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Willow Garage May Sell Limited Edition Velo Grippers

An inexpensive, 3D printable, and very capable new gripper may be coming your way from Willow Garage

2 min read
Willow Garage May Sell Limited Edition Velo Grippers

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.

Well, it's not available yet, but thanks to some tremendous feedback at ICRA and ROSCon, Willow is now considering getting the Velo out to researchers and developers as a special Early Release:

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.

[ Velo Survey ] via [ Willow Garage ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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