AutoSaw: a robot that helps in custom carpentry

CSAIL’s robotic system minimizes dangerous sawing, helps users customize furniture.

PhD student Adriana Schulz was co-lead on AutoSaw, which lets nonexperts customize different items that can then be constructed with the help of robots
PhD student Adriana Schulz was co-lead on AutoSaw, which lets nonexperts customize different items that can then be constructed with the help of robots. Photo: Jason Dorfman, MIT CSAIL

According to an estimate, one out of every 200 workers in the cohort suffered a hand injury that is serious enough to support a claim for paid leave time. In an effort to decline injury rates, MIT scientists have created a system called AutoSaw that allows nonexperts to customize different items that can then be constructed with the help of robots.

Users can choose from a range of carpenter-designed templates for chairs, desks, and other furniture. The team says that AutoSaw could eventually be used for projects as large as a deck or a porch.

The team used two Kuka youBots to lift beams, place them on the chop-saw, and cut
The team used two Kuka youBots to lift beams, place them on the chop-saw, and cut.
Photo courtesy of the researchers

CSAIL postdoc 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.”

AutoSaw offers adaptability for outlining furniture to fit space-compelled houses and condos. For instance, it could enable a client to adjust a work area to crush into an L-formed front room or modify a table to fit in a micro-kitchen.

Many carpenters use chop-saws, jigsaws, and other hand tools that are low cost, easy to move, and simple to use. These instruments, while helpful for customization, still put individuals at a high danger of damage.CSAIL’s robotic system minimizes dangerous sawing, helps users customize furniture.

AutoSaw draws on expert knowledge for designing, and robotics for the riskier cutting tasks. It mainly uses CAD system OnShape with different interfaces of design templates, so that users can customize their furniture for things like size, sturdiness, and aesthetics.

Once the outline is settled, it’s sent to the robots to aid the cutting procedure utilizing the jigsaw and slash saw. To cut timber the group utilized movement following programming and little versatile robots — an approach that consumes up less room and is more financially savvy than extensive mechanical arms.

In particular, the group utilized an altered Roomba with a jigsaw appended to cut timber of any shape on a board. For the chopping, the group utilized two Kuka youBots to lift the shaft, put it on the hacksaw, 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 robots.”

During an experiment, scientists showed that they could build a chair, shed, and deck. Using the robots, the team also made a table with an accuracy comparable to that of a human, without a real hand ever getting near a blade.

Hod Lipson, a professor of mechanical engineering and data science at Columbia University said, “There have been many recent AI achievements in virtual environments, like playing Go and composing music. Systems that can work in unstructured physical environments, such as this carpentry system, are notoriously difficult to make. This is truly a fascinating step forward.”