The IRB 6440 robotic arm is typically used for industrial purposes like moving materials around a clean room without human intervention. In this case, however, Jeff Crossman and Kevyn McPhail wanted to use it for a more artistic pursuit. They have outfitted the end of the robot arm with a single RGB LED and are using it to do precise light paintings of people. Light painting, or taking long exposures of moving lights to make a picture, isn’t particularly new. Usually, the lights are moved by hand to create the images. The precision of this bot allows it to create pictures pixel by pixel.
Interestingly, the light and the movement are handled separately. The movement is programmed via a piece of free software called Grasshopper, while the light is on a microcontroller called a teensy and running a different code. Synching the two was quite difficult. Once they were synced up though, everything ran as it should and a 25 minute exposure time resulted in some really impressive images.