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130 BUILDING A METAL PLATFORM
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FIGURE 10.5 Attach the foam wheels (with plastic hubs) for the Buggybot onto the shafts of the motors.
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good counterweight. You can secure the battery holder to the robot using double-sided tape or hook-and-loop (Velcro) fabric.
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The basic Buggybot uses a manual wired switch control. The control is the same one used in the plastic Minibot detailed in 8, Building a Plastic Robot Platform. Refer to the wiring diagram in Fig. 8.4 of that chapter for information on powering the Buggybot. To prevent the control wire from interfering with the robot s operation, attach a piece of heavy wire (the bottom rail of a coat hanger will do) to the caster plate and lead the wire up it. Use nylon wire ties to secure the wire. The completed Buggybot is shown in Fig. 10.7.
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You ll find that the Buggybot is an amazingly agile robot. The distance it needs to turn is only a little longer than its length, and it has plenty of power to spare. There is room on the robot s front and back to mount additional control circuitry. You can also add control circuits and other enhancements over the battery holder. Just be sure that you can remove the circuit(s) when it comes time to change or recharge the batteries.
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FIGURE 10.6 Mounting the caster to the Buggybot.
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FIGURE 10.7 The completed Buggybot.
132 BUILDING A METAL PLATFORM
From Here
To learn more about...
Plastic robots Metal robots Using batteries Selecting the right motor Using a computer or microcontroller
Read
8, Building a Plastic Robot Platform 9, Building a Basic Wooden Platform 15, All about Batteries and Robot Power Supplies 17, Choosing the Right Motor for the Job 28, An Overview of Robot Brains
CONSTRUCTING HIGH-TECH ROBOTS FROM TOYS
Ready-made toys can be used as the basis for more complex homebrew hobby robots.
The toy industry is robot crazy, and you can buy a basic motorized or unmotorized robot for parts, building on it and adding sophistication and features. Snap or screwtogether kits, such as the venerable Erector Set, let you use premachined parts for your own creations. And some kits, like LEGO and Robotix, are even designed to create futuristic motorized robots and vehicles. You can use the parts in the kits as is or cannibalize them, modifying them in any way you see fit. Because the parts already come in the exact or approximate shape you need, the construction of your own robots is greatly simplified. About the only disadvantage to using toys as the basis for more advanced robots is that the plastic and lightweight metal used in the kits and finished products are not suitable for a homemade robot of any significant size or strength. You are pretty much confined to building small Minibot or Scooterbot-type robots from toy parts. Even so, you can sometimes apply toy parts to robot subsystems, such as a light-duty arm-gripper mechanism installed on a larger automaton. Let s take a closer look at using toys in your robot designs in this chapter, and examine several simple, cost-effective designs using readily available toy construction kits.
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134 CONSTRUCTING HIGH-TECH ROBOTS FROM TOYS
Erector Set
Erector Set, now sold by Meccano, has been around since the Dawn of Time or so it seems. The kits, once made entirely of metal but now commonly including many plastic pieces, come in various sizes and are generally designed to build a number of different projects. Many kits are engineered for a specific design with perhaps provisions for moderate variations. I ve found the general-purpose sets to be the best bets. Among the useful components of the kits are prepunched metal girders, plastic and metal plates, tires, wheels, shafts, and plastic mounting panels. You can use any as you see fit, assembling your robots with the hardware supplied with the kit or with 6/32 or 8/32 nuts and bolts. Several Erector Sets, such as those in the Action Troopers collection, come with wheels, construction beams, and other assorted parts that you can use to construct a robot base. Motors are typically not included in these kits, but you can readily supply your own. Because Erector Set packages regularly come and go, what follows is a general guide to building a robot base. You ll need to adapt and reconfigure based on the Erector Set parts you have on hand. The prepunched metal girders included in the typical Erector Set make excellent motor mounts. They are lightweight enough that they can be bent, using a vise, into a U-shaped motor holder. Bend the girder at the ends to create tabs for the bolts, or use the angle stock provided in an Erector Set kit. The basic platform is designed for four or more wheels, but the wheel arrangement makes it difficult to steer the robot. The design presented in Fig. 11.1 uses only two wheels. The platform is stabilized using a miniature swivel caster at one end. You ll need to purchase the caster at the hardware store. Note that the shafts of the motors are not directly linked to the wheels. The shaft of the wheels connect to the baseplate as originally designed in the kit. The drive motors are equipped with rollers, which engage against the top of the wheels for traction. You can use a metal or rubber roller, but rubber is better. The pinch roller from a discarded cassette tape player is a good choice, as is a 3/8-inch beveled bibb washer, which can be found in the plumbing section of the hardware store. You can easily mount a battery holder on the top of the platform. Position the battery holder in the center of the platform, toward the caster end. This will help distribute the weight of the robot. The basic platform is now complete. You can attach a dual-switch remote control, as described in 8, Building a Plastic Robot Platform, or connect automatic control circuitry as detailed in Part 5 of this book, Computers and Electronic Control. Do note that over the years the Erector Set brand has gone through many owners. Parts from old Erector Sets are unlikely to fit well with new parts. This includes but is not limited to differences in the threads used for the nuts and bolts. If you have a very old Erector Set (such as those made and sold by Gilbert), you re probably better off keeping them as collector s items rather than raiding them for robotic parts. The very old Erector Sets of the 1930s through 1950s fetch top dollar on the collector s market (when the sets are in good, complete condition, of course). Similarly, today s Meccano sets are only passably compatible with the English-made Meccano sets sold decades ago. Hole spacing and sizes have varied over the years, and mixing and matching is neither practical nor desirable.
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