Putting cameras on robot arms is not a new idea. We’ve seen it done plenty of times by folks like Steve Giralt and the Slow Mo Guys. But it’s not exactly a cheap venture. Even very basic robot arms can cost a few grand and when you’re looking at the Bolt arms used by Steve and the Slow Mo Guys, you’re getting up into the tens of thousands. But this open source project from Andrew Degonge at 3DprintedLife plans to change that.
he’s been working on a project called OS-ARM. It’s a 3D printable low cost, high performance motion control robot arm. At least, that’s the plan when it’s finished. Its project goals are to have 6 axes (it currently has 5), smooth, repeatable motion, support a 1kg payload, be easy to produce and cost less than $500 in materials. It’s still in development, but as you can see in the video above, it’s already come a long way.
The expense of robot arms capable of fast and precise movements with the weight of a camera on the end of them is justified. For a start, they’re typically pretty huge, with massive, chunky, expensive motors, all-metal construction and have been developed over several years. There’s also a relatively small market out there for such devices, which means low production, also keeping the costs quite high.
There are a number of open source robot arms out there that you can print and build yourself, but a lot of them have one fatal flaw. Well, two, really. The first is that most of them can barely even handle the weight of a smartphone, let alone a DSLR or mirrorless camera with a lens attached. The other is that many of them are also pretty wobbly. Making a robot arm out of 3D printed plastic rather than metal means that things just bend a little more and take more time to settle down once motor movement has stopped.
Andrew’s design counters a lot of those problems, though, by using harmonic gears to drive some of the axes with some pretty chunky printed arms to help keep them more rigid. Andrew says that development of the final arm will likely take multiple years, but has released all of the CAD files and firmware on GitHub as a work in progress so that people can check on the current state of things as it’s developed.
But it also means that anybody is free to download and print the files and build one for themselves. Maybe even come up with some solutions to the challenges the project currently faces and will face as development continues. What Andrew’s done so far is very impressive and I can’t wait to see which direction it takes in the future.
If you want to download the files and see it for yourself, head on over to GitHub.