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There's a Chainsaw-Wielding Robot Sculptor

The badass robot arm is made of recycled bike parts and an arcade game controller.
July 24, 2014, 11:20am

Canadian artist Morgan Rauscher has built a robot sculptor, and it’s quite the work of art in itself. A sculpture to sculpt sculptures, if you will.

“I sculpted this artwork out of recycled bicycle components and used a chainsaw, so that you could sculpt things out of wood using video game controllers,” he explains in the first episode of a YouTube series walk-through of how he made the Art-Bot. Because, why not?

Rauscher just published a (very) thorough how-to guide to building the artistically inclined robot arm on Makezine, from gathering old bike parts to constructing the polycarbonate cylinder around his new toy. That’s a safety feature necessary for the chainsaw-wielding bot, but it has the additional effect of showcasing the Art-Bot as if it were in a gallery (which it has been, taking part in an exhibition at the Centre des Arts d’Enghien-Les-Bains in France earlier this year).

Overall, the Art-Bot looks somewhere between a hacked-together robotics project and a polished sculpture. At once, it gives the impression of both an industrial robot arm and one of those fairground grabber toys—except it’s got a chainsaw in the place of a claw.

A student at Concordia University Hexagram Institute, Rauscher started with bicycle parts, which he recommends using because they’re cheap, easy to find, and comply to fairly universal standards. He decided against making the robot function automatically via computer controls, instead adding the arcade game controller. “I prefer robotics that interface with human users, via some form of ergonomic and cybernetic interface,” he wrote.

The hardest part, he explained, was choosing what tool to put on the end of his homemade robot arm. He tried to use an axe, but its pounding force was too “badass” for the arm, knocking it off track, so he settled for the chainsaw. Which is pretty badass too.

The finished bot saws away at a log, directed by the game controllers, to make sculptures. Unlike some of the other artist robots out there like e-David or various sketching humanoids, Art-Bot is more of a collaborator; a tool for human artists that nevertheless contributes a rather unique style.

On his website, Rauscher suggests it as an alternative to the less hands-on tools of 3D printing or CNC milling, explaining, “I want to maintain physically natural material interactions with the objects I form.”