Researchers from the Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico, developed a robotic arm built based on low-cost materials, for use in distance learning of their courses of robotic, adapted to the online modality that prevails today due to the pandemic.
This easy-to-assemble device for students and teachers can demonstrate essential concepts in the area, such as motion control, path tracking, and kinematics, and can also be operated telematically.
Adapting robotics classes to modern times
Víctor Benítez, professor and researcher at Tecnológico de Monterrey, set out to create together with his students a robot that could be built based on low-cost materials and that could also be assembled outside of laboratory settings, dispensing with advanced tools and equipment.
With that vision came this small, but powerful invention, which could be used to bring from theory to practice some complex robotics concepts in a physical environment, such as those mentioned above.
Among the lessons that can be obtained from working with this device, the same researchers behind it highlight the possibility of understanding the relationship between the equations of the theory and the behaviors of the robot and also, to use it in the generation and control of motion trajectories through controlled online experiments that simulate realistic environments.
This robotic implementation is adaptable and customizable, according to the research or teaching needs determined by each case. The prototype presented can serve as a guide to formulate and interpret physics equations. In addition, being a device that must be assembled from its most basic parts, this prototype fits perfectly to the modality of knowledge transmission based on the execution of projects, which in this case, in addition to focusing on robotics, also partially covers other areas such as electronics and robotics.
In addition to the electromechanical structure that makes up this robotic arm, the device also has a control system, a Wi-Fi communications module and a human-machine interface, which can be operated by means of a mobile, adjusting the angle of each servomotor using to determine its position the Denavit-Hartenberg parameters, widely used in robotics to explain the kinematic structure of an articulated chain.
A complete and economical alternative
To assemble this robotic arm, few components are needed, which are also easy to find, given its use in devices IoT and they are available at low cost. The list of materials plus the necessary software, which is freely accessible, can be found at this article.
Among the necessary implements, the most expensive is the PLA filament necessary to manufacture some plastic parts of the device, which suggests that as a fundamental requirement, it is necessary to have access to a 3D printer. The rest of the components hopefully reach a value of $ 10, some of them costing just a fraction of a dollar.
Even being a cheap device, low power and that is far from the complexity of other advances in the area that we have been able to know, this proposal is something different. In addition to its price and ease of assembly, this project is completely available under an open source license, so any space dedicated to the development of robotics, mainly in the educational field, could be favored with the emergence of an alternative How is it going.
The details of this invention were published in the scientific journal HardwareX, through an article that, along with detailing the conceptual aspects of the same, also indicates the complete list of materials and software that are needed, plus their respective assembly and operating instructions.