MiKoBots' 3D-Printable Robot Arm Features an Open Source Vision-Capable Software Stack

Powered by an Espressif ESP32, with optional ESP32-CAM board for computer vision, the MiKoBots kits are now on Kickstarter.

Robotics startup MiKoBots has launched a crowdfunding campaign for a 3D-printed six-axis robot arm kit, powered by an Espressif ESP32 microcontroller and featuring an open source software stack with vision support.

"[Our] robot arm is designed as a kit, which means you have to build it yourself," MiKoBots' Markus Kleinjan explains. "You can choose one of our kits that we are selling, or you can choose for only the digital files. When choosing the digital files, you have to source the parts yourself. But don't worry, the robot arm consists only of standard components that you can buy on sites like Amazon or AliExpress."

MiKoBots has launched a crowdfunding campaign for its eponymous six-axis 3D-printable robot arm design. (📹: MiKoBots)

The 3D-printable arm boasts a repeatability of 0.2mm (around 0.008"), a tool-dependent 1.5kg (around 3.3lbs) payload limit, six degrees of freedom, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and the company's in-house MiKoBots Studio software. This, Kleinjan explains, includes the ability to control the robot arm in simulation or physically, a tool library for its modular end effector system, support for G-code files, and direct remote control using a Microsoft Xbox controller.

"We wanted more, namely to make the robot interact with its surrounding," Kleinjan adds. "Therefore we also have a build-in vision library in MiKoBots Studio. Now it is possible to detect objects by color and size. A cool example is that you can play Tic-Tac-Toe or connect 4 against the robot arm, the robot will recognize your moves by vision."

While currently closed-source, Kleinjan has promised to make MiKoBots Studio available under an as-yet unspecified open source license following the end of the crowdfunding campaign. The arm's firmware, which is written for an Espressif ESP32 microcontroller, will also be published under the same license.

The robot includes optional computer vision capabilities, driven by an Espressif ESP32-CAM board. (📹: MiKoBots)

On the hardware front, the robot arm is designed for printing on a 3D printer with a least a 200×200mm [around 7.9×7.9"] bed. An optional "In-Output Box" expands the device's capabilities behind the standard two-finger, three-finger, and pen-holder end effectors to support tools including an electromagnet and a vacuum gripper. A vision mount compatible with any of the tools adds an Espressif ESP32-CAM board for computer vision tasks.

MiKoBots is currently funding the arm on Kickstarter , with rewards starting at €60 for STL files for self-printing up to €899 for a full kit of parts — or €1,199 for those who would rather receive a fully-assembled version. All rewards are expected to ship in September, Kleinjan has confirmed.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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