We are sad to learn that Victor Scheinman passed away on Tuesday Sept 20 from complications of heart disease. He was 73. Victor Scheinman was the inventor of the Stanford Arm, the first all-electric 6-axis mechanical manipulator for assembly and automation that was capable of computer control. Scheinman commercialized the robot arm as the PUMA, or Progammable Universal Machine for Assembly, which is used in almost every industry application today.
Scheinman developed the Stanford Arm while a mechanical engineering student at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab (SAIL) in 1969. According to the Stanford Infolab, the original design is still in use today, although one of the first PUMA arms is now in the Smithsonian Museum.
The kinematic configuration of the arm is non-anthropomorphic (not humanoid) with 6 joints (5 revolute, 1 prismatic) and links configured such that the mathematical computations (arm solutions) were simplified to speed up computations. Brakes were used on all joints to hold the arm in position while the computer computed the next trajectory or attended to other timeshared activities. Drives are DC electric motors, Harmonic Drive and spur gear reducers, potentiometers for position feedback, analog tachometers for velocity feedback and electromechanical brakes for locking joints. Slip clutches were also used to prevent drive damage in the event of a collision. Other enhancements include a servoed, proportional electric gripper with tactile sense contacts on the fingers, and a 6 axis force/torque sensor in the wrist.
This robot arm was one of two mounted on a large table with computer interfaced video (vidicon) cameras and other special tools and tooling. The facility was used by students and researchers for over 20 years for Hand-Eye projects and for teaching purposes, as it was well characterized, reliable and easily maintained. Eventually it was augmented with commercial electric robots and newer Stanford designs, but the Blue arm, nearly identical is still in occasional use in the Robotics laboratory on this floor.