For many people, power saws are scary things, bringing forth mental images of horrible hand injuries. Such saws are an integral part of creating custom wooden furniture, however. Now, scientists at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have developed an experimental system called AutoSaw, that uses robots to handle the sawing.

Users start by getting on a computer and utilizing the existing OnShape CAD system, to access a professionally-designed basic template of the type of item that they wish to build. They can tweak that template as they wish, accounting for factors such as size or aesthetics. Once the design is finalized, the program generates a list of all the wooden pieces that will need to be cut. That list is then transmitted to the robots.

Guided by a motion-tracking system, two small mobile Kuka Youbots equipped with grippers pick up the pieces of uncut lumber and carry them over to a chop saw. They then guide the pieces through the saw, which cuts them to the required lengths. Additionally, a Roomba that has been equipped with a jigsaw moves across the surface of wooden boards, cutting out any flat pieces that are needed.

After all the parts have been cut, the computer guides the user through the process of assembling them to create the finished product.

So far, AutoSaw has been used to build a table, with simulations showing that it could additionally be used for a chair, shed, and deck. Down the road, it may also use robots to perform tasks such as drilling and gluing.

"Our aim is to democratize furniture-customization," says team member Adriana Schulz, a PhD student. "We're trying to open up a realm of opportunities so users aren't bound to what they've bought at Ikea. Instead, they can make what best fits their needs."

AutoSaw can be seen in action, in the following video.

Source: MIT