What is MeArm?
MeArm is a pocket size robot arm. It was conceived to make robotics, electronics and programming accessible - by driving down the cost of robot arm ownership. The ultimate aim is to make something low cost that you can build with nothing but a screwdriver and enthusiasm.
Update! After hitting our initial target so quickly we've decided to go for some stretch goals!
Why is it special?
Apart from being something that's small, cool and attractive the MeArm is a miniature version of an industrial robot arm. So while it's simple enough to build and use with a child on a rainy Sunday afternoon - it can also be used at more advanced levels of education to teach real robotics.
The MeArm project is Open Source. This means all of the design and code files are freely available for you to download, so that you can view, edit, learn from all of the work that has been put into the project so far. This covers the files for laser cutting, the PCB board schematics and board files (which are KiCad) and all of the software.
This means if you start your rainy Sunday running your MeArm manually from the joysticks, you can very quickly progress through basic examples to automate the movements and then onto some advanced robots by early evening. Even take the measurements directly from the design files and work though the trigonometry with a slide rule should the mood take you. By making everything that we have available you can learn about anything from robotics, to electronics, to programming in any number of languages with the MeArm project.
(Video Courtesy of Robert Fischer under Creative Commons Attribution Licence)
Being Open Source also means that the project has already traveled the globe, with builders making them from all sorts of materials in 6 out of 7 continents (Antarctica is lagging behind as ever - if you can solve that please get in touch). Not only have we seen the MeArm built around the world but we've seen them used for workshops, for sale on websites and even in other crowd funding campaigns! Each of those builders has contributed to the success of the MeArm and we hope to see even more "Wild" arms out there after this Kickstarter campaign.
Screwdriver and Enthusiasm?
Up to now the MeArm has been something for those who are happy to tinker with electronics. We want to use Kickstarter to help us provide a platform to achieve the "Screwdriver and Enthusiasm" goal. This platform is the MeBrain.
The MeBrain has two joysticks to control the MeArm. You plug the robot arm into it and it into a power supply and you will be able control the arm and even record a few movements to play back.
It is an Arduino-Compatible device built on the same chip as the Arduino Leonardo, so although you don't have to know anything about Arduino to make use of and have fun with the MeArm you have the immensely useful Arduino ecosystem at your disposal should you want to take your exploration further.
There are already some excellent code examples available for the MeBrain - provided by the amazing Bob Stone and there are even 30 tutorials to help you learn to code on the MeArm from one of our Open Source collaborators from Taiwan.
With the MeBrain the MeArm will be the most open and accessible robotics project in the world, we hope it will find uses in schools, universities and anywhere where encouraging engagement in science, technology, engineering and maths is important. We really should include art in there too as the MeArm is a fairly handsome bit of kit, thanks to the design aesthetic of Jack Howard, and it's use in kinetic sculpture has often been discussed.
You can see we've already done a lot of development on the MeArm and MeBrain, but we hope to increase the speed at which we're able to operate with your help.
Risks and challenges
We have a small manufacturing set up capable of around 50-60 arms a day and good relationships with our main suppliers and back up suppliers. We're now including separately labelled spare screws and spares of the parts easily broken. So as far as the MeArm goes we think we'll have it covered.
For the MeBrain we're entering new territory and the number of orders we get will decide the final route we take. However with 11 years in hobby electronics for myself and experience in MeArm Limited of contract manufacture we should have the contacts who can help us fulfill the orders and test the product correctly before shipping.
As mentioned above we have experience in sourcing goods for manufacture, having backup suppliers and even backups for those should help us mitigate the risk.
The MeArm (without controller board) has gone through some extreme market testing and is currently on sale on a number of continents. In addition to these the MeArm has attended several Maker Faires, many public events and even had a week at the Science Museum in London. We'd like to put the the control platforms though some similar live testing at events before we ship the product to you to help find and anticipate any issues with their construction and improve the user experience.
Stops here. If our planning fails or falters we will of course follow the best route and let you know exactly what's going on and how we're going to fix it. It's the only way to do business. It's why we look up to the likes of Sparkfun.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (21 days)