MeArm – Pocket sized industrial robotics for everybody

Here’s an interesting open source project on Kickstarter the MeArm, a pocket size robot Arm by Benjamin Gray:

Low cost, easy to build and simple to control, MeArm is designed to make learning with robotics accessible for everyone.

MeArm is a pocket size robot arm. It was conceived to make robotics, electronics and programming accessible – by driving down the cost of robot arm ownership. The ultimate aim is to make something low cost that you can build with nothing but a screwdriver and enthusiasm.

Apart from being something that’s small, cool and attractive the MeArm is a miniature version of an industrial robot arm. So while it’s simple enough to build and use with a child on a rainy Sunday afternoon – it can also be used at more advanced levels of education to teach real robotics.

Design and code files are available on Github.

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20 Comments

  1. Industrial? Really? This must be a joke, right? With such a silly opener / head line, do not expect me to read the rest of your project description…

    1. By the way, uArm pulled the same stunt with “industrial robot” name-calling. And they were successful. MeArm seems to become a success, too. Well, i go back to my cave now and look at some pictures of some real industrial robots…

    2. I agree. A bit maddening for old timers or EEs. Everyone has realized they can apply branding and PR and manipulate consumers to the max, only some of us choose not to waddle in BS-making. Some of us were quietly working on our AVRs and PICs then suddenly it’s all Arduino, 1001 permutations of the name, and millions of lines of bad code…

      After seeing the picture of the prototype, I have to say that Benjamin Gray has piled on the hype too thickly. Just say it’s a toy robot arm, but I guess expecting some of these young fellas to have some ethics is too much. With those microservos, I guess it’s best for manipulating small styrofoam pieces, har har har haw haw haw ;-)

      1. Hi Elli / KH,

        It is essentially a toy that you can apply the same techniques as industrial robot arms on. Clearly at £32 it’s not going to be the physical equivalent of an industrial robot arm – no user will be at risk of losing fingers for example. It’s an introduction to robotics. Which is why as a toy it’s being used in class rooms to enthuse the young about EE, mechanics and robotics and in University Robotics departments its being used to demonstrate basic inverse kinematics.

        The same programmatic, mechanical and robotics techniques used in this miniature toy can be applied in industry, that’s not marketing but simple facts. There is no marketing team behind the project by the way, just me right now. For the assertions of no industrial robot would be of any use with this number of DoF I present the .

        Alan and rumburack, thanks for your constructive comments.

  2. Can the MeArm draw? Compared to the Piccolo (a few days ago)?
    Sure the Piccolo has a small area, and circles weren’t so great – but I’m not sure the meArm could even hold a pen.

    1. I’m sure you can make it draw — to the extent of the accuracy and pressure that 3 cheap microservos can provide… not to mention the flex in those thin plastic beams…

  3. There is a lot of useless crap and not working stuff all around.

    But this for £32 or £55 with all parts included it is a nice toy to play with. Sure, far away from anything useful to do with (can it sort legos?), but building and playing could be fun for some time.

    Most of these toy things miss a long term motivation. For a winner item this should be first priority. Otoh, there are a lot of ppl that have enough money and throw it on anything…

    1. Yes. So it’s a toy. My issue is with Mr Gray bringing the words “industrial robotics” into play when promoting his thingy. He says, and I quote: “a miniature version of an industrial robot arm”. Really? **** me.
      Industrial robotics is vastly different compared to a toy with 3 RC microservos. Did you see the pix on the kickstarter page? You can’t do much with that number of DoF. I’m really not convinced that qualifies as “a miniature version of an industrial robot arm”. The kids will love it, sure, but try doing more complicated stuff with that number of joints. Alan (see above) is thinking about drawing with it, but seeing the joints I’m not even sure anymore it can draw.

      1. Never seen any educational robot arm claim this kind of paternity. MeArm is too simplified to qualify for such a comparison. The marketing sheen was poured on real thick… marketing trumps engineering. Sad.

    1. They aren’t selling the MeArm in the KickStarter. They’re selling a controller board, with joystick controls.
      Totally inappropriate for automated tasks, but could (just maybe) be used to control proper motors, in a REAL robot arm.
      Which you need to make yourself.

  4. I think some of you are missing the significant points about this project:

    It is a “industrial” style robot arm as opposed to a wheeled/tracked robot that people are more familiar with.

    The design of the arm is currently at 0.4 level (open source) that is available to buy from various places or to make yourself. The KS is aiming for version 1.0 so it will have changes (upgrade kit will be available)

    I think he main point is to create a low-price entry into this type of robotics – and encourage hacking. Kids love seeing a small robot that can be controlled by Raspberry Pi, Arduino.

    Disclaimer:; Owner of a 0.4 arm and backer of this KS – but otherwise no vested interest in the project.

    1. It’s a toy robot arm. Plenty other who sell those things (better ones too) call them a robot arm. Nothing more. Remember the time when Kickstarter had a rash of hardware projects that were just a gleam in the eye of the dreamer and were impossible to implement? Too much hype, too much cheerleading. There will be critics, there will be supporters. Having just cheerleading is a very bad thing..

  5. Chaps, I think some of the comments are a tad harsh, many of us are from a background in electrical, electronic, mechanical engineering or similar. To us the name tends to raise questions that people just getting into our fields of interest simply don’t consider.

    I have one of the early MeArms, it was a challenge to put together, as the world of laser cut plastic components does assembly in a different way to me. But as a project for someone just arriving this is a great little project and product to assemble, play, learn with.

    Even just moving a plastic cube from point A to B learning axis control with the joysticks, then reprogramming the Arduino to perform automated tasks is a step or ten in the right direction to inspire the minds of future generations of engineers, hackers et-al.

    ‘Industrial’ I grant it isn’t, but it describes the product in a way the uninitiated can connect to what they have seen on TV building cars, washing machines, or anything.

    If they so desire to make a larger version this is a great starting point, it’s open source and could easily be upgraded with different materials and components to perform a more precise task, add an extra axis.

    We’re a group of individuals who have the vision to create products and solutions to the problems we find in our daily life. We can equally see something that ‘nearly does’ what we want, reverse engineer what is already there and graft on the functionality we desire.

    We may have just had meccano or plain lego to inspire us and get us building. Todays lego baffles me, they make a model with custom parts only used in that model. Forty years ago we didn’t need little men to complete our creative vision, we had already built the car or plane, not from detailed brick by brick instructions but from remembering what something looked like, copying, improvising and using vision.

    How about looking at todays children and think about what will drag them away from the LCD screen they are glued too, challenge, educate and then entertain them. Indeed, most of our families would deem us as big kids, think about what you could get a MeArm to do, have it type your password for you each morning… wave an empty paper cup in the air when you’re ready for more coffee… give it a small led laser to hold, put it on a counter in your kitchen then tease your cats with the laser putting a show on the floor.

    Silly things, but an ‘industrial’ robot doesn’t have to weigh 2 ton and require hydraulic pumps to drive it. Especially in your shack or the kids bedroom :)

  6. Ugh, hobby servos, really? And an underpowered ATmega?!
    What a waste of 55GBP for this, plus an Arduino! And quite sure there was a joystick-type Arduino board available from Atmel at some stage.
    Kickstarter has become a “lets see what junk we can sell” website.

    1. Yeah, but the proponents insist they are not wrong on the “industrial robotics” thingy. Et cetera.
      But lemme see, rotation, drives, joints, all vastly different. Ummm, feedback, can’t see any in the pix, look like standard servo connections. What!?!! an industrial robot with no feedback !??!! ;-)

  7. The maker movement has resulted in a load of junk that lets be honest was available in far better form as kids toys from Taiwan etc in the 1980’s. (Not saying junk originates there, just saying this is really simplistic toys and there was a time and a market for this, but man this is the 21st century… maybe – just maybe – there are better ways to teach industrial robotics than a laser-cut piece of plastic and a hobby servo?!!
    And before the proponents come back and say “well do a better project yourself”, actually I did, at the age of about 8. I remember using a battery, a bulb, and some cooking foil on a large disk connected t a toy wheel, to make the light flash when the wheel was turned by pushing the toy (it was a fire-engine, it needed a flashing light). It’s just a step away to demonstrate a rotary encoder, and that may teach a bit more than this 55GBP piece of junk.

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