How to build a Robot ? | Step-by-step Guide and 5 Critical Components

How to build a Robot?

Subject of discussion: Process of building a Robot and its key components

Development of Robotics

The term “robot” was coined by Josef Capek in 1920, which later his brother, Karel, used to refer to a fictional humanoid in the play R.U.R.

The term encompasses a broad range of devices, but a robot, in general, is a machine that can control its actions, receive sensory feedback, and process information.

Robots are usually programmable in nature and can be guided with control devices that are either external or embedded within the robot hardware.

To understand how to build a robot, we must go through the various stages of development of robotics. The Hebrews in the ancient period have been known to prepare drafts about an artificial being, which they called the golem. It was known to help and assist with tedious and repetitive labor.

Further, in the future, Leonardo da Vinci had published a mechanical knight’s design in 1495. Then, Westinghouse’s Televox robot was built in 1927 to listen to human voice commands. From then, it has been a long way to how to build a robot in today’s world of Jetsons-inspired fantasy, that has a concept of robot possible for every available work on the Earth.

Mechanical Robot Design by Leonardo Da Vinci

But it is still not textbook-easy to understand how to build a robot that we can possibly conceptualize. Many online tutorials available, though, enable us to get some hands-on experience in building primitive toy robots that operate on various sensory aspects. It still involves a expertise knowledge, or at the very least, baseline coding familiarity.

Critical Components of a Robot

The robot structure is majorly mechanical, which is known as a kinematic chain, because its functionality is similar to that of a human skeleton. The chain comprises links equivalent to the bones, actuators that are equivalent to muscles, and joints that determine the number of degrees of freedom.

Robots utilized open serial chains in that all robots are linked to the one to other with that link. Robots that have the application of a manipulator usually have an end effectors mounted on the last link, also called the wrist of the manipulator. This end effector can have various shapes and sizes concerning its usage in manipulating the environment.

The five major components are listed below, and their relationship is also illustrated as following:

Manipulator

The robot consists of a manipulator comprising several links and joints equivalent to that of a human arm, which provides the machine’s hardware base.

End-effector

The base of the manipulator, as mentioned above, has fixed support and has its other en free that acts as a wrist. This wrist is typically attached to the end-effector, which generally serves the palm and finger arrangements of a human arm.

Actuator

The muscles is capable to provide the power for the arm movement, the palm, and fingers in human beings, which is done by the actuators in the case of robots. These actuators are typically motors and are 3 types as per source of energy used: Electrical, Hydrolic, or Pneumatic respectively.

Controller

The digital computer, inclusive of both its hardware and the software, acts as a controller to the robot. The controller of the robot is analogous to the human brain in overall functioning. It helps the robot in carrying out all the assigned tasks. The movement of the manipulator and the end-effector is directed and controlled by this controller. Typically these are either microcontrollers or microprocessors. In other words, the controller determines all the actions of the robot.

Sensors

The brain cannot process information unless it receives the same supplied by the sense organs. Thus the intelligence of the brain cannot be put to use. Similarly, the robot’s controller cannot perform the course of action through desirable commands; it receives information from the sensors about the perceived environment. Thus, the fifth and most crucial component of the robot are various sensors for information and data from surroundings. Sensors are employed to measure different paramenter such as position, velocity, force, torque, proximity, temperature, etc.

How to build a Robot?

Determine the Intention

First is to have an intent for how to build a robot. Will this create autonomous art on the beach? Will it be an in-home partner who knows new stuff of sophisticated emotional intelligence? Encouraging curiosity in STEM education? Streamline procedures in the supply chain of production? There’s no limit to creative thinking, although the beginning must be simple enough.

Often, those that serve a single purpose are the most efficient robots. Regardless, it isn’t easy to create a good creation without a specific purpose.

Choose the platform

Secondly, determine which operating system is going to run on your robot. If you’re designing an automotive robot or a computational robot depends on selecting the right operating system. Windows 10, primarily due to its convergence with Microsoft’s A.I. solutions, trumps Linux for robotics intended for daily use.

In comparison, with minimal programming experience, Windows 10 is user-friendly and quick to run. You will select the operating system that best makes your robot come to life until you have determined what kind of robot you want to build.

Construct the brain

Constructing your robot’s central command unit is the next, and perhaps the most critical, step. This acts as the foundation that supports the robot’s desired characteristics, whether it is voice cognition, expression, facial recognition, motion detection, or another capacity.

As essential as a portable, Internet-connected piece of hardware, the core of this’ brain’ may well be. Raspberry Pi, an economical self-programmable minicomputer, and LattePanda, the first preinstalled maker board with a complete Windows 10 operating system, are standard versions, offering the same user interface a standard Windows P.C.

The LattePanda is palm-sized, Intel-based, and Arduino-enabled, enabling a processor for robotics prototypes to refine, build, and customize coding. The positive news is that LattePanda is not strictly for app developers—educators and creators can use it with its step-by-step guides.

Develop the shell

In the next step of how to build a robot, the features you have staked out for your robot will determine what physical characteristics it needs. E.g., the brain would need to be compliant with a laser scanner, motor drivers, and touch sensors if you are designing a cleaning robot that needs a vision. If the robot wants to connect with other computers, make sure the brain can handle messaging connectivity.

Electronics- The typical Arduino Setup

The electronics section accounts for the microcontroller and other electrical and electronic components to complement the mechanical hardware. The microcontroller is a typical Arduino that is used in this example.

Arduino Uno; Image Source: SparkFun Electronics from Boulder, USA, Arduino Uno – R3CC BY 2.0

The list of components required can be seen below:

  • An Arduino microcontroller board: The brain/computer/controller of the robot which is programmed.
  • A breadboard : Required to connect wires without soldering.
  • A set of jumper wires.
  • A motor driver for each motor : Needed for controlling the motors safely.
  • Rechargeable batteries : You would not be using disposable batteries if you worry about your robot at all.
  • Battery Charger facility: A dedicated battery charging breakout board is required.
  • A voltage regulator (buck or boost): The Arduino based voltage regulator.
  • A communication module (optional): Your robot may be fully autonomous or pre-programmed. Still, many people want to be able to remotely control their robot, or at least have it connected for data logging through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
  • Miscellaneous resistors, capacitors, L.E.D.s, etc.: Few of the components would need some external components to work, and it is also helpful to have some L.E.D.s to see what is going on.
  • Soldering Iron.

Mechanical

The mechanical section accounts for the development of a chassis or base towards how to build a robot. 3 possible options have been discussed below.

  • A conventionally designed chassis can be bought for a comfortable hardware construction level, although the cost is somewhat high for what we get.
  • The chassis can be 3D-built for a custom design that is versatile and advanced as per the requirements. Such a structure can come for a medium level cost, and the difficulty of manufacturing varies concerning the design’s uniqueness.
  • If you are looking for something very cool, laser cutting should come to mind. Although the base material (wood) is very cheap for making various prototypes, getting access to the equipment is a tough job.

Programming a Robot

After understanding how to build a robot from the hardware perspective, the question we have is how to program the robot. This question is subject to the answer on what are the prerequisites on which the robot is to be built. An autonomous robot could require some machine learning skills or any degree of artificial intelligence, which requires a different programming language than a robot designed to execute a few operations only.

For beginners, what you essentially need in robotics is to provide programmable hardware or pre-programmed software modules. Then, you can program those operations to be carried out. One or more programming languages, such as C/C++, Python, LISP, or Java, would need to be studied in either situation.

If even the most straightforward software/hardware robot job is to be performed, programming is needed.   It is advisable to get acquainted with languages like MATLAB when you progress further to enable complete command and control of your robot.

Image recognition and, natural-language-processing are amongst the foremost challenges that roboticist need to resolve to design robot that emulate human behavior. So, let’s launch our programming tutorial for robotics with a simple algorithm to protect our home or office by implementing a robot that recognizes faces using a connected camera.

How you program such a software robot?

  • A motion sensor is mounted at the front door and connected to a pc monitor.
  • You then say the motion sensor, once someone is at the entrance, to activate the camera.
  • Camera will be used to take a picture of the face of the individual as an input.
  • You search the image for a particular set of features.
  • You then equate these attributes to a library of known faces.
  • You open the door if you find a match.
  • If there is no wind, you start by taking another kind of action.
Image Detection; Image Source: Jimmy answering questions.jpgWikimania2009 Beatrice Murch derivative work: Sylenius (talk), Face detectionCC BY 3.0

It doesn’t matter what programming language you’re going to use to software the program actually to execute this series of commands. If the triggering state is in effect, the first robotics programming algorithm can perform the above measures repeatedly, i.e., someone triggers the motion sensor at the front door.

About Esha Chakraborty

I have a background in Aerospace Engineering, currently working towards the application of Robotics in the Defense and the Space Science Industry. I am a continuous learner and my passion for creative arts keeps me inclined towards designing novel engineering concepts.
With robots substituting almost all human actions in the future, I like to bring to my readers the foundational aspects of the subject in an easy yet informative manner. I also like to keep updated with the advancements in the aerospace industry simultaneously.

Connect with me with LinkedIn - http://linkedin.com/in/eshachakraborty93