The robots built by the researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CASIL) can work as a carpenter and can build custom carpentry projects like an expert. These robots can eventually prove to be vital helpers especially for those who have started working in this field recently. CSAIL postdoc and lead author of the paper related to the system, Jeffrey Lipton, said, “If you’re building a deck, you have to cut large sections of lumber to length, and that’s often done on site. Every time you put a hand near a blade, you’re at risk. To avoid that, we’ve largely automated the process using a chop-saw and jigsaw.”
The robotic system is named the AutoSaw and it splits the difference between machine-built quality and the unique customization. A user can decide what kind of furniture they want to create including the size, sturdiness and general aesthetics, all using the Computer-aided design (CAD) system. Once the program is set, the AutoSaw gets to work. It used a modified Roomba which has a jigsaw attached to it. AutoSaw cuts the lumber into any shape and size. To chop, the CSAIL uses two Kuka youBots. The youBots can lift a beam of wood, place it on the chop saw and cut.
Lipton said, “We added soft grippers to the robots to give them more flexibility, like that of a human carpenter. This meant we could rely on the accuracy of the power tools instead of the rigid-bodied robot.” The AutoSaw can build the individual parts of the furniture but the assembly is still the responsibility of the user.
Co-leader and Ph.D. student Adriana Schulz said, “Our aim is to democratize furniture-customization. We’re trying to open up a realm of opportunities so users aren’t bound to what they’ve bought at Ikea. Instead, they can make what best fits their needs.” There is a lot a person can build in their backyard using a little help from these robots.