Birth of a Robot (Army)

Delta Robots

Sometime in 2013 I stumbled upon the blog of Sarah Petkus titled Robotic Arts. Probably because, you know, I occasionally build art robots. Sarah is a member at SYN Shop, a nice looking hackerspace in Las Vegas, and she’s been working on building delta robots for a while now. She’s got a great post about the journey from using household junk to designing and printing 3D parts to build her robots. Check out Robot Army : From Tupperware to 3D Printing.

Junkbox (Delta-style!)

She also been collaborating with Mark Koch at SYN Shop and turned this whole delta bot thing into a Kickstarter (successful!) that is going to help fund an art performance with an army of delta robots. And hey, while they’re at it, they’ll also be turning their robot into a kit through ROBOT ARMY, a new venture to manufacture robot kits for the do-it-yourself market.

I started working on a delta robot last year because I’ve got a project planned that requires one, but I still haven’t finished it. I might consider getting a kit if it makes sense to speed up my process and get to the “art” part of a future art robot I’ve got planned.


Art Robots [video]

Here’s a video I put together to show how two of my art robots function. The video is playing right now in the gallery where some of the art is on display, as I mentioned previously.

Art Robot

Art Robot

You can do a lot with an Arduino, two servos, and a few other miscellaneous parts. ;)


The Art of the Robots


The Beaver Dam Area Arts Association invited me to take part in a show titled “Beyond Your Imagination” which opens January 6, 2013 and runs through February 10, 2013.

So, you know, between the holidays, work, traveling, and other projects, I had to scramble to get Friday Night Drawbot and the Arc-O-Matic up and running again, with new code, and new parts, and create some art… with the help of robots.

So, consider yourself invited to the Seippel Homestead and Center for the Arts, 1605 North Spring Street, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin to view the show. If all goes well I will be there Sunday, January 13, 2013 for a live demonstration of the art robots.

Friday Night Drawbot

tl;dr: See robot art I created. With robots.

Update! Here’s a video of the bots in action.

Update! Here’s a photo from the show opening, courtesy of Jason Gullickson.




Art #002

In almost all programming languages there’s a function to generate a random number. The random number can then be used to choose a random word, color, shape, etc. In art things are often random, but in specific ways. When drawing, can you really make your hand “randomly” create a line? Isn’t your subconscious always having some effect on the outcome? Short of feeding electric pulses to your muscles to make your arm movements “truly” random, I’m not convinced. (And no, I’m not ready to send live current to my own arms!)

This idea of introducing randomness to the creation of art is something I’ve been doing for a while now. I didn’t really think about it too much, but now I am.

Art #002

The Drawbot I built in 2011 brings this idea of randomness into its operation. The patterns I programmed into it had certain criteria (turn left, go forward, turn left, go backward) but the randomness is in the amount of movement. I like this because even though a device that’s mechanical and electronic should be able to repeat the same thing over and over again (and is sometimes expected to) this doesn’t. It’s also assembled with parts that are nowhere near precision in their movement, which adds more randomness to it all.

The Arc-O-Matic follows a similar concept. The current programming forces it to stick to a preset path (drawing arcs) with no randomness introduced into the code, but again, because of the lack of precision parts swinging around an arm with a pen on it, even when it tries to draw the exact same path, there are variations that cause them to be different each time.

Art #003

Besides the art robots that typically just draw an image, I’ve been experimenting with introducing randomness into the generation of other art, which is starting digital, and will eventually be part of the analog world. I’ve also got a few ideas for interactive digital pieces that will rely on input from the physical world, but still inject randomness into them.

So yeah, that’s sort of what I’ve been working on lately. I should have more to show and talk about in a month or so.


A New Elbow


You may remember the Arc-O-Matic, an Arduino-powered drawing robot I built back in March for Gallery Night.

Well, things have been quiet on the Arc-O-Matic front for a while, and there are reasons for that. First, while shooting a video showing how it works, It started to fall apart. This was not unexpected. The whole thing was built in a few hours, and held together with hot glue and gaff tape. Failure was just a matter of time. Second, while it was in my workshop awaiting repair, one of the cats (ChaCha!) managed to knock it off a table onto the concrete floor, which made things worse.

But an important thing happened between the destruction of the Arc-O-Matic and now… I can easily 3D print things!

Elbow (old)

Here we see the old elbow mechanism, which consists of glue and tape. Pretty sad. It held up fine for Gallery Night, but it’s no permanent solution.

So my first idea for repair was to take some of the weight off the arm via the elbow joint. I thought about buying some ball casters but then realized I could just print my own! Here is one on Thingiverse, and here’s a photo of the one I printed. My initial idea was to just glue this on to the bottom of the micro-servo.

But when you’ve got a 3D printer, why stop there? I ended up designing a part that would hold the micro-servo, and allow the dowel to attach to it. See this photo.

Now, I know some of you still don’t get Google+, so here’s how it works. I posted my progress there, and someone who follows me mentioned a post about Florian Horsch printing a servo coupler on a Ultimaker. My first thought was, “crap, can I print that on my MakerGear Prusa?” And yes, I definitely can.

Elbow (new)

So here’s the result so far. A new elbow. The bottom piece holds the larger dowel and the micro-servo, while the top piece fits snugly onto the business end of the micro-servo and holds the smaller dowel. I’ve not yet attached the ball caster (which uses a marble) in this photo, but I tested attaching it to an earlier version using acetone to weld the plastic together. (I suppose a screw could be another option there.)

I’m hoping to get this thing rebuilt and working before the end of July (hint hint!) and once I’m pleased with all the pieces, I’ll write up some instructions, toss the files on Thingiverse, and hope someone else thinks it’s cool enough to play with.