Hardware primer hosted by Armanicreations and Vescarobotics was a great success

HARDWARE primter

On Feb 3, we helped the DC robotics group host its first ever robotics hardware workshop.  Thanks to PUNCHROCK in Adam’s Morgan for hosting us as their first technology outreach event.  PunchRock is a social entrepeneurship space.

The session consisted of 5 learning areas.  These included 3d printing, motor control, tapping, joining parts, and total hardware assembly.  For the next 1.5 hours, over 30 guests switched between the stations taught by Michael Armani and David Jones. At the end, a summary was given to the group explaining how to make a robotic prototype that matches the scale and stage of the endeaver.  As a result of these learnings, people got the best of our many years of experience and 10′s of thousands of dollars spent on trying different hardware strategies in our own product development.

The presentation is included here Punchrock presentation 2003 format.

Thanks to all that came!  Everyone was very smart, asked questions that were spot on, and learned some quick methods for robotic creations.  We are honored to share our knowledge with this group.

DC Robotics

DC robotis

Last Thursday, we participated in the second ever meeting of the DC Robotics meetup. It was great to meet other people with similar passions and interest in technology. It was an impressive group of individuals and I look forward to future meetings.

It took place at the unexpectedly sleek and inviting offices of iStrategyLabs, an inventive marketing company. Sleek tables, laptops, and colorful chairs decorated the open space. As we presented our crazy robotic ideas, the marketing staff stood in the kitchen working on their laptops late into the evening.

Here’s a list of some of the great projects that were presented and discussed by group members:
Robot Operating System (ROS) and Gazebo simulator
RGB-D sensors (Kinect, Xtion)
Drawing robot
Robotic strawberry picker
Robotic coffee maker
Lilypad Arduino and LED signal hoodie for bikers
Social Machine
Boe-Bot
Inexpensive RF communciation

In the next meeting, I have told one of the members I would help them scan in members with reconstructMe and print out 3D models of them! Should be lots of fun! I’m hoping these meetings will broaden our network of people that will share ideas and resources to help move our robotics projects forward.

Robotic Harvesting

Harvester

Vesca Robotics is pioneering exciting new technology for robotic harvesting. Our advanced robotics and computer vision techniques will make it possible for automated systems to harvest delicate fresh-market crops.

Since the 1960s, farmers have dreamed of better harvesting methods. Over the years, there has been much success in mechanical (blind) harvesting. Yet, there are certain crops that are nearly impossible to harvesting mechanically. Some reasons include: plant damage, fruit damage, and crops that do not ripen uniformly. For such crops, robotic harvesting is the only solution.

Technology has come a long way over the past few decades. Low-cost electronics, improving computer vision, and new machine learning techniques have put robotic harvesting just within reach. It is no longer a matter of feasibility, but how soon it will happen. Vesca Robotics is determined to be the first to create a commercially-viable robotic harvester.

We are pushing the envelope of technology and human achievement. The future of technology and our company is exciting. If computer vision, machine learning or robotics excite you, we want to talk to you! We’re hiring. Please see our Careers Page for more details.

 

Fully Automated Electronics Board Maker

After Acetone and Sanding

Traditionally, if you need to create a circuit, you’d use a breadboard for testing, then do a short run with an electronics manufacturer. It costs about $50 or so to and 3 days to make a single board from an online service. If you want 10, you might be able to get each for $40. But, what if you could make a board that would otherwise cost $300 online for $20 in components. If you need 5 or 10 of them, this idea really starts to make a lot of sense. Not everyone needs this. But imagine that there is a thinigiverse of electronics online and you could just download the CAD files, purchase a kit with the surface mount components and have most boards for just $20. It’s the idea of democratizing electronics with the reprap community the way that manufacturing is being democratized with 3D printing. It’s no longer necessary to set up costly manufacturing for every company. Now you can start small with 3D printing and scale when it makes sense.

I imagine one day that the poor will someday be able to print out their own high quality homes and electronics. It may take a while to get there. But the idea that anyone could produce just about anything easily and cheaply means that each one of us will be that much more capable and able to solve the problems that we face as a species.

The original idea for the machine was described here in the reprap forums.  But the idea has continued to evolve. We’ve successfully hacked a laser printer to print unfused toner to make it easy to transfer the toner to a PCB without ironing. The original idea was to use a cylindrical arm design, but we’ve now concluded it’s not worth the trouble and that we should continue to use the XYZ stage designs that are typical of 3D printing. This means we can combine a 3D printer with the ability to make electronics!

The goal is to make a reprap that is not only able to print in plastic, but is able to create and test it’s own RAMPS board in under an hour!

The idea of home printing PCB’s has been tested by only a brave few before, such as here and here.  However, no one has achieved an easy and reliable electronics maker yet, and they have only just begun discussing the inclusion of pick and place. These machines typically cost many thousands and are only used by industry. The only other way is to do it manually.

In addition, the technique we’ve developed for using laser toner is much cheaper than using photo resist. Pre-sensitized PCB boards that can be developed with UV light are very expensive. Using toner reduces the price so that it becomes more attractive to use this technique for small to medium production runs.

A typical pick and place machine requires reels of components. But when you’re not making that many boards, using reels makes no sense. We’ve devised a method by which you place the components for the board on the table and the robot recognizes the components where they are. This reduces the complexity and size of the robot, while making it possible for larger groups to add reels to the setup and use that technique just as well.

What we are trying to do is put the ability to make electronics quickly and cheaply on a small scale into the hands of anyone for around $1000. We think that could revolutionize how electronics development and production is done.

I’ve also been considering to make the XYZ robotic stage easily re-programmable and reusable for other things, like making your coffee in the morning. This would allow people to tinker with robotics more easily and dive deeper when they are ready.