An affordable 4/5/6 axis robotic arm design that can be easily made by students/enthusiasts developing for real world interaction.

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I often have ideas that would require some type of real world manipulation whether it be moving items, fetching something, or ever holding a camera on target and I'm sure other hackers/students/developers have looked for the same. Unfortunately the specifications of commercial machines have always fallen far short of my needs or been far too expensive. I want speed, precision, reach and strength at a reasonable price. It must be wireless requiring only power and as an extension I would like to include provision for a vision system.

This is a tall ask however I believe that through smart design it can be achieved. I will be designing and manufacturing an open source arm that can be adapted by anyone for use in whatever projects may require it. I will also be proposing a number of concepts that I will probably never get to but will bring smart linked systems into everyday use.

Imagine as a developer/hacker you have a simple, cheap connected robotic arm. Not a small RC servo driven arm but a mid reach, fast and precise arm that can be configured and placed wherever you want to interact with the world around you. It could be in your pantry ready to fetch all of the ingredients for the recipe you just Googled and while you cook it could stir a pot for you. Put a load cell in the arm and it can weigh ingredients while you're on your way home and send you a list of what is needed ... there are numerous potential applications but I thought of that first because I'm hungry ;) 

I have wanted a tool like this to prototype ideas for many years. For this project I will not focus on a specific implementation but on making the tool for other developers to use. A web connected robotic manipulator with a simple UI. It will be an easy to make (for me) cheap (again, by my standards). All the electronics and software will be open source and anything I develop will be made available on hackaday.

I will not be too specific with the goals just yet because it will definitely change during the course of the project but I hope that gives you an idea of what this is about.

  • 1 × 1Nm Nema 23 Stepper Motor 1Nm holding torque bipolar stepper 200ppr
  • 2 × Nema 17 Stepper Motor 0.5Nm holding torque bipolar stepper 400ppr
  • 1 × 6 Axis Opto Isolated Parallel Interface Breakout Board
  • 3 × A4988 Based Stepper Motor Driver 1A
  • 1 × A4988 Based Stepper Motor Driver 2A Similar to above but with over-current protection and heat sinks

View all 8 components

  • Progress - Sortof

    Andrew Becker11/02/2014 at 21:31 0 comments

    So I've been approaching this project from a bit of a tangent, with the engineering sector strikes in South Africa I couldn't get any laser cutting done and it brought my prototyping to a standstill. As a result I decided to pursue a smaller project that I've been wanting to do for a while now which is a small CNC plasma cutter. It has a small 1,2m x 1,2m bed and is powered by an Arduino sporting a modified version of Grbl. It's all just about done and if I get time I'll start another project and do a write-up on it. I'm hoping it will significantly improve my ability to prototype parts for all of my projects.

    All in all I hope to get back to my arm and have some interesting progress to show soon.

  • Distractions

    Andrew Becker09/09/2014 at 16:38 2 comments

    So I've made loads of progress with the design. I have changed the joints substantially and redesigned the base completely, this is after 3d printing most of the version 1 parts and seeing how everything looked together. After that I got very distracted working to improve my 3d printer and then with wedding plans. Everything has now settled down and I hope to be printing the V2 prototype parts over the next few weeks.

  • Photos

    Andrew Becker08/21/2014 at 21:31 0 comments

    So here is the photo of the 3d printed parts I promised. Been messing around with different concepts and trying to make all of the parts fit on my printer. The batarang was just a test print, plus I wanted one. 

    I've also been setting up to test the stepper motor drivers and controllers. In the photo is a simple paralell port breakout card with optocouplers and 4 of the Pololu 1.5A stepper drivers (along with an Arduino uno and a due I'm not using right now). I have about $600 worth of robot parts laying around and I'm getting anxious to turn it into something useful or at the very least entertaining.

  • 3D Printing Success

    Andrew Becker08/19/2014 at 13:12 0 comments

    So I have managed to 3D print a whole bunch of parts for the arm. Not sure why I didn't do it earlier. I'll post up some photos tonight when I get home. With the 3D printing working the only thing stopping me from having a 3 degree of freedom arm working is time.

  • 3d Printing

    Andrew Becker08/08/2014 at 09:11 0 comments

    I went to a very interesting 3d printing workshop last night and I have decided I will be 3d printing my parts to double check fit and functionality before I manufacture them from steel or ali. Provided I can get my Reprap Ormerod working correctly I should have a moving axis or two by sunday. I will post the g-code files once I know each part will work so that anyone interested can print their own copy. The CAD files I will only release once the arm is at a working stage.

  • Strikes

    Andrew Becker08/06/2014 at 21:32 0 comments

    So the violent strikes here in South Africa finished last week and I can finally get to ordering parts without fearing for my life. If you think I'm exaggerating just Google it. I have managed to make some progress on the software side but I had to save up for some new pc bits so that I could retire my old pc and dedicate it to this project. So I am hoping to post some tangible progress this weekend. Hold thumbs.

  • Fun with Software

    Andrew Becker07/14/2014 at 19:23 0 comments

    So with the wage strikes here in South Africa keeping most of the engineering companies closed I'm continuing on with the software to control the arm. I am using LinuxCNC due to the open source basis, power and customisable nature of the software. You can follow my adventures in setting it up for a 6 axis arm here:

  • Update

    Andrew Becker07/07/2014 at 11:05 0 comments

    So between my bike accident and violent wage strikes in the engineering sector here in South Africa I've managed to make only slight progress. I have figured out all of the forward and inverse kinematics and written a bit of python code check my calculations. It needs to be converted into a kinematics file for Linux CNC but that is fairly straightforward.

    With the inverse kinematics the angle of each joint can be calculated from the given x, y, z coordinates and the tool orientation. I have decided to allow the orientation to be specified by the user in any one of 3 different ways.

    1) Axis - Angle: this is a vector pointing in the direction of the tool head and an angle of rotation around that axis. This is the easiest to use if the end effector is some type of rotary tool like a drill or router. This is because the angle becomes inconsequential and only the axis contributes to the position of the arm.

    2) Rotation matrix: This is a 3 x 3 matrix defining the transformation from the base coordinate frame to the tool coordinate frame. This is a bit clumsy for the end user however I'm converting all input forms to this in order to complete all of the kinematic maths so I've made it a valid input in case the user wants to use it.

    3) Euler Angles: This is the pitch roll and yaw of the tool relative to the base coordinate frame. I suspect this will be used the most when a claw manipulator is used.

  • Delays

    Andrew Becker06/20/2014 at 08:27 0 comments

    I was involved in a bike accident earlier this week so unfortunately all progress on the arm has come to a stop. I will hopefully get back to it sometime this weekend.

  • Parts Finally Start Arriving

    Andrew Becker06/17/2014 at 11:03 0 comments

    So a couple of parts have started to arrive, nothing that I can assemble yet but it's exciting none the less. I will lay out everything I have so far tonight and take some photos. I will only be able to start assembling end of next week, that's when the base mount should be done. I also have to design and make a tool for cutting custom GT 2 pulleys because I found that I can't source exactly what I want and I'm not prepared to compromise the design. It's quite a small tool because the tooth radius of the pulleys is just 1 mm so I'm probably going to have to wire cut it.

View all 19 project logs

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taner wrote 01/02/2016 at 21:21 point

Hello my friend i need to make 6 axis printable robot arm could you share your stl and solidworks files for me i need these mechanics i dont know anything about mech.I am a electronics engineer therefore i need help.

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Andrew Becker wrote 06/17/2014 at 10:50 point
Hi Dan, sorry for the long delay, I took my family on holiday and decided to leave the hobbies behind. I have already had a good look at your project and it looks great, I would be more than happy to share my work with you, I'm also very curious as to what control system you're using.

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Dan Royer wrote 06/12/2014 at 15:04 point
I am also building a robotic arm. Maybe we can join forces?

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Andrew Becker wrote 06/06/2014 at 23:26 point
Hi Mike, I'm working hard this weekend to get some of the parts made, with a bit of luck I'll be posting some photos on Sunday. I haven't given much thought to the first demo but the cocktail idea sounds like fun. I want to show off the speed and precision specifically so maybe some object stacking.

I will explain more in up coming logs where a connected arm with remote access will be beneficial, specifically hazardous environments or applications where large numbers of arms are used together for a large scale operation.

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Mike Szczys wrote 06/06/2014 at 23:04 point
Thanks for submitting this to The Hackaday Prize!

Do you have any idea what you're going to task the first prototype for as a demonstration? I'd like to see the 6-axis mixing up some cocktails!

As you get along in development don't forget to check out the Judging Criteria ( You'll want to make sure you explain how this is connected and how that is meaninful.

Good luck, can't wait to see the renders turned into a real arm!

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