We have detected your current browser version is not the latest one. Xilinx.com uses the latest web technologies to bring you the best online experience possible. Please upgrade to a Xilinx.com supported browser:Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer 11, Safari. Thank you!

MicroZed board powers Dexter—the $3K, trainable 5-axis robotic arm for personal manufacturing—on Kickstarter!

by Xilinx Employee on ‎02-16-2017 11:50 AM (39,644 Views)


After five years and a dozen prototypes, the Haddington Dynamics development team behind Dexter—a $3K, trainable, 5-axis robotic arm kit for personal manufacturing—launched the project on Kickstarter just yesterday and are already 41.6% of the way to meeting the overall $100K project funding goal with 28 days left in the funding period. Dexter is designed to be a personal robot arm with the ability to make a wide variety of goods. Think of Dexter as your personal robotic factory with additive (2.5D/3D printing) and subtractive (drilling and milling) capabilities.


Dexter incorporates a 6-channel motor controller but the arm itself uses five stepper motors for positioning. Adding a gripper or other end-effector to the end of the arm adds a 6th degree of freedom.



Dexter Robotic Arm.jpg


Dexter Robotic Arm 3D CAD Drawing




You need some hefty, high-performance computation to precisely coordinate five axes of motion and the current Dexter prototype employs programmable logic in the form of a Xilinx Zynq Z-7000 SoC on an Avnet MicroZed dev board for this task. (The Kickstarter page even shows an IP block diagram from the Vivado Design Suite.)


The Dexter team calls the Zynq SoC an FPGA supercomputer:


“By using a(n) FPGA supercomputer to solve the precision control problem, we were able to optimize the physical and electrical architecture of the robot to minimize the mass and therefore the power requirements. All 5 of the stepper motors are placed at strategic locations to lower the center of mass and to statically balance the arm. This way almost all of the torque of the motors is used to move the payload not the robot.”


The prototype design achieves 50-micron repeatability!


Here’s a video of the prototype Dexter robotic arm in development, including a shot of the robotic arm threading a needle:





There are several more videos on the Dexter Kickstarter page.





About the Author
  • Be sure to join the Xilinx LinkedIn group to get an update for every new Xcell Daily post! ******************** Steve Leibson is the Director of Strategic Marketing and Business Planning at Xilinx. He started as a system design engineer at HP in the early days of desktop computing, then switched to EDA at Cadnetix, and subsequently became a technical editor for EDN Magazine. He's served as Editor in Chief of EDN Magazine, Embedded Developers Journal, and Microprocessor Report. He has extensive experience in computing, microprocessors, microcontrollers, embedded systems design, design IP, EDA, and programmable logic.