July 20, 2015 | By Alec

Over the past few years, it has become increasingly evident that robots will play a very important role in the near future – in the workplace, in manufacturing, even in our homes. Understanding robotics is therefore increasingly being seen as an excellent skill to have, but a difficult one to acquire as robots are still so expensive. Fortunately, one London-based startup is presenting us with a solution. For Automata are currently very near to completing the development of the 3D printed arm robot, a very cheap, lightweight and very accessible machine that is perfect for educational purposes and even for workplace applications.

The 3D printed Eva alongside an industrial cousin.

This very accessible robotic innovation has been born in the minds of designers Mostafa El Sayed and Suryansh Chandra, who together founded Automata Technologies in January of this year. Previously, both had been working at the fields of design, technology and digital manufacturing for several years. As they explain on their website, the Eva arm began as a desire to democratize the world of robotic automation and make it accessible for the consumer and SME markets. ‘We believe robotic automation can bring a huge amount of creativity in addition to enhancing productivity to small businesses and individual users. Over the coming years, these will change the way we live and work. But first, these robots need to become a whole lot easier to use, safer to work beside, and substantially more affordable,’ they say.

And the Eva seems to be an excellent vehicle for that democratization, as it is essentially a multifunctional robot arm – a smaller version of something you might expect in a car factory. ‘Eva is an extendable platform offering precise, articulated three-dimensional movement with similar dexterity to a human arm owing to its 6 degrees of freedom. Just as a human arm’s abilities are augmented by the tools it holds, Eva’s capabilities can be extended through a wide-array of attachments and their respective software apps,’ they explain. And with a precision of down to a single millimeter, this looks like an excellent machine.

While that sounds great, the best news is yet to follow: ‘It is designed to be low cost, extremely lightweight and easy to use (smartphone and browser based),’ they add. 'We've been iterating quite fast and the specs have been shifting due to early user feedback.' Mostafa Elsayed, cofounder of Automaa Technologies tells us. ' The current weight of Eva is 2.2 Kgs and we foresee that number staying under 2.5kgs for sure.
In terms of price, we are still specing out the final build and while we aim to eventually get to the $2000, we are currently looking at a newer price point between $3000-$4500.'

All these would make it suitable for a large number of applications. Among others the two developers are envisioning functions such as pick &place, point of sale terminals, photography, telepresence, machine tending, but even domestic applications such as a tool in kitchens, for laundry and security. Perhaps most important and initial use: as an educational platform to enable users of all ages to get familiar with the basics of robotics and visual programming. But then, what maker doesn’t dream of equipping such an arm with an extruder?

As you might have expected ,3D printing technology plays a large part in Eva’s low cost and functionality. ‘Eva is unique as she was designed and engineered to be primarily manufactured through 3D printing, which allows us to optimize her internals enabling her light weight and precise performance,’ the makers say, something which has also make development easier and quicker than ever. ‘This also leads to incredibly rapid iteration and turnaround times for new versions of Eva and new products in her ecosystem.’ The latest iteration is about 80% 3D printed, including the outer shell and a number of functional and mechanical parts.

The software side of Eva is also looking impressive, as a series of use-case oriented apps on smartphones and tablets are ensuring that people with all skill levels can get stuck in. ‘Robotics sound intimidating? With our apps, you'll get Eva up and running in the time it takes you to setup a new phone. Download use-case specific apps or create your own! Access our choreoGraph app from anywhere! Whether you're on your desktop, browser or your smartphone / tablet you will find it easy to communicate and control Eva,’ they say. The choreoGraph software will also extend its functionality into a staple of 3D platforms such as Maya, Grasshopper and others, and will be shipped with every model of the Eva.

The Eva prototype in action.

While the Eva is still in development, the prospects are good. If everything goes according to plan, she will be made available by the end of the summer of 2015. Before that time, Mostafa El Sayed and Suryansh Chandra will continue to tinker and improve the machine. ‘Over the next weeks, we'll be subjecting the new prototype to grueling long hours of repeatability, payload and longevity testing. We're gearing towards accepting pre-orders soon,’ they write. We, for one, can’t wait.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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