Late last year, Willow Garage introduced the Velo 2G, a largely 3D-printed, tendon driven, underactuated gripper. It was just an alpha prototype, but we commented at the time that we were optimistic about the low cost of this thing when, or if, it ever became available.
The Early Release grippers will be fully functional, intended to give users an early start in developing applications, and to explore the path to a possible future product. They will come as self-contained units, complete with kinematics (fingers), actuation and electronics.
So why are we posting about a gripper that only might be available? Well, it's because you can get a say of whether or not it is, and even have some input on the final specs.
Here's what we're looking at for the Velo Early Release prototypes:
- Availability: 50 - 100 units
- Timeline: expected in Fall 2013
- Price: not yet set. Academic pricing expected in the $500 - $1,000 range.
- Size: the Velo is designed for parallel grasping of objects between 0 and 135 mm, and for enveloping objects between 50 and 90 mm in diameter.
- Force generation: ~10N contact force, able to lift 1Kg objects
- Weight: not yet determined; expected at or below 350 g
- Interface: not yet determined; expected RS485 serial
All of those "not yet determined" annotations means that Willow is open to feedback before the first production run. They've put together a survey asking what sorts of things you want in a gripper, and how important those things are. For example, if you want a Velo that can lift more than 5kg, weighs less than 150g, can open and close in 0.5 second or faster, and runs on 5 volts, just let Willow know, and they'll make it happen! Or at least, they'll take it under consideration.
A 50 to 100 unit run is not a heck of a lot, and completing the survey also puts you on a list to have a first crack at them when (or if) they get produced. We're also hoping that the initial limited edition early release prototypes will come with sick custom decals and neon flame paint jobs, so be sure to write that into the "other specifications / requirements" field.