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1. Introduction

Welcome to Robot Control, where you’ll find all the information you want about the practicalities of owning and running a Lynxmotion AL5A robot manipulator arm.

One of the first things you learn about robots once you’ve got a working example, is that they are not really very useful without having some decent software to drive them (unless you simply enjoy watching metal thrashing about wildly, or a machine which jumps around like an excavator). Thus the main aim of this site is to develop a control system for the AL5A arm which results in high-end, professional-quality movement and deployment of the arm: smooth, graceful and purposeful. A robot only really comes to life when all the joints are moving simultaneously, working together in harmony to achieve an end result.

Here you will find hints about getting round build problems, software which makes your arm work smoothly and with simple programming, and the results of some experimental developments — original ways to put the arm to use, including the building of AirFix kits, drawing, writing and painting.

The underlying aim of this site is to develop the most cost-effective robot solution possible. Indeed, the AL5A arm is the most expensive acquisition, followed by the construction of a workbench and the (fantasy) purchase of a small netbook computer. All the software that the computer needs is free of charge, and here we develop robot control software which (eventually) will give your robot arm the professional edge. All in, a fully functional robot arm for under £500 (equate to whatever dollars or euros you use).

We here recant all our experiences with the hobby, from the first impressions on removing the numerous pieces from the numerous boxes, through construction, the first loosely thrashing arm, to a proper installation, and then through the development of increasingly refined software.

Building robots as a hobby is a cumulative process. Spending just £50 per month, you can quickly build up a modest robotics laboratory, and have hours and hours of fun….

This opening chapter discusses the activities, trials and tribulations in getting an AL5A robot to do useful things in a non-technical way, and then the following chapters will delve into the specific engineering details about how to get around problems in achieving this final ambition.

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