Science and technology enthusiast Ashley Barker and engineer Charlie Casas have joined forces to build a Raspberry Pi-powered robotic arm dubbed Optio, originally designed to move a radiation source safely and now being made available to back as a crowdfunding campaign.
"We needed a way to nimbly and accurately move a radioactive source without the use of human intervention. Sounds simple right," Barker explains. "Well... it wasnt, but we were up for the challenge! At birth Optio was just 'The Robotic Arm' (imaginative hey!). The single need saw a narrow focus, but the team couldn't help themselves and very quickly, started trying to do new things and improve the system."
"These changes included upgrades and new designs for the tool heads, from little-bitty grippers to a jumbo claw able to take multiple tooling heads. Our current version of the control system has more than halved in size and weight, making a much more manageable and easily movable system."
After a wealth of upgrades, a move away from Arduino-powered home-brew control panels in favor of off-the-shelf games console controllers, and over a hundred hours of testing, the Optio is considered a complete design — and Barker is ready to begin production on build-it-yourself kits of parts as well as fully-assembled robot arms.
For those who just want to see what the arm can do, Barker has set up a selection of models for remote control: Backers can pick a single ten minute or three 20 minute sessions, controlling an Optio arm via the internet. Those already confident in the design can back for a kit, featuring either ABS 3D-printed or nylon formed parts, or opt for a fully-assembled unit which is ready-to-run.
Pricing for the arms is set at AU$3,500 for early bird backers of the ABS kit rising to AU$4,000 regular pricing (around $2,700 to $3,090), AU$5,000 for early bird backers of the nylon kit rising to AU$5,500 regular pricing (around $3,900 to $4,250), AU$6,000 (around $4,600) for a fully-assembled ABS arm, and AU$8,000 (around $6,200) for a fully-assembled nylon arm.
Full details are available on the Kickstarter campaign page.