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What is MeArm?

The MeArm is an extraordinary open-source creation that takes the form of a 4-axis parallel-mechanism robotic arm. This remarkable arm is specifically designed as an educational kit, providing an immersive learning experience in the realms of robotics and programming. With its accessible design, the MeArm aims to break down barriers and democratize access to robotics education, ensuring that learners from all backgrounds can engage and explore this fascinating field.

Checkout MeArm’s website, here: https://www.mearm.com

One of the notable features of the MeArm is its seamless compatibility with various microcontrollers. This means that it can be effortlessly connected to any type of microcontroller, empowering users to adapt and customize their programming and control methods according to their preferences and specific learning goals. This flexibility allows learners to experiment and gain hands-on experience in a way that suits their needs, ultimately enhancing their understanding of robotics and programming concepts.

By providing an open-source platform and promoting accessibility, the MeArm plays a pivotal role in nurturing curiosity, creativity, and learning in the field of robotics. It serves as an ideal tool for individuals looking to dive into the world of robotics, explore the intricacies of a 4-axis parallel-mechanism robotic arm, and develop a solid foundation in robotics education. With the MeArm, the possibilities are endless, and the opportunity to learn and grow in robotics is made available to everyone.


The Story of MeArm Project

A project with real reach

The MeArm project originated in 2014 as an exciting robotics endeavor aimed at developing a user-friendly and enjoyable robot arm using a minimal number of components. The primary objective was to enable individuals to construct their own robot arm easily, providing a delightful playtime experience. Moreover, the project was open sourced, allowing others to freely download, explore, and extend its capabilities.

Over time, the MeArm robot has undergone continuous enhancements and refinements, culminating in its current iteration, version 3. The evolution and improvements of the MeArm are a testament to the collaborative efforts of numerous dedicated individuals from all around the world. Countless contributors have poured their hard work into this project, sharing their expertise and passion to make the MeArm a remarkable creation.

It’s fascinating to note that this collaborative endeavor has reached enthusiasts across the globe, with participation from various continents. The MeArm project has garnered attention and engagement from individuals worldwide, except for one notable exception: Antarctica. However, the project’s inclusive nature and global impact demonstrate its ability to unite people in their shared enthusiasm for robotics and innovation.

Kits start from a very reasonable £39.


Radio Shack Armatron

Radio Shack Armatron

In the 80s, I had an absolute obsession with a remarkable product called Armatron, which was produced by Radio Shack from the late 70s to the early 80s. What made this device truly fascinating was its entirely mechanical design, driven by a single motor. The Armatron relied on a clever transmission system that could be manipulated using joysticks. These joysticks allowed you to effortlessly rotate the shafts and extend the arm, granting you precise control over its movements.

The Armatron boasted two joysticks, along with a timer and an on-off switch. Powering this incredible gadget were two “D” cell batteries discreetly placed at the bottom, ensuring it could function smoothly. The timer feature was particularly intriguing as it was used to play games that originally came with the set. Each run of the Armatron lasted approximately 8 minutes, providing a short but exciting and immersive experience.

Back in those days, the Armatron captured the imaginations of many enthusiasts, including myself, and its mechanical marvels continue to hold a special place in the memories of those lucky enough to experience its charm firsthand.


Z-707 Battle Iron Claw

Radio Shack Z-707 Battle Iron Claw

During the 80s, I had the pleasure of owning one of these remarkable gadgets—a radio-controlled toy that provided endless entertainment. This fascinating device featured an arm with a single degree of freedom (DoF), allowing it to perform various movements. The arm’s claw had the capability to open and close, adding an extra layer of interactivity to the toy.

In addition to the arm’s functionalities, the toy also boasted conventional tank-like movement, allowing it to maneuver in different directions. However, there was one drawback: this toy had an insatiable appetite for batteries. It seemed to devour them voraciously, necessitating frequent battery replacements to sustain its lively escapades.

Owning this radio-controlled toy during the 80s was a cherished experience, providing countless hours of joy and amusement. It exemplified the technological marvels of its time and left a lasting impression as a beloved companion of my childhood.


Simple Robot Arm - Previous Video, based on Grippy-Bot

Grippy-bot

Powered by the Pimoroni Inventor 2040 W, this extraordinary creation boasts a blend of innovation and accessibility. Its design features 3D printable parts, making it easily customizable and adaptable to individual preferences. The printing process itself is remarkably efficient, with the entire assembly typically taking only a couple of hours to complete.

To bring this invention to life, it relies on the power of five servos, specifically the SG90 or MG90 models. These servos play a crucial role in enabling the various movements and functionalities of the device. If you’re eager to embark on the exciting journey of building your own, you can conveniently download the necessary files from the provided link: https://cults3d.com/en/3d-model/gadget/grippy-bot.

What truly sets this creation apart is its impressive four degrees of freedom (DoF). These DoFs provide a wide range of motion and flexibility, allowing the device to perform intricate and precise actions. With its (ahem) cutting-edge design and accessible construction, this invention opens up a world of possibilities for robotic enthusiasts and tinkerers alike.


MeArm

MeArm

The MeArm stands as a remarkable open-source creation - a 4-axis parallel-mechanism robotic arm specifically designed as an educational kit for individuals interested in exploring the realms of robotics and programming. With its accessible design, the MeArm aims to democratize access to robotics education, making it available to a wider audience.

One of the notable features of the MeArm is its versatility. It can be seamlessly connected to any type of microcontroller, allowing users to tailor their programming and control methods to their preference and specific learning goals. This flexibility empowers learners to delve into the intricacies of robotics and gain hands-on experience in a customizable and engaging manner.

By providing an open-source platform and promoting accessibility, the MeArm plays a significant role in nurturing curiosity, creativity, and learning in the field of robotics. It serves as an ideal starting point for enthusiasts to delve into the world of robotics, programming, and the fascinating mechanics of a 4-axis parallel-mechanism robotic arm.


Components and Assembly

MeArm

The MeArm Robot is composed of several essential components that work together to create its impressive functionality. It utilizes servo motors to control its movements, allowing for precise and controlled actions. The base serves as the stable foundation, providing support for the rest of the robot’s structure. The arm sections are carefully designed to enable the desired range of motion, allowing the MeArm to perform intricate tasks.

A significant component of the MeArm is its gripper, which provides the capability to grasp and manipulate objects. This feature adds a practical and interactive element to the robot’s capabilities, enhancing its versatility. The assembly process is designed to be user-friendly, utilizing precision laser-cut parts that fit together seamlessly. With the help of a standard screwdriver and the provided Allen key, users can easily construct the MeArm, making the assembly process accessible to individuals with varying levels of experience.

The combination of these components and the user-friendly assembly process allows individuals to create their own MeArm Robot efficiently. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced enthusiast, the MeArm provides an exciting opportunity to explore robotics and enjoy the satisfaction of constructing a functional and interactive robotic arm.


Programming the MeArm Robotic Arm

Embark on an exhilarating “choose your own adventure” with this remarkable creation! The compatibility of this adventure lies in its ability to seamlessly integrate with various boards, including popular platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and Micro:bit. Whether you prefer the versatility of Arduino, the power of Raspberry Pi, or the simplicity of Micro:bit, this creation is ready to accompany you on your coding journey.

When it comes to coding languages, you have the freedom to choose your preferred path. Whether you’re comfortable with the robustness of C++, the elegance of Python, or the versatility of JavaScript, this adventure supports them all. The possibilities for creativity and exploration are endless as you write code to bring your ideas to life and shape the outcome of your adventure.

To make your journey even more enjoyable, this creation thrives on the strength of a vibrant and supportive community. Community-driven libraries and example code are readily available, providing you with valuable resources and inspiration to enhance your adventure. Benefit from the collective knowledge and experiences of fellow adventurers as you navigate through the twists and turns of your coding exploration.

So, grab your preferred board, choose your coding language, and immerse yourself in this exciting “choose your own adventure” with the support of a vibrant community. Let your imagination soar as you create your own path and discover the endless possibilities that await you in this thrilling coding expedition.

Example code

To get you started, I’ve created some code for the MeArm and Pimoroni Inventor Hat mini here: https://www.github.com/kevinmcaleer/mearm


Review

Pros

  • High Build Quality, nice finish, solid
  • Simple to construct
  • Fun to build
  • Quality of documentation & instructions
  • Community expansion & flexibility
  • For all ages

Cons

  • Acrylic is an expensive material, reflected in the price
  • Bring your own Microcontroller

Pimoroni Inventor Hat Mini

Pimoroni Inventor Hat Mini

To drive the arm I’ve chosen to use a Pimoroni Inventor Hat Mini:

  • Plug the 4 servos into the servo headers
  • Install the Python libraries
  • Configure the Raspberry Pi Zero W
  • Write some code

Future improvements

The future holds exciting possibilities for enhancing this project further. There are several improvements and additions that I would love to explore. Here are some of the things I have in mind:

Firstly, I envision incorporating a web user interface (UI) using Flask. This would enable a user-friendly and intuitive way to interact with the project, providing control and customization options through a web browser.

Additionally, integrating MQTT control would be a valuable enhancement. By implementing MQTT, we can leverage the power of Node-RED Dashboard for controlling the project remotely. This would enable seamless communication and control from various devices, opening up new avenues for interaction and automation.

Building a dedicated remote control using two joystick controls is another exciting idea. This would provide a tangible and intuitive way to maneuver and manipulate the robotic arm, enhancing the user experience and precision control.

Expanding on the concept, I envision creating a similar arm but with potentiometers instead of servos. This innovative approach would allow the arm to drive the servos while simultaneously copying movements. By recording and storing these movements, we can enable playback later, facilitating the replication of precise actions and sequences.

These future improvements have the potential to take this project to new heights, enhancing functionality, control, and versatility. By incorporating a web UI, MQTT control, a dedicated remote control, and advanced potentiometer-driven movements, we can unlock even more possibilities and create a more immersive and dynamic experience for users.



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