Building a home robot: Part 5 - arms and hands

(see all parts of "building a home robot")

I wanted Roobert to get two identical hands with separate moveable fingers.

Because of this (and the small size) I decided to use a commercial construction kit instead of designing and constructing the hands on my own.

Although it was a construction kit it was fun for hours to assemble the hands:

Each arm is constructed from the hand construction kit, 3 servos, 3d printed servo brackets and an I2C servo controller. Because the servo controller seemed to be unable to shut down the servo power, I attached a relays for each arm to turn the servo power on/on.

The servo holder for the upper arm parts are printed in 3D:

The complete arms:

The right arm:

A roobert-hand-assembling-workplace :-)

Building a home robot: Part 4 - moving the head up and down

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Because the monitor and raspberry pi are placed in the front of the head most of weight is there. So the motors for up/down  movement have to be powerful enough to handle this.

I decided to use two stepper motors with built in gearboxes. They also are the axis for the head movement. I mounted them back to back into a 3d printed box ,so they are moving in contrariwise directions.

Putting together neck and front head:

Assembling including cables, Raspberry Pi and electronics:

The two stepper motors have much power - but still not enough to lift the head. To fix this problem I placed a counterbalance made from lead in the back of the head.

The first test with provisional counterbalance:

After some hours of testing another problem occurred. The mechanic connection between the two motors and the 3d printed part was very small.

Only 4mm PLA to connect  to the whole head wight and movement:

And the PLA material was not strong enough to handle this for a long time – so the freedom of movement increased.

To solve this I used two small parts of aluminum with holes matching to the axis of both stepper motors.

Building a home robot: Part 2 - Neck design and movement

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My first approach to move the neck and head was to use servos. Because the rotation has to move a large weight to rotate the head left/right, I bought a servo driven ball-bearing base.

The first try was a servo driven ball-bearing base.



Mechanical everything worked fine – the base had : enough power solve the movement.
But it was very loud. It made the typical plastic server “scrieeeee” sound and the base amplified the sound by acoustic resonance.
It all sounded like a big cheap RC toy from the 80s :-/ Nothing you want to hear from a futuristic robot with a cute and modern body design.

The next idea was to create laser cut gears on my own and mount them on a big ball-bearing:

As engine I wanted to use a stepper motor

Everything seems fine – even a first manual test moving the motor and gears by hand.
But the first electronic driven test was a little bit annoying: It was much more quiet and strong than the RC servo but still loud.

The next idea to solve this was to use a fan belt to connect the gears to prevent the plastic-on-plastic sound. But for this the complete construction would have to be changed.

So I tried another idea: Creating the motor gear  with 3d printing from rubber instead of laser cut acryl:

This worked very fine and now the gears are working very silent.

The endstop to home the rotation:

Building a home robot: Part 1 - introduction and head

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Since I was a child and saw the tomy omnibot I was fascinated about robot companions. In the following years I took some tries to get or build one – for example the Sony Aibo in 2001 or my Cobra Robot.

Some weeks ago I started my first serious project of a self driving, self charging home robot - including things like face detection and voice output.

My girlfriend was not sure if it would be a little bit scary to live together with a home robot. So I decided to create a first prank design for the robot head especially for her ;-)


(A scary prank design created from old animatronics parts)

The real head will be much more cute and abstract, using a small monitor instead of physical eyeballs.

As the robot “brain” I choose a Raspberry PI 3 because it is small, fast and with low power consumption.  Other reasons were: cheap and native camera, hardware connections via the PIO port and the available official touchscreen monitor.

To create most of the body parts I want to use my 3D printer.

In the past I often used 3d editor programs like Autodesk 3D Studio or Cinema 4D – but never real CAD programs. After some research for a low cost but useful CAD program I found OpenSCAD.

This free open source tool and its unusual approach to create objects by writing program code suits perfect to my needs.

Only 3 hours later I had finished my first CAD model of a head prototype and started the 3d printer. (I plan to upload all the STL files to thingiverse.com to share them with other makers who want to built their own home robots)

The first prototype of the robot front head:

The following 4 improved prototypes:

An early prototype showing the complete head shape:

The final front part without raspberry pi...

...and with raspberry pi and the touchscreen monitor:


The next step will be the neck design and the motors for moving the head and the neck.

Continue reading: Part 2 - Neck design and movement

Ultimaker 2+ arrived

Seven years ago in 2009 I started my first experiences with 3d printing.

It took 2 weeks to assemble my first 3d printer – a rapman from UK. It had no heated built plate and the software needed lot of tuning and testing.

The rapman in 2009:

Then in 2011 I got the makerbot thing-o-matic. It had a heated, automated build platform and only took 2 days to assemble. The software still needed time to tune and to find out the best setting.

All this time I never managed to get PLA printing well – only ABS worked fine for me.

The makerbot in 2011:

Yesterday – 5 years after the makerbot – my ultimaker 3d printer arrived.
In my opinion there are worlds between these two last devices.
The ultimaker looks like from the future with its white led lighted housing, while the makerbot looks like from the past with his wooden case.
The ultimaker prints a lot of finer and more silent than my old makerbot.
No (or only a little bit) software tuning is needed– it is nearly plug and print.
It is very impressive for me to see, how big the improvements of these 5 years are.

Here are some impressions: