBot project. Currently I only have a very generic app for basic testing of the robot.

General Android App for Bluetooth Control of the Arduino servo board.
General Android App for Bluetooth Control of the Arduino servo board.

Even though at the time I did not know it, the next major step towards the MyArmBot evolution occurred when I built a kind of 'Rolly Polly' robot at the beginning of 2013.  I was experimenting with a generic PC board servo mount that can be used to construct appendages.  My first tests were to see if these simple parts could easily build a snake-like robot ... e.g. 'Dr. Octopus' style.  This method could then be used to create appendages for building hands, arms, legs, torsos, etc.  So a few segments later I was rewarded with a simple but potentially important construction method - plus it looks weird as you can see from the video.

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As this story continued, I experimented with more hexapod walkers built from the same basic PC board servo mounts.  Some robots, with 'antenna' sensors, used the Arduino bluetooth board to collect and transmit data to the Android app.  I even dusted off an old insect vision sensor and developed an Arduino driver and Android app widget to collect and display the compound eye data. 

Compound eye sensor integrated with Arduino board.  Such sensors are excellent at obstacle detection/avoidance and optical tracking.
Compound eye sensor integrated with Arduino board. Such sensors are excellent at obstacle detection/avoidance and optical tracking.

Some videos of these robots will post to my FaceBook page on Robots - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Robots-by-2L-Research/276270852538716 

I was always driven to develop a general construction method for robots so that people could reconfigure robots and design them easily from a small set of basic components.  A basis for a kind of a robot 'lego' kit - but not blocks of course - was slowly forming in my work. It was in spring of 2013 when I had finally developed a crude but functional method of constructing robots using the PC boards themselves as structural components.  Specialized solder tabs were designed to let you solder together the boards in a variety of ways to construct a robot. Some of the boards were also the servo mounts.  

A simple hexapod walker using the PC boards for structure.
A simple hexapod walker using the PC boards for structure.
Another hexapod walker with antenna - each antenna has 2 degrees of freedom to move and probe its surroundings.
Another hexapod walker with antenna - each antenna has 2 degrees of freedom to move and probe its surroundings.

So in a nutshell the above robots and blue-tooth controller became the primordial ooze that MyArmBots evolved from.  However, the spark that led to MyArmBot genesis was a 3D printer.

3D Printer and Evolving Design

The magic of a 3D printer is probably the single one event that set off this MyArmBot creation path.  I had the pleasure of getting a Printerbot Simple early this year to learn more about 3D printing and to better support one of my clients.  I sure did learn a lot about 3D printing and in the process experimented with a variety of link-able shapes and hinges that could be used to build robots. There have been (and still are) many iterations of these reusable components, however, a basic set has emerged once I homed in on developing a fundamental piece of robot function - the arm.   

The mechanics of these reusable components are reminiscent of the 'Rolly Polly' robot in function, yet with 3D printing much more is possible.  The basic unit is the segment link.  It can be morphed into an end effector link and a base rotation link  - yet they all share the same basic structure - and SCAD code.

Segmented links that share common mechanical interfaces to build arbitrary appendages.
Segmented links that share common mechanical interfaces to build arbitrary appendages.

These segments use gears for mechanical coupling.  This offers the design flexibility of using specific gear ratios that are appropriate to the segment's loads and desired speed. Gears are always in development now and make a huge difference in the MyArmBot's performance.  This is an area that will receive significant testing and calibration during this project to balance  performance and range of motion with the selection of servos.

I print a lot of gears!
I print a lot of gears!

On to the evolution of the MyArmBot design

The proto-MyArmBot or its ancestor is a snake bot thing I first created with the 3D printer.  Modeled after the Rolly Polly robot it was just a set of similar segments not unlike the PC board segments used prior. 

Whereas the Rolly Polly was direct drive, initially, the 3D printed snake-like segments were driven by a tendon system.  Before long a snakebot emerged and started to wriggle around the lab (video to come later).  These early tendons were too unreliable and inefficient to keep so eventually the snakebot was to evolve into a gear driven appendage - essentially the arm for a MyArmBot..

Snakebot driven by tendons next to a Rolly Polly robot .. the Snakebot evolved from the Rolly Polly
Snakebot driven by tendons next to a Rolly Polly robot .. the Snakebot evolved from the Rolly Polly

Given the rapid prototyping and testing cycle offered by the 3D printer, and the use of the blue tooth Android servo controller - powered by Li-Ion batteries of course - I set out to make a simple but versatile robot arm. More appropriately - I ended up evolving an arm.  Generations of robot segments came to life as fast as the printer could print them.   A large number of 'fossils' began to fill up a large box in my lab.  These 'fossils' are just parts that were a few millimeters to big or small, did not have the right holes, did not seat the servos optimally, etc.  

My box of robot 'fossils'
My box of robot 'fossils'

 And little by little the first arm with a claw emerged.

First arm with a claw.
First arm with a claw.

One interesting thing is that some of the core SCAD code in the segments for the snake bot are still in the MyArmBot SCAD code.  There really is some kind of robot evolution going on here!

So now this arm needed a base and rotating 'shoulder' like capability so it could do more than slither.  I figured that it would be easy compared to getting this far - not so Luis!  Design of the base and rotating system turned out to be the most unexpectedly challenging part of this design!  It was a long road with many, many,many hours of printing and testing and redesign.  

Many many failed base modifications ....
Many many failed base modifications ....

Fast forward ... many 'fossils' later ... I was able to create a  compact base that houses the Arduino blue tooth servo controller, the Li-Ion battery, a rotation servo, and all the wiring so it will not jam the internal gears.  Wheew!  

A good working design for the base containing all the electronics, battery, gears servo and wires.  

Oh oh... I did skip over the part about designing the detachable end effector.  When I had worked in a Robotics Lab years ago, changing end effectors was a common thing.  So I decided the MyArmBot needed that too.  Adding the end rotation wrist was also designed at the same time.  

The evolution story for the end effector, wrist and mount follow the same basic theme of the rest of this design story: design ... print ... test ... modify ... repeat. In the end we got a pretty solid design and connector.

Mounting end slot on end effector segment link.
Mounting end slot on end effector segment link.
Receiver has a tab on rotating wrist servo end that slides and locks onto end effector slot.
Receiver has a tab on rotating wrist servo end that slides and locks onto end effector slot.
End effector segment link with claws and gears attached.
End effector segment link with claws and gears attached.
Mounted and ready to go.
Mounted and ready to go.

There you have it.  The story of MyArmBot evolution.

So my guess is that this project is maybe 60% to 70% done - that is , if the target is injection molding and mass production.  For instance, there are design rules that need to be met in order for injection molds to be built from this current 'beta' design.  That means some of my beautiful 3D solutions may not work and will need to be redesigned to enable rapid production. There is also important work on gears and software to be completed.  I can handle those tasks, yet there are many other things further away from my abilities.  This includes marketing and business management of a mass produced product.

And that's where YOU come into the story.  Your backing will enable my partner and I to sell this to other 'corporate' folks and get the deals and the pushes needed.  Your help will also reward you with the core of all the hard work done over the past couple of years in a form you can expand upon.  You can take my designs beyond what I have done and evolve things of your own imagination. 

So Now Where?  An With Whom?

Given the story of how we got to this point where to now?  

Well, even though I have done much of the technical lifting till now I realize that many people are much better at the things I am not an expert in - and that's a lot of things!.  We need these people to make this happen.  

To secure our eventual commercial success, I have recruited Mr. Greg Brock as the business lead for this project. I will continue as the technical lead. Between the two of us we have many other contacts that can fill in gaps on both the tech and business sides.  We will hire business and technical help as needed and as funds allow.

Greg Brock - Technical Sales, Business Strategy, Marketing
Greg Brock - Technical Sales, Business Strategy, Marketing

Greg Brock is a serial entrepreneur and has managed several successful start up ventures.  He has extensive online marketing, technical sales and product fulfillment business experience.  He will support the management aspects of this project as it expands into mass produced product sales. Click the picture to see his Linked In page for more detailed information on Greg Brock.

We are also pleased to have Chris Dopler and Paul Preston on our team.

Chris Dopler
Chris Dopler

Chris Dopler will support Internet Site Development Strategies for the MyArmBot products. He is a long time entrepreneur and founded CyberSurfers.com in 1996 and later ExchangeRate.com, Inc. He has expertise in Internet Marketing, Graphical User Interfaces, "front end" and "back end" applications, conceptualization and development. 

Paul Preston
Paul Preston

Paul Preston will support documentation and software development. He brings software management and programming expertise to this project. He is a graduate of George Mason University in marketing. His experience includes Litton PRC, and co-founding Internet Marketing Services. 

Both Dopler and Preston functioned as a lead innovators and developers for several Custom Web Applications and Web Portals for E-commerce, Newsletters, CMS, etc. To Their credit are: CreateStore, NTS (Newsletter Tracking System), CMS (Contact Management System), CIGCS (Customized Intelligence Gathering Crawler System).

.

Luis Lopez - Technical Lead, Robot Designer, Software Developer
Luis Lopez - Technical Lead, Robot Designer, Software Developer

And this is me.  I will make sure that the technical side of the MyArmBot designs reach a new level of cost-effective, open robot performance.  If this project succeeds I promise that there there will be many more advanced kits and designs in the future.  You can hit my Linked-In page, Facebook Robot page and the 2LResearch pages from my bio.

Thank you for reading this story and I hope you become part of it!

Risks and challenges

The primary Challenges and Risks are related to getting the design into a manufacture that will deliver a quality product in time and to find sources for the electrical parts required - most critical is the Arduino Bluetooth all-in-one Bee that we use in our design. To mitigate risk we will leverage our local business incubator - http://www.biztech.org/ - to help us find the best manufactures and sources. We are also reaching out to startup manufacturing firms such as Berkeley Sourcing Group
- http://www.berkeleysg.com

Other challenges will be in setting up a company to manage and provide manufacturing and fulfillment support, getting the products into retail channels, etc. To address this, we will again leverage experts at the Biz Tech incubator as well as several business associates that I have had the pleasure to work with in the past.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    THANK YOU: We will mail you a certificate of appreciation from the MyArmBot developer.

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    ROBO FOSSIL: A random test piece .. a true missing link ... and a thank you certificate of authenticity signed by the MyArmBot designer.

    We print 100s of 3D test parts just to chunk them into a recycle bin after testing. As a big thank you we will send you a specially selected, yet random piece of actual robot evolution. Each piece is one of a kind and represents a real live MyArmBot fossil. A kind of robotic missing link we built tested, improved upon and then tossed into Darwin's bin of not to be naturally selected;

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    LIMITED EARLY BIRD - 3D PRINTING FILES: This reward provides an electronic key that lets you download all the SCAD and STL printing files for the MyArmBot so you can print and build your own. Using the SCAD files you can modify the robot easier. Instructions and tips also are included in this download. You can use your own servo controller or, if you also decide to get the EDK reward, you will have essentially the same as the ROBO DNA. You will get these files about a year or more before anyone else can get these files as open sources. That way you can influence any new enhancements and help us make a better release version. If we use any backer code contributions, before we open source the design, those contributions will be credited to your name on the open source credits. This also gives you email technical support.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    3D PRINTING FILES: This reward provides an electronic key that lets you download all the SCAD and STL printing files for the MyArmBot so you can print and build your own. Using the SCAD files you can modify the robot easier. Instructions and tips also are included in this download. You can use your own servo controller or, if you also decide to get the EDK reward, you will have essentially the same as the ROBO DNA.

    You will get these files about a year or more before anyone else can get these files as open sources. That way you can influence any new enhancements and help us make a better release version. If we use any backer code contributions, before we open source the design, those contributions will be credited to your name on the open source credits. This also gives you email technical support.

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    ELECTRONIC DEVELOPMENT KIT (EDK): Build your own programmable MyArmBot Blue tooth servo controller electronics. We send you our custom breakout board and a CDROM with the complete parts list, Arduino sketch code, Android app source code, instructions and email support for building your own blue-tooth MyArmBot controller. You can use this to control any servo based project you wish. Up to 12 servos using direct control, or add up to two additional 16 servo boards for controlling 28 to 44 servos. This also gives you email technical support.

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    Pledge $59 or more About $59

    ROBO DNA KIT (RDK):

    A completely functional set of robot 'DNA'. This includes the SCAD and STL files, the Arduino sketches, the Android App Java sources and instructions, tips, email links for help, support, etc.

    This Robo 'DNA' will be mailed on a CD that contains all the files for printing, programming and assembling your own MyArmBot.

    We include a PC board developed for this robot that neatly fits in the base with the battery and base rotation servo and all the parts lists and source code for the Electronics Developmetn Kit (EDK).

    This of course will include instructions (or a web link to current instructions) along with a parts list (with sources) for ordering the Arduino/BT combo BEE board, servos, switches - everything that you will need to build it.

    In addition to the CD, Updated .STL files and source code will become available during early production redesigns. You will be on the early list to get these updates - way before we make all this open source! This will allow you to follow along as we refine the design up through mass production and even contribute your own ideas !

    Note that we will be ready to ship these in June, however, it will be first come first served and if the demand is large we can only ship a limited number per month. Therefore, some of you may receive this reward after the end of June. Of course, we will make every effort ship asap and even email you some files ahead of time to let you get started printing the parts. It does take about 20 hours to print one robot. If you want to be sure to have the Robo DNA early you can try to get the EARLY BIRD LIMITED reward.

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    Pledge $89 or more About $89

    EARLY BETA LIMITED ROBO DNA KIT (BETA):

    3D printable files, PC board and parts list, instructions and email support, Arduino sketch, Android app source, etc. Everything needed to create your own wireless portable MyArmBot.

    See Details for Reward : Robo DNA Kit.

    This is the same thing as the ROBO DNA KIT reward but for those who act fast and want an experimental prototype REAL SOON! It also puts you on the beta list with direct email interaction with our development team, upgrades to new design files, etc.

    We plan to have these betas ready to ship early on so you can build a X-3 Mark 1 robot design right away and help test it with us !

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    Pledge $189 or more About $189

    COMPLETE PREVIEW KIT:

    MyArmBot 3D Printed Parts Kit.

    This kit includes 3D printed parts, servos and electrical parts, BT Arduino, PC board, etc. plus the code and files listed in the Robo DNA Kit - everything needed to build a complete MyArmBot. With the Robo DNA Kit you will be able to make spare parts, create your own modifications, etc.

    The main difference between this kit and kits we will produce later are the plastic parts are not injection molded.

    NOTE: We plan to begin shipping these on October 1, 2014.

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    Fully Assembled 3D printed MyBot Prototype - White

    Signed by designer/developer certificate of authenticity.

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    Fully Assembled 3D printed MyBot Prototype - Blue

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    Fully Assembled 3D printed MyBot Prototype - Red

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    Fully Assembled 3D printed MyBot Prototype - Black

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Funding period

- (42 days)