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New hand-held CNC from MIT
August 10, 2012 8:47 AM   Subscribe

You supply the muscle to move the tool and the computer supplies the accurracy. The tool shown here is a router but it seems like a more general technique. You move a hand held power tool around sloppily and a computer makes small movements of the tool as you do that keeps it to a corrected path.
posted by aleph (35 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's going to be a changed world.
posted by grobstein at 8:50 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's very clever: it gives you the precision of robotic control without the size, expense and complexity of an equivalently scoped robotic system. Neat.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:50 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, this could make DIY projects a lot more interesting.
posted by oddman at 8:57 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's awesome. Although my immediate idea was to integrate this technology into powered exoskeletons and then CYBORG SWORDFIGHT.
posted by griphus at 8:58 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It will get extra neat when the positioning system becomes able to work out how far it's moved without needing those QR-code-like markings on the workpiece, possibly using the same kind of image processing techniques as an optical mouse.
posted by flabdablet at 8:58 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want one to clamp to my hand while i pretend to play the guitar. It will "correct" the "minor errors" I make and "improve the precision" of my "playing".

Full disclosure: I can't play the guitar.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:01 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Looks like they use something like strips of 2D barcodes laid out on the work surface for positioning. Sticking those on just so for every new piece of work might get a little old. An alternative would be to borrow a page from quadcopters and mount a few cameras around the shop and a reflective ball on the tool. Or maybe mount reflective balls on the ceiling and use an upward facing camera. Since a router is (hopefully) restricted to moving in a single plane, fewer cameras or fixed points would be required than for a quadcopter.

It will get extra neat when the positioning system becomes able to work out how far it's moved without needing those QR-code-like markings on the workpiece, possibly using the same kind of image processing techniques as an optical mouse.

That's hard to do. Cumulative error becomes a big problem.
posted by jedicus at 9:03 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Remember that early episode of Star Trek where those aliens abduct a bunch of kids from the Enterprise and give them special tools to help develop their latent talents?

This reminds me of that carving tool one of the kids uses to transform a block of wood into a dolphin with just a few gestures.

The future: we're living in it.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:06 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Umm, maybe it's just me but a router is the sort of tool that I want total control over. If the bit is capable of moving in a direction I don't expect, I'm not using it.

(Had one router kickback in my shop, never, ever, again....)
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:07 AM on August 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


It will get extra neat when the positioning system becomes able to work out how far it's moved without needing those QR-code-like markings on the workpiece, possibly using the same kind of image processing techniques as an optical mouse.

Those strips, along with bits and perhaps downloadable designs, will be the "consumables" piece of the business model.

Still. Clever.

A couple years back when I had access to a professional woodshop and the need to rapidly produce many parts of the same size and shape, I considered putting together a small, router based CNC machine and table. Too big. Too expensive. Too complicated.

This thing would have been just right.
posted by notyou at 9:09 AM on August 10, 2012


So we've gone from machines assisting humans in manufacturing to humans assisting machines in manufacturing? I guess I'm okay with that.

I mean, of course I'm okay with it! Thank you, Protector Robot!
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:10 AM on August 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ah, apparently the markers don't have to be placed super-accurately; they just have to cover the whole surface such that the camera can always see at least one marker. Then the user prepares a map of the surface by running the device over the whole surface, and the device builds a map from that data. So maybe not quite as much of a pain as I thought, but still a fair bit of prep each time.

If the bit is capable of moving in a direction I don't expect, I'm not using it.

(Had one router kickback in my shop, never, ever, again....)


I wonder why nobody has developed a SawStop-type device for a router using accelerometers?
posted by jedicus at 9:10 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


And not just routers, the same accelerometer approach could be used for other kickback-prone tools, such as circular saws.
posted by jedicus at 9:14 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


How would that work, jedicus? SawStop technology doesn't offer any protection against kickbacks.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:15 AM on August 10, 2012


Right, the SawStop design stops the table saw blade when contact is made with flesh. It detects a change in capacitance, as I recall. This idea is to stop the cutting element when the tool detects a sudden acceleration. The similarity is that the same quick stopping mechanism would be used to arrest the cutting element before the tool could harm the user.
posted by jedicus at 9:17 AM on August 10, 2012


It proved more successful than the design I submitted, which is that the saw stops when it is drenched in blood.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:18 AM on August 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Saw-Stop uses an electrical current to sense when meat is in contact with the blade.

An accelerometer, such as in your iPhone to detect when you shake the phone to find restaurant suggestions, would sense when the router hopped the "wrong way".
posted by notyou at 9:19 AM on August 10, 2012


Those strips, along with bits and perhaps downloadable designs, will be the "consumables" piece of the business model.

There might also be a market for material with the codes pre-printed on it but in a very impermanent way so that the printing is easily removed with fine sandpaper (on wood) or with a mild solvent (on metal or plastic).
posted by jedicus at 9:24 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The way we did it for small piece parts at my first job was to hold the work piece in a holder with a stencil of the routing pattern underneath. The fixed router had a stylus the same diameter as the router head, positioned directly underneath. You would 'feel' around the stencil with the stylus and the router would cut the pattern. You'd get a decent outline and it'd be faster than what was seen here.

Like the flexibility of this system though.
posted by YAMWAK at 9:28 AM on August 10, 2012


Oh wow this is really cool. Also, hella thumbs up for that old blue man group song that I have not heard in far, far too long.
posted by rebent at 9:28 AM on August 10, 2012


@YAMWAK - this would be a great way to create the template for the pin router. Their example is very detailed and would be very difficult to recreate without a CNC.
posted by zeoslap at 9:44 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, yes, but will it improve my Mario Party score?
posted by sendai sleep master at 9:54 AM on August 10, 2012


So this technology could totally be adapted to Ouija boards, couldn't it?
posted by xingcat at 10:06 AM on August 10, 2012


Great combination of the abilities of human and CNC. I like it!
posted by mdoar at 10:17 AM on August 10, 2012


He's just cutting out an outline of the USA. That's easy, the coasts and borders are so smooth.

I'd like to see him do Canada, with all of the islands.

(grade school was so traumatizing, couldn't even do a decent maple leaf for the flag).
posted by jb at 10:45 AM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay, neat, but it's not brain surgery. Well...
posted by mule98J at 10:57 AM on August 10, 2012


Woodshop Guitar Hero?
posted by benito.strauss at 11:16 AM on August 10, 2012


This is really cool, but SawStop is the future, in the sense that having tools detect when they're hurting people and shutting themselves down is really fucking amazing, and why doesn't the inventor get more publicity for awesomeness?
posted by davejay at 11:19 AM on August 10, 2012


why doesn't the inventor get more publicity for awesomeness?

There are two main reasons. First, SawStop tools are expensive, and replacing the stopping mechanism every time it goes off is expensive and interrupts the flow of work. Second, the design is patented, which is not a huge problem on its own, but it interacts badly with the concern that employers not providing SawStop saws can get sued for providing unsafe equipment. Thus, SawStop might not just have a monopoly on the design but could also acquire an effective monopoly on table saws in general, at least until the patents run out, which will be quite a few years from now.
posted by jedicus at 11:26 AM on August 10, 2012


it interacts badly with the concern that employers not providing SawStop saws can get sued for providing unsafe equipment.

Previously.
posted by stebulus at 11:32 AM on August 10, 2012


You could probably print the codes out on paper and then glue it to the top like you would if you were using jigsaw or scrollsaw patterns.
posted by drezdn at 11:43 AM on August 10, 2012


I want a position-correcting exoskeleton for world-class lovemaking. It should have a fully automatic foreplay setting so I can just nap or watch TV through that part.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:03 PM on August 10, 2012


I just remembered a bunch of single-sheet lasercut plywood patterns I rejected as too expensive. And also, Glen-L and the other stitch n glue designers ought to subsidize some of the start up for this tool.
posted by klarck at 2:22 PM on August 10, 2012


WinnipegDragon: Umm, maybe it's just me but a router is the sort of tool that I want total control over. If the bit is capable of moving in a direction I don't expect, I'm not using it.

(Had one router kickback in my shop, never, ever, again....)
There's NO REASON this has to be done real-time. You can get behind a 1"-thick acrylic wall before the tool starts.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:44 PM on August 16, 2012



Wow.

This was a major portion of my career in the 90's and early 2000's - find a way to bring optical measurement to the complexities of the manufacturing floor, for fully flexible non-touch design. The drawback was always the same: we can't make optical sensors that do what the human eye(+brain) does.

(The rest of my time then was spent searching for a way to perform high-accuracy high-speed measurements optically. That path is still blocked, and may always be. But, who knows?)
posted by IAmBroom at 12:45 PM on August 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


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