Dobot Magician First Impressions Review

Dobot has recently released the second version of their robotic arm. The Dobot Magician can actually be considered a learning platform for robotics, programming and manufacturing methods for makers. It includes end effectors for pick and place operations, 3D printing and laser engraving. It is positioned as a robotic arm for educational purposes, light industrial use and hobby projects at home. Basically a robotic arm for everyone, the folks at Dobot are certainly very ambitious!

Introduction

In this article I will describe my first impressions of the Dobot Magician, from unboxing to the first drawing and pick and place exercises. I have only limited experience with the Dobot at the time of writing, so I will not be able to draw solid conclusions.

In September 2015 the Dobot V1.0 was successfully funded on kickstarter. It was a programmable arm with already many of the functions of the new Dobot Magician. However, the Magician has many improvements over it’s predecessor, which mainly focus on improving usability and making it easier to expand the robot arm for various tasks using the many built in IO ports. In my opinion the white ABS panels also look great, and give the arm a somewhat storm trooper-like appearance.

In the video below shows detailed views of the supplied accessories and the Dobot in action using the drawing and teaching modules. More detailed information and close ups of the arm can be found in the remainder of this article.

Build quality impressions

The robot arm itself is made from 6061 anodized aluminum. This goes for both the outside panels as well as the arms used for the positioning of the various joints. All moving parts are fitted with ball bearings, which do not exhibit noticeable play.  The overall finish of the parts is exceeding my expectations. With limited use I cannot say anything yet about durability, but my first impression is that of a well constructed motion system.

The injection molded parts have a similar good finish. One thing I could comment on there is a slight misalignment of the side covers at the back of the unit. Since this is not really noticeable in everyday use I do not consider this to be a big issue.

Forearm with I/O ports
Forearm with I/O ports

The connectors for the various I/O ports work well, but care needs to be taken when removing them. These connectors seem less suitable for frequent use, but should do the job if you handle them with care. On the other hand, the connectors all appear to be standard JST connectors, so it should be easy to hook up 3rd party or self made modules and sensors to the I/O ports.

Connections on back side of the base
Connections on back side of the base

End Effectors and Accessories

The Dobot Magician comes in two flavors; there is a “basic plan” and an “advanced educational plan”. The list of supplied accessories is quite extensive:

  • Vacuum Cup
  • Gripper
  • Drawing kit
  • 3D printing kit
  • Bluetooth module

Included in advanced educational plan only:

  • Laser Engraving kit
  • Wifi Module
  • Joystick control kit  including USB host module

My pre-order kit of the educational plan was also supplied with a Leap Motion controller, but this is no longer listed on the site as an option. Click on the thumbnails in the gallery below for a detailed view of the accessories.

The end effectors and communication modules can all be connected to either the connectors on the forearm or at the back of the base, depending on the placement of the accessory. All of the connectors are nicely labeled, so you should be able to connect each item without consulting the manual.

User experience

The arm is easy to operate. The user can choose from various input methods like the teach button on the arm, software keys, game controller, mouse or even a leap motion kit. I found that using the teach button on the forearm is very useful for quickly moving to a rough position, but in situations where position is critical it is best to set the final position with the soft keys or typing in the exact coordinate in the software.

The arm is driven by stepper motors. This means it has very well controlled smooth motions, unlike some cheaper robot arms driven by small servo motors. The typical stepper stepper noise is noticeable, but in my opinion at a very acceptable level. The vacuum pump is somewhat louder and sounds like a Senseo coffee machine. Not disturbing, but certainly not something you would want to have on for prolonged periods if you are using the Dobot in your living room. The fourth axis, used for rotating the end effector is the only axis driven by a servo. The small servo makes sense in this case since this axis is less demanding for speed and torque. Also it limits the weight at the end of the forearm.

Joint 4 Servo Motor
Joint 4 Servo Motor

A polished  startup guide is supplied with the Dobot, but the electronic manual which can be downloaded online provides much more useful step by step guides for installing drivers, making connections and how to use the software. It covers all of the basic functions for each accessory and is quite easy to read. More detailed manuals are also available, for people wanting to get the most out of their robot arm.

DobotStudio

As mentioned earlier, the Dobot magician is more than just a robot arm, it is a multi functional platform which can be used for educational purposes as wel as a highly customizable  tool for your projects. The Dobot comes with a dedicated software program that includes all of the features. From the main menu there are various modules available which have a specific environment dedicated for the end effector.

DobotStudio Main Menu
DobotStudio Main Menu

It is not required to have an engineering degree to use the Dobot, but it does help if you  have a high interest in technology and are not afraid to learn new things. You can start out very simple, by using the teach and playback module. This allows you to get familiar with the vacuum cup, gripper and the various methods of operating the arm. The system is very well thought out in managing the learning curve. It allows you to play around with the various options and end effectors, but is also suitable for advanced users who are not afraid of writing their own code. Even for writing programs there are two levels of difficulty built in. Programming the Dobot it is possible using a visual programming interface based on Google blockly, but also using the more difficult to master Python script language.

Dobot Blockly Programming Example
Dobot Blockly Programming Example

Currently I only have experience with the drawing module and the teach and playback module (see video). I am planning to post more articles and maybe even a full review when I have used the other functions like laser engraving or 3D printing. At this time I can say that I am quite positive about the overall experience and build quality of the arm.

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments.

Cheers,

Robin

 

 

 

 

 

15 Replies to “Dobot Magician First Impressions Review”

  1. Hello, do you know if it is easy to orient the last axis horizontally ?
    Because all the videos I see is with the effector always in the z axis.
    I would like an robot arm able to move like a human arm, and it seems that the dobot magician cannot move the last axis.
    What is your opinion on that?

    1. Hi,
      I think it would be possible to mount the 4th axis horizontally. It would be quite quite easy to do with a custom (3D printed) bracket on which you could mount the gripper or vacuum cup at another angle. It would probably stick out a little further, but that probably would not be an issue.
      You are still limited by the fact that the Dobot is a 4-axis system, so there would not be any “wrist” rotation. You could add a servo or stepper motor and create your own 5th axis, but that would also require some software workarounds.
      Great idea though, I can see this can be helpful in some applications.
      Robin

          1. Hi, my comparison with a wrist may have been a bit unclear. What I mean is that the gripper will be able to rotate, but not tilt. In other words if the arm is in alignment with a button it would be fine, but it cannot compensate for a tilted button. Same as in the standard configuration where the gripper is able to rotate but always perpendicular to the xy plane.

  2. Hello, I am trying to connect one color sensor to my dobot magician and according to the blockly code I got from a youtuber, the sensor OUT Pin is IO18, yet do you have any knowledge on how to connect the rest of the pins? Any help is greatly appreciate it. (julie.gomez001@hotmail.com)

    1. Hi Julie, the IO pin configuration is covered in the user manual under section 3.3.1. This includes the other pins on the connector for IO18. Hope this helps, Robin.

      1. Thank you Robin, I do know that in the blockly code I am using there is 1 output pin set to IO18 but my question was in reference of the position, in the robot, of the other sensor legs. If anyone knows, the color sensor pins are

        LED (where do they go in the dobot)
        OUT
        S3
        S2
        S1
        S0
        GND goes to ground
        VCC goes to 5V
        Thank you

  3. Hi Robin
    I would like to know if you worked at any point with video recognition with a Pixy CMU5 Cam, I’m trying to connect the Dobot Arm with the Pixy

    Thanks

    1. Hi John,
      For me it has been a while since I installed Dobot Studio, but I recall having the same issue.Apparently it is a known issue since it is also mentioned in the user manual.
      I resolved it by first installing the latest Dobot studio from the Dobot website and reinstalling all ms visual studio redisibutable packages. There may already be several present on your PC (check installed software). I actually uninstalled all of them and reinstalled all 64 bit version from the setup directory dobotstudioVx.x.x/attachment. This may have been overkill but since then everything works fine.
      If that doesn’t work try installing from the Microsoft website.
      Hope this helps.

      Robin

      1. Thanks Robin,
        I have the express version of Visual Studio (free) and I was suspecting that might be the problem. I worry that the stuff I have developed with it won’t work properly if I uninstall the old drivers…. but I may have to…. do know if there is one link that can install all the distributal packages?

        I enjoyed your First Impressions – NICE!

        John

        1. Hi John, thanks!
          I don’t have a link to all packages but just google for ”vc redist” and download them individually from MS support website. Not sure if it will affect your current projects. To ensure best compatibility with Dobot studio it might be best to install the packages included in the Dobot install directory first and see if it works.

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