I have a pair of Puma 560 arms and Unimation Mark-II controllers
with documentation, so I can help you out some if you decide to
do this project.
The arm has DC motors, quadrature encoders and analog pots for
each axis, so you would need a DC servo controller for each axis
along with something to read the pots and help each axis figure
out its position when you first power-up.
A 5-axis Compumotor system and 5 DC drives woudl certainly be
up to the task, but that's probably $2000 worth of stuff.
Then you would need to do the hard part and generate all the
transformation matricies by measuring the length and offsets
for each link. (Unless you can find it online. I have the 560
matricies, and if I remember, the 500 is a 5-axis machine that
has at least similar lengths and offsets.)
Then you would need to do all the forward kinematics stuff if
you want to. There is a Puma simulator for Matlab that would do
close to 100% of this for you if you want to invest in controlling
the arm from Matlab.
Give me a shout if you want some help. I'm in MN.
- Alan Kilian <kilian pobox com> (You know the drill don't you?)