Robotis Targets the Entry Market
Robotis, well known for high-end (and pricey) servos like the MX-28, and popular mid-range offerings like the AX-12s used in its Bioloid robot kit, is now extending its product line down to the entry-level market. As reported by Lem Fugitt at Robots-Dreams, these offerings include a new low-cost controller board, a plug-and-play LiPo battery, and a new lower-cost servo.
The controller board, called the OpenCM-9.04, is a compact design featuring a 72MHz ARM Cortex-M3 processor, 128k of flash memory, 20k of static RAM, and a plethora of inputs and outputs, including all the standards (UART, I2C, SPI, 12-bit analog inputs, etc.). It can be programmed with the ROBOTIS OpenCM IDE (integrated development environment), which runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. The board design and all software is open-source, and the board is expected to sell for $10. At that price, this is a very impressive controller.
The battery pack is a 1300 mA, 3.7 V lithium-ion module, apparently intended for powering the controller. Its built-in charging circuit and indicator lights, along with the standard micro-USB jack, make it as easy to recharge as a cell phone.
Finally, Robotis is introducing a lower-cost servo known as the XL-320. This runs at the de factor standard voltage (7.4V) for hobby robot servos, and uses the standard Bioloid protocol to report position, temperature, etc. But it’s a bit smaller than the Bioloid servos, a bit cheaper (“less than $30” vs. $45), and quite a bit weaker (4 kg cm of torque, vs. 15.3 kg cm for the AX-12A). Unless the price ends up being quite a lot less than $30, this servo isn’t that great a deal compared to, say, the Herkulex DRS-0101, which offers 12 kg cm of torque for $36.
But what’s really impressive here is the whole product line, which now extends from pre-school toys to research-level high-end humanoids, and includes not only servos but robot controllers, power, and even a wireless handheld controller. They all work well together and, thanks to consistent and positive support from the company, there is a thriving user community around them. That makes the Robotis line a very compelling proposition for anybody who wants an easy introduction to the field.
Will these new lower-cost, high-quality products trigger a revolution in hobby robotics? Only time will tell, but one thing is clear: Robotis is not standing still, and other robot companies had better move fast, or risk being left behind.