Merely looking at the latest Mars rover, Perseverance, will make almost any nerd giddy with excitement over the amount of cool tech that’s crammed into the vehicle before it gets shot into space. This feeling is what probably inspired Dejan of How to Mechatronics to create his own scaled-down version of the interplanetary vehicle, but not only would it look great, his DIY rover would also be able to drive and show what it’s “seeing” to the operator.
After designing a CAD model in Solidworks, Dejan got to work printing out the myriad of pieces required. The frame and structure of the rover is comprised of aluminum T-slot extrusions and tubes, while the rest is built from 3D-printed plastic. Each wheel was made to resemble the ones that are on the actual rover, and they are each driven by their own independent DC motor. Additionally, the four outer wheels are steered by separate servo modules. At the heart of the project is an Arduino Mega, which handles the DC motor drivers, servos, and the A4988 stepper driver that pans the camera horizontally.
The rover’s driver has the ability to don a VR headset or just use their phone to view the output of its onboard FPV camera, which is pretty cool when trying to recreate what Perseverance does. More details about the project can be found here and seen in the video below where Dejan details how he built the scale rover and what all it can do.
Wheeled robots normally have wheels that move in a single axis and steer by using either differential speeds or by pivoting some kind of guide wheel. However, this leads to some drawbacks, the most obvious being an inability to move in really tight spaces. When presented with this challenge, YouTuber James Bruton came up with a great design for a highly mobile robot platform that employs a novel setup to move in any direction. Inspired by the work of researchers at Osaka University in Japan, the omni wheel uses a single drive shaft to spin, yet nearly every surface has a way to move along the ground.
After designing his robot in Fusion 360 and 3D printing each part, Bruton assembled the wheels and added a pulley to each drive shaft which could be spun by a motor sitting directly above. An Arduino Mega is tasked with controlling each of the three BTS7960 motor drivers and it receives commands via an nRF24L01 radio module. All of the drive components are powered by a single 3-cell LiPo battery pack, while the main board is supplied current by a USB battery bank.
By spinning certain wheels at the correct speed, straight line motion can be produced, as shown in the video below. Bruton tested his robot by driving over carpet, tile, aluminum extrusions, and even a plastic lid, which did very well across everything except the lid. This robot has countless potential uses, such as a garbage collection device for around the house.
Although an Arduino can be a great way to provide computing power for a mobile robot platform, you’ll need a variety of other electronics and mechanical components to get it going. In his write-up, computer science student Niels Post outlines how he constructed a robot that travels via two stepper motors, along with casters to keep it upright. The round chassis is 3D-printed and runs on three rechargeable 18650 batteries.
The platform is based on an Arduino Due, with stepper drivers and a custom PCB to take care of the wiring. The robot has no sensors or navigation aids onboard, but instead relies on an nRF24L01+ module to communicate with a Raspberry Pi that hosts the web interface for control and livestream viewing. This setup employs a webcam to sense and direct the robot through its environment using printed markers.
If you don’t enjoy sorting LEGO, you will be pleased to know that students at Bruface – or the Brussels Faculty of Engineering in Belgium – are working on an automated machine to do it for you!
The team’s prototype device detects brick colors on a conveyor belt and picks them up via a gantry-style gripper assembly. It then places each piece in an individual bin by color using a TCS34725 sensor, saving a step if you’d like to keep that castle wall consistent.
As of now the Arduino-powered apparatus consists of several elements — including feeding system, carrier, gripper, and control panel — that work well individually, but haven’t been fully integrated as a whole. The project will hopefully be completed this January, which should be impressive based on the current clips.
Robotic fabrication techniques such as 3D printing enable you to make a copy of a wide variety of items. Actually sculpting something out of clay, however, remains a largely human pursuit. One might also miss the individual style of a sculptor in a finished product.
RobotSculptor, developed by a team of engineers from ETH Zurich and Disney Research, attempts to address both challenges. The system generates toolpaths from a base mesh design and allows artistic input via mouse strokes during the process. A six-axis robot arm then incrementally removes clay from the model-in-progress, using a custom loop tool.
An Arduino Uno-controlled turntable acts as a seventh axis for the robot, giving it the ability to reach different areas of the model in order to create complex 3D shapes.
Continuum robots — which look like a tentacle or perhaps an elephant’s trunk — use a series of linkage sections and internal tendons to move both horizontally and vertically. While they may seem quite exotic, in the video below element14 Presents’ DJ Harrigan breaks down how he built one with an Arduino Mega and a fairly simple list of parts.
The robotic mechanism hangs down from a support structure, with universal joints allowing each section to bend, but not twist, with respect to the next one. These 10 sections are pulled in different directions using two servos and Kevlar cord, with user interface provided by two potentiometers. A third pot actuates another motor attached to the tentacle, acting as a gripper for tools, or whatever else Harrigan needs at the time!