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An Insight Into How Robots Are Designed

Nayani Modugula, 30th August, 2020


Have you ever wondered how those fancy robots in sci-fi movies or for that matter even in real life are made? Well, I guess you have come to the right place. For building any robot, despite its level of complexity, the steps are mostly the same. Before you start designing a robot, you have to identify its use case and specifications. For example, if you are designing an educational robot you would want it to be child-safe and friendly-looking. Then you do some user research to understand what the users want because at the end of the day, if the user is not happy with the robot, it defeats the whole purpose. This includes looking at anthropometric data which relates to the human body’s size/shape to make sure that the design is ergonomic. It is crucial to do market research to know the available robots and related components available in the market.

After a thorough market and user research, one starts the concept design. Various iterations of the robot are designed until it meets the expectations. Then a prototype is made to have a better understanding of the robot’s weight, shape, size and features. All changes are implemented and a CAD (computer-aided design) model is made. This allows you to generate orthographic drawings that help in manufacturing the robot and knowing the minute details in the robot.


Prototyping involves conceptualization

Now you can start building your robot. Collect the materials required and start working on the base of the robot. After making the basic structure of the robot, individual subsystems are built. There are four main subsystems: motion, recognition, control and power. The motion subsystem includes the arms, actuators, and gears. The recognition subsystem includes sensors. The control subsystem includes the CPU, hard disk. Finally, the power subsystem ensures that there is enough energy for the robot to operate. Once these subsystems are integrated and the final touches are added, the robot is ready to perform various tasks.

This whole process might seem complex, but you can start at a lower complexity level. For example, you can start with a platform and build upon it like one of the robots I have built which is shown in the picture. Turtlebot 2 is used as the main chassis of the robot and an additional panel is built using MDF (Medium-density Fibreboard). After observing the possibilities of the arrangements of the panels, the most effective one is chosen. To attach the Kinect sensor, LED display, microphone, speaker and an emergency button to the robot, different fixtures are designed and made. A CAD (Computer-Aided Design) model of the base of the arm, which attaches it to the base, is made and then 3D printed. To make the robot more ergonomic, the panel on which the laptop is placed is covered with an anti-skid mat. After this, all the components are wired to the base and laptop.


A look at Turtlebot 2

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how robots are designed. Before you start building the robot, a lot of research, designing, prototyping is required. This is crucial to make the best version of the robot.

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