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Introduction to building robots

Building robots is a complex task. It is fun, but it requires a lot of learning. There is no university course that will teach you everything needed to build a robot, but the good news is that you can master the skills needed on your own. In this guide you can learn the basics, to help you get started.

Building a robot has three major phases. You need to build the hardware, which means you have to create plastic and metal parts. Then you need to build the electronics that will collect information from the environment, and will control the robot's motion. The final phase is the software.

Building the hardware


The first phase of building a robot is designing the mechanical parts. This area requires some knowledge of mechanical engineering, but it is not as difficult as it might seem. It all starts with learning to use a 3D design software. The following page lists the most popular design software. We recommend you to use Solidworks or Autodesk Inventor.

The best 3D design software for designing robot parts

Once you have drawn your robot parts, you need to manufacture them. The three most popular methods to manufacturing parts are:

3D printing which is a great way to make plastic parts
CNC milling which is mainly used for making metalic parts
Laser cutting which is excellent for plastic/wooren parts made from plexiglass or wood

Building the electronic parts


The second phase of building a robot is creating the control circuits. You need to get familiar with basic electronic parts and microcontrollers. It is a very interesting and fun topic, which might seem hard at first, but the learning curve is very enjoyable. The following video tutorials will help you get started. For building electronic circuits we recommend you to use the free KiCad software package.

How to design a Printed Circuit Board (PCB):
How to manufacture PCB in your office (etching PCB boards using UV):
Drilling and cutting the PCB board
Soldering and testing the PCB board

Building the software


When you build a robot software you will perform two different tasks: you will program microcontrollers, and you will write higher level data acquisition and robot control logic.

The microcontroller layer is the interface to the hardware. You will collect data from sensors and pass this data to the upper, higher level code, and you will receive instructions from the higher level code and instruct the hardware. In our robots we use Ozeki Matrix electronic modules and Arduinos. Check out the following doucments to get started:
  1. How to burn a bootloader on an Arduino or Ozeki Matrix board
  2. The basic software architecture of the microcontroller's software
  3. How to develop a robot device handler running on a microcontroller
  4. How to use the Ozeki Line protocol to communicate with microcontrollers from a Raspberry PI or a PC
  5. List of implemented device handlers for robots

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