DIY robot arm construction kit makes pick-and-place competitive
Craft and construction kits have been a blessing in our recent lockdown phases, and now there’s a new one that might appeal to those interested in tinkering with robots. ArmPal is a robot arm kit that you build yourself, then pit against other robot arms in battles based on picking stuff up.
Robot arms are a pretty common sight in factories, and since they’re relatively simple we’re starting to see them become available for businesses and hobby programmers. This latest version, developed by a Hong Kong-based company called Mongda, looks like one of the simplest, with a focus on fun more so than work.
The ArmPal construction kit is mostly made of laser-cut wood, and putting it together involves gears, hydraulics, pulleys, magnets and other mechanisms. As complicated as it sounds, the only tool required to put it together is a screwdriver, and Mongda says that it’s simple enough for kids as young as 10 – with some parental help, of course.
Once it’s built, the robot arm can be controlled directly using a pair of joysticks on a connected unit. And then it’s game time. Several different tools can be attached to the tip of the ArmPal, including a claw, an excavator bucket and a magnetic crane. The heads are made to be switched quickly on the fly, and Mogda has designed a game to play with each of these.
Two ArmPals equipped with claws can compete to pick up blocks in the middle, and stack them. Whichever arm knocks over the tower loses. It’s kind of a reverse robot Jenga.
For the excavator kit, Mogda suggests a race to scoop more sand or rice or whatever else is on hand. One of the optional extras is a set of scales with two buckets on a seesaw, and whoever fills theirs up more is the winner.
And finally, two ArmPals kitted out with magnetic cranes can race to collect more paper clips or pins or other magnetic objects. Maybe the scales could come into play again here, or maybe you just pile them up to the side. It all sounds pretty freeform really, and users will no doubt invent their own games to play with the ArmPal.
Mogda is currently funding the ArmPal on Kickstarter, where it’s already smashed its US$10,000 target, raising over US$48,000 with 24 days left on the campaign. Pledges start at $99 for the basic kit, which includes the arm, a claw attachment, and a set of cubes. The Battle pack includes two arms, two claws, cubes, the scale accessory and a table mat, for $139. Or for an extra $20, the Battle pack can be upgraded to Deluxe, throwing in two excavators and two magnetic cranes.
If all goes to plan, delivery is due to start in September this year. Check out the ArmPal in action in the video below.