Creating a Robot to Tie a Knot with Lego Mindstorm

Creating a Robot to Tie a Knot with Lego Mindstorm

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The point of building this robot was to have it
successfully complete and tie a knot. The original
idea was to have the robot tie knots creating a
bracelet. Unfortunately, the process of tying a knot
alone was too much work to try and move on to an entire
bracelet. I had neither the time nor the insight to
build a flexible and usable 'arm.' I tested and
modified a design from the Lego Mindstorms book, but
found that I could neither open nor close the hand. I
continued to further modify the design to be able to
grab and let go of string but the result was extremely
bulky. Also I could not find a plausible and spaceconstrained
way to attach the gears to each of the
'fingers.' The conclusion that I drew was not that the
project was impossible but that it needed more time and
The idea for a robot that could neatly and
efficiently create a knotted bracelet became a reality
after my own experiences of personal pain and triumphs
over its creational process. Although the design is
merely knotting in a line some people have neither the
patience or ability to complete such a simple
masterpiece. This is when the idea for a bracelet
making robot was first manifested. It is being brought
to life for all those who can't or don't want to make
one themselves, hence, a robot to do it for them!
Unfortunately, two weeks is not enough to make a
full blown bracelet making robot. Instead my attempt
will be to make a robot that can successfully tie a
knot around a string. Which with more time would
eventually lead to an entire knotted bracelet. The
textile industry has prospered greatly since the age of
industry and invention. Cotton, silk, and various other
materials are processed and transformed into beautiful
fabrics and cloths which soon become clothes and
accessories. The flying shuttle was brought to
factories in 1733 by the inventor John Kay, improving
looms to enable weavers to get their work done even
faster. Soon after there came the spinning jenny, and
the water frame which became the first powered machine.
To be or Knot to be? 3
The inventions kept spewing forth until at last the
modern textile machine was born. Most of these are run
by computer with nowhere near the machinery. This
minimizes injury and ups the efficiency of production.
While my robot won't be the next big factory
design, it will make a simple but overly complicated
knot for a robot. In future years at COSMOS in the
robotics cluster, perhaps someone will see my design
and continue it, until it completely finishes an entire

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line of knots and even an entire bracelet.
I began by looking at various arm designs to
determine which would suit my needs. I chose the arm I
made because it looked as though it would be able to
grab and drop as well as be mobile. I soon had to
devise another way of getting this arm to open and
close as well as determine how it would need to move to
complete a knot. At the same time I dissembled the
tankbot treads and rebuilt them to be more versatile
and less bulky. I was still clinging to the idea that
it would need to move along a row of strings for a
bracelet. The arm grew in shape and size until it
became obvious the design and prototype were not
functional. This prompted me to look for a more usable
design. After looking at many different robots on the
internet, I gave up my search to finish a more timely
physics project.
My first noticeable flaw was that I had no idea
how to have the robot tie a knot. I believed that as
long as I had a workable arm I could come back to the
actual ‘tying’ of the knot. Another flaw was that I
built the first arm I came to without paying much
attention to the details of how the arm would squeeze
and move the string. The design was built to specs but
to compensate for the lack of motion I began to add
lots of lego pieces to try and build a frame to attach
gears. The problem was that I wasn’t sure what I was
doing. The design lost vision and functionality in my
hands, leaving it to be recycled into true
To be or Knot to be? 4
The conclusion I make is that tying a knot with
two hands and ten fingers is relatively easy, but for a
robot this becomes extremely complex. The project
itself was not a failure, it goes to prove that a lot
more complex designing needs to be considered. The arm
needs to multi-task, be multi-functional. It needs to
have flexibility in its movement but needs to be a
stable, semi-slender structure. Bulk does not allow
for movement. However, tires definitely allow for
grip, and without grip there would be no reason for the
robot to continue. As far as further research or
continuation I give the constructor this advice: pay
very close attention to the design and ability of your
most important piece, the arm. I also wish them luck
on deciphering how to construct a knot once a decent
arm has been made.

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