The microcontrollers are cheap, the sensors are cheap, even the motors are cheap. So why are all the good wheeled robotics platforms so expensive? [Dimitris Platis] wanted to develop an affordable platform for experimenting with rovers, but the cheap plastic chassis he was using gave him all sorts of problems. So he did what any good hacker would do, and built a better version himself.
Interestingly, [Dimitris] decided to go with a chassis made from two PCB panels. The motors, mounted to small angled brackets, bolt directly to the lower PCB. These aren’t your standard $2 DC cans either. Each JGB37-520 gearhead motor comes complete with an encoder that allows your software to determine speed, distance, and direction. The upper PCB connects to the lower with several rows of pin headers, and plays host to whatever electronics payload you might be experimenting with at the time.
For the controller, [Dimitris] says the ESP32 is hard to beat by pretty much any metric you want to use. With integrated wireless and considerable computational power, there’s plenty of options for controlling your little rover either remotely or autonomously. But he also says that every effort has been made to ensure that you could switch out the microcontroller with something else should you want to spin up a customized version.
The whole idea reminds us a bit of quadcopters we’ve seen in the past, where the PCB wasn’t just being used structurally as a place to bolt the motors and hardware to, but actually contained functional traces and components that reduced how much wiring you needed to do. Naturally, this means that any damage to the chassis might cripple the electronics, but presumably, that’s what the big foam bumpers are there for.
[Dimitris] designed this project for educational use, so he assumes you’ll want to build 10 or 12 of these for your whole classroom. In those quantities, he says each bot will cost around $60. If you wanted to reduce the price a bit more, he says swapping the motors would be your best bet as they’re the single most expensive component of the design. That said, $60 for a quality open source rover platform sounds pretty fair to us.
Still too much? You could check out one of the 3D printable rover designs we’ve covered over the years. Or see if you can get lucky and pick up a cheap robot from the clearance rack and hack it.
Bakelite, hammertone gray finish, big chunky toggle switches, jeweled pilot lights – these are a few of [Wesley Treat]’s favorite retro electronics things. And he’ll get no argument from us, as old gear is one of our many weak spots. So when he was tasked by a friend to come up with some chaser lights for an Art Deco-themed bar, [Wesley] jumped at the chance to go overboard with this retro-style control panel.
Granted, the video below pays short shrift to the electronics side of this build in favor of concentrating on the woodworking and metalworking aspects of making the control panel. We’re OK with that, too, as we picked up a ton of design tips along the way. The control panel is all custom, with a chassis bent from sheet aluminum. The sides of the console are laminated walnut and brushed aluminum, which looks very chic. We really like the recessed labels for the switches and indicators on the front panel, although we’d have preferred them to be backlighted. And that bent aluminum badge really lends a Chrysler Building flair that ties the whole project together.
All in all, a really nice job, and another in a long string of retro cool projects from [Wesley]. We recently featured his cloning of vintage knobs for an old Philo tube tester, and we’ll be looking for more great projects from him in the future.
Continue reading “Art Deco Control Panel Looks Out Of Metropolis” →
Frankencars are built from the parts of several cars to make one usable vehicle. [Jim Belosic] has crossed the (finish) line with his Teslonda. In the most basic sense, it is the body of a Honda Accord on top of the drive train of a Tesla Model S. The 1981 Honda was the make and model of his first car, but it wasn’t getting driven. Rather than sell it, he decided to give it a new life with electricity, just like Victor Frankenstein.
In accord with Frankenstein’s monster, this car has unbelievable strength. [Jim] estimates the horsepower increases by a factor of ten over the gas engine. The California-emissions original generates between forty and fifty horsepower while his best guess places the horsepower over five-hundred. At this point, the Honda body is just holding on for dear life. Once all the safety items, like seatbelts, are installed, the driver and passengers will be holding on for the same reason.
This kind of build excites us because it takes something old, and something modern, and marries the two to make something in a class of its own. And we hate to see usable parts sitting idle.
Without a body, this electric car scoots around with its driver all day, and this Honda doesn’t even need the driver inside.
Continue reading “Car Revival According To Tesla” →
No matter how many advances in electronics we find, we’re constantly surprised at the lack of progress in robot chassis. Sure, it should be a simple task to make a capable robot that looks cool, but aside from the Veter project team, no one else seems to be advancing the state of robot mechanics.
We’ve seen robotic chassis and hardware from the Veter team before, and this new version brings a whole lot more to the table. While the camera. GPS, compass, and ultrasonic sensors are the same from the previous build, there’s a whole lot more software inspired by [Sebastian Thrun]’s autonomous car class to make this build a little more capable.
While the Veter team is using a Beagleboard for their on-board computer, it should be possible to change the hardware over to a more economical Raspberry Pi. Even then, it won’t be a cheap build, but we doubt you’ll find a better robotics platform for less.
This is the fourth iteration that [Dino] has produced for his all-terrain robot. Just before this it was more of a turtle, with an aluminum pan shell. We think his upgrade to MicroRAX frame parts makes it look a lot better, and lightens the load so it can get around better as well.
It’s hard to tell from the picture, but many of the components are from a Roomba robot. The four motors, and the mainboard are all from units he picked up on eBay. To drive the motors he tapped into the H-bridge signals on the control board using a Seeeduino. His write-up (linked above) shares some of the details regarding the electronics, but the video after the break shows the development and assembly of the new chassis. It’s made from extruded aluminum bars which easily connect to each other with the system’s brackets. To interface with the non-standard parts he makes his own brackets from some aluminum sheet stock. It’s similar to other modular building materials, but the MicroRAX is a great size/weight for a small design like this one.
Continue reading “[Dino] Upgrades His Robot Chassis” →
Building a great looking box for your projects can be a challenge. [Ken] boils down his process of building enclosures out of copper clad (PDF) circuit board material into an illustrated guide in case you want to try this for yourself. Why would you want to use PC board? The fiberglass substrate makes for a strong and lightweight material. Also, [Ken] is a ham radio operator and the copper coating acts as an electrical shield for delicate components inside.
As you can see above he uses solder to tack the pieces together. There’s some important considerations that go along with this method. First, he cuts the pieces just a bit oversized and then sands them flat and square before assembly. Next, he uses some 20 gauge wire as a shim between a ninety-degree joint and a right angle jig. This shim compensates for the shrinking that occurs as the solder cools, making sure the joint gets pulled to a right angle. He even solders nuts in place so that screws can be used to attach the case cover to the chassis.
Yesterday we saw toner transfer used to make labels on an ABS case. If you make your enclosure out of copper clad, using toner transfer for panel labels will be a snap!
[Crabfu] pulled off some great chassis work on top of a remote control drivetrain. His most recent build turns the tiny traveler into a lunar rover complete with passenger and a communications array. For this he’s sourced the parts from a toy but boosted the realism with hand-painted details that leave us in awe. His previous project sourced the body from a model truck kit. Once again, it’s the paint work that makes us envious of his skills.
Both projects conceal a Losi 1/24 scale micro rock crawler that provides for some incredible locomotion. See video of both builds after the break.
Continue reading “Amazing Chassis Hacks” →