x6 Mark I – Robotic Arm

x6 is a robotic arm with six degrees of freedom.

It is a device totally programmable, built to boost creative power for anyone who wants a personal assistant to do repetitive tasks and handle low payload.

Mounted with protection system against overheating, fast and powerful servo motors, x6 is an eco-friendly device by its intelligent power saving system.

Although the small size, it is able to do fast and efficient tasks.

Objective

Robots do not cause any more surprise currently, and is not something new to anyone else. They are not only present in large industries, now this kinds of device can be found even in schools. These fascinating machines are mandatory on assembly lines, handling hazardous materials in laboratories, and even in restaurant kitchens wishing to offer something interesting for high profile customers.

How about using a robotic arm at home? It sounds tempting and is something possible, because the cost of this kind of equipment is being reduced over the years. However, programming still remains a barrier, because people must have very specific skills to take advantage of a robot.

The goal of x6 project is not limited to build a robotic arm. The challenge is to demonstrate that you can use an personal assistant at home to do automatically household tasks. Therefore, the development of a special software with great usability and control capabilities will be a mandatory key to enabling the use of x6.

Description

With a goal so big, logically I should create alliances with research institutions and large robot industries. But I tried to do exactly the opposite, because at the beginning of my research, I realized that all the robots these days are very similar and I wanted to do something different.

I stopped research for years and then started drawing a totally unique design, in order to try to create something out of standards that already exist. This may seem a big challenge, but if we consider that a robotic arm consists of mechanical pats, electronic components and several layers of software, it is not so hard to do something original.

Before starting the construction of x6, I set some fundamental characteristics that would be part of the identity of the project:

  • Low-cost – I do not want to spend a lot of money;
  • Fast – The robotic arm must be fast;
  • Stable – Shakes, jiggles and trembles are undesirable. The arm must be stable;
  • Accuracy – Even at maximum speed or full load, all moves must be accurate;
  • Strenght – It must be able to easily handle objects with at least 200 grams.

With these core ideas, I started the Mark I of x6 (Six Axis).

Hardware

x6 Mark I - Inside view
x6 Mark I – Inside view

The robotic arm is controlled by an original Arduino Mega 2560.

A beautiful anodized aluminum case keep safe control and power electronic components. This robust case has mounting bracket, so the x6 can manipulate objects with maximum load and full range without tipping over or move out.

The six axes are driven by servo motors with torque 12 kg/cm, providing strength and speed for any task.

The cooling module adds safety to use the robot. This sub-system consists of multiple temperature sensors and a powerful heat exhausting fan, which prevents the internal parts reach high temperatures and damage components.

x6 Mark I - Building the robot
x6 Mark I – Building the robot

A front LED indicates the device status. Multiple colors are displayed to warn undesirable working conditions or some kind of malfunction.

The redundant power management control runs the standby mode when the device is not in use, preventing unnecessary power consumption, overheating and component wear.

Software

The x6 software is divided into two parts:

  • Firmware – Basic functions like monitoring, power management and communication;
  • Control – User-friendly software with advanced capabilities of object manipulation, move learning and communication.

Firmware

The x6 firmware is a typical Arduino program that implements basic functionalities like sensor reading, engine control and ordinary moves.

For advanced applications and complex object manipulation, I have developed xC control software.

Control

The xC software (aXes Controller) was developed to control any robot (x1, x2 and x6). It has a nice GUI and allows the robots to be controlled by keyboard, mouse or joystick.

xC is fully programmable and has full integration with x6 Mark I. It is possible to send commands to the robot performing complex moves, and you can receive information from device and get accurate real time data from all sensors.

Working

Various tools can be combined with x6 Mark I. The following demonstration uses a robotic clamp to manipulate a small cup.

The original video voice is in Brazilian Portuguese, but English subtitles is available.

Conclusion

Beyond to be used to perform repetitive tasks (like any robot), the x6 Mark I can be used in hostile environments to perform scheduled tasks or assisted remotely by a human.

The visual design of x6 can remember many other robotic arms, because I have used ordinary electronic parts from Chinese market. However, some parts I built by myself with aluminum, plastic and other materials, ensuring physical part originality.

As a low-cost project, I used the cheapest servo motors found. Therefore the precision of axes moves was impaired and some bumps occur during the drive. This is an important point of attention to be fixed in future releases of the project.

As we have seen, although the small size this robot can perform many tasks, such as the imagination allows.

Please leave your comments and suggestions about a task that you would like to run on x6.

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