MyArmBot: Open Source, Wireless, Arduino-Android Fit Robot
MyArmBot: Open Source, Wireless, Arduino-Android Fit Robot
Modular 3D printable personal robot arm that's Arduino compatible! Li-ion power and wireless Bluetooth control let you use it anywhere.
Modular 3D printable personal robot arm that's Arduino compatible! Li-ion power and wireless Bluetooth control let you use it anywhere. Read more
About this project
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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.
And little by little the first arm with a claw emerged.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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).
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
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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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