Orchestra of Obedient Deltabots Sways at Your Command

Craft & Design Robotics
Orchestra of Obedient Deltabots Sways at Your Command

More fun with inverted delta kinematics!

Sarah Petkus is an illustrator, graphic designer, and robotics artist from Las Vegas, Nevada. And this weekend she’s planning to unveil something big — a darkroom “stationary swarm” installation called Robot Army. She writes:

Petkus' concept illustration dated 2012.
Concept illustration dated 2012.

For the past two years I’ve been working on creating an interactive light installation that involves controlling a literal army of robots. The idea originated from illustrations I had done back in 2010 that depicted a character hovering in the dark over a field of swaying light bulbs. While attending art school in Chicago I was prompted to design a robotic sculpture that was completely original…Once I successfully built one from a few servos, wire pulleys, and spring (however clumsy and difficult to control) I started thinking big. What if I really did make a ‘field’ of dancing lightbulbs? I took this idea back with me to my home town of Las Vegas and started looking into ways to mass produce my design.

To fund the piece, Petkus and collaborator Mark Koch launched a $10,000 kickstarter in February, which closed March 3 with $25K. Backers pledging $95 or more received a kit containing parts, hardware, servos, pre-programmed custom microcontroller PCB, and everything else required to build a single “soldier” robot as featured in the installation.



The design, pictured above, is a lovely minimal upside-down delta robot with laser-cut plastic parts including a clear hexagonal base, glow-in-the-dark arms, and black accents. The end effector mounts a bright multicolor RGB LED under a a translucent plastic diffusing cup. The universal joints feature a clever three-piece snap-together construction requiring just the two arm members and a steel ball.


As of this writing, Robot Army consists of 30 soldiers which can be controlled, en masse, via a gestural interface based on Kinect.

Project updates, info, and kit sales are available online at robot-army.com.

If you’re going to be in northern California this weekend, don’t miss your chance to command the delta robot army at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014.


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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

View more articles by Sean Michael Ragan


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