The wide, wonderful world of robotics is really good at giving people a hand with a myriad of tasks (yes, that joke is probably overdone, but it still cracks me up). In September, we told you about the 3D printed LittleArm robot, created as a way to connect robotics directly to STEM education, by product design and engineering studio Slant Concepts. They had a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign for LittleArm and raised 230% of the funding they originally were hoping for.
Their next project is essentially LittleArm’s big brother, the ShopArm, which just launched its Kickstarter campaign yesterday. It’s a robot arm that can be trained to do lots of the boring jobs around the house, like feeding the fish on time or preparing a piece of toast for breakfast!
Slant Concepts works with and builds all kinds of robots, every single day. Earlier this year they were working with a large industrial robot for a client, and it dawned on them that they could make a robot arm 10 times cheaper, and 100 times easier to use. While working out the specifics of the idea, they set up three requirements for the robot arm that they wanted to create: it had to cost less than $1,000, be able to be used by anyone regardless of their experience level, and makers had to be able to build it in their own garage. They achieved all three, and thus, the ShopArm was born.
The ShopArm can be used for all sorts of things: preparing mail, decorating pastries, getting drinks ready at a party, tool retrieval, a third hand to assist with projects in your workshop, etc. It was inspired by affordable 3D printers, and every plastic component of the ShopArm is 3D printed, which makes it very light, but still pretty strong. The software is quick to install, on either Linux or Windows computers (though they use a Raspberry Pi themselves), and easy to use: just plug a USB cable into the ShopArm and you’re ready to go! It’s fully controlled by an Arduino Mega.
The ShopArm can also be used to re-write personalized notes through highly custom trajectory, though apparently its handwriting is more precise than the user’s handwriting right now! It has one primary gripper, which is 3D printed and micro-servo actuated. Luckily, Slant built several other interchangeable ones for you to use, including a hook. Some of the others are:
- Pen clamp, which can hold a Sharpie marker for drawing and writing
- Suction cup, so it can pick up and put down smooth objects
- Liquid dispenser, for the robotic bartender that never quits
- PCB Board Holder, so it can help at your workbench
This is partially why Slant Concepts has decided to release their designs during the campaign, so that people can create and build all the different grippers they want. Any end effector can be attached in less than a minute, with just two screws. Check out this video of the ShopArm playing chess:
Slant built repetition right into the ShopArm, since robots are pretty skilled at repetitive tasks. Once you show the ShopArm what you want it to do, you can just leave it doing that task over and over again, for as long as you want it to keep going. Need to put stamps on the 50-plus Christmas cards you’re sending out, or have some boxes that need to be filled? Just train the ShopArm how to do it, and save yourself the effort of completing the task by yourself.
The ShopArm weighs just six lbs., with a payload of 0.6 lbs., position repeatability of 0.5 mm, and a rotation range of 360 degrees. Rewards for donating to the campaign range from a Twitter shoutout (for a $5 pledge) all the way to a fully assembled ShopArm Pro (for a $750 pledge).
Next up for Slant: the company’s Robotics division, which started as an open source robotics project, is now working to develop a home robot butler named Jerry! Join the discussion in the ShopArm forum at 3DPB.com.
Check out the ShopArm Kickstarter campaign video to learn more: