[Angus] at Maker’s Muse recently created a new and tiny antweight combat robot (video, embedded below) and it has some wonderfully clever design elements we’d like to highlight. In particular: how to keep a tracked robot’s wheel belt where it belongs, and prevent it from slipping or becoming dislodged. In a way, this problem was elegantly solved during the era of the steam engine and industrial revolution. The solution? A crowned pulley.
A crowned pulley is a way of automatically keeping a flat belt centered by having a slight hump in the center of the pulley, which tapers off on either side. Back when steam engines ran everything, spinning axles along the ceiling transferred their power to machinery on the shop floor via flat belts on pulleys. Crowned pulleys kept those flat belts centered without any need for rims or similar additions.
The reason this worked so well for [Angus]’s robot is partly its simplicity, and partly the fact that it works fantastically with the silicone wrist bracelets he uses as treads. These bracelets are like thick rubber bands, and make excellent wheel substitutes. They have great grip, are cheap and plentiful, and work beautifully with crowned pulleys as the hubs. It’s a great solution for a tiny robot, and you can how it self-centers in the image here.
Antweight robots are limited to 150 grams which means every bit counts, and that constraint leads to some pretty inventive design choices. For example, [Angus]’s new robot also has a clever lifter mechanism that uses a 4-bar linkage designed to lever opponents up using only a single motor for power. Watch [Angus] explain and demonstrate everything in his usual concise and clear manner in the video, embedded below.
Inspired by battle-hardened military robots, [Engineering Juice] wanted to build his own remote controlled rover that could deliver live video from the front lines. But rather than use an off-the-shelf tracked robot chassis, he decided to design and 3D print the whole thing from scratch. While the final product might not be bullet proof, it certainly doesn’t seem to have any trouble traveling through sand and other rough terrain.
Certainly the most impressive aspect of this project is the roller chain track and suspension system, which consists of more than 200 individual printed parts, fasteners, bearings, and linkages. Initially, [Engineering Juice] came up with a less complex suspension system for the robot, but unfortunately it had a tendency to bind up during testing. However the new and improved design, which uses four articulated wheels on each side, provides an impressive balance between speed and off-road capability.
Internally there’s a Raspberry Pi 4 paired with an L298 dual H-bridge controller board to drive the heavy duty gear motors. While the Pi is running off of a standard USB power bank, the drive motors are supplied by a custom 18650 battery pack utilizing a 3D printed frame to protect and secure the cells. A commercial night vision camera solution that connects to the Pi’s CSI header is mounted in the front, with live video being broadcast back to the operator over WiFi.
Master of 3D printed robots, [James Bruton], plans to do some autonomous rover projects in the future, but first, he needed a modular rover platform. Everything is cooler with tank tracks, so he built a rover with flexible interlocking track sections.
The track sections are printed with flexible Ninjaflex filament. Each section has a tab designed to slot through two neighboring pieces. The ends of the tabs stick through on the inside of the track fit into slots on the drive wheel like gear teeth. This prevents the track from slipping under load. The Ninjaflex is almost too flexible, allowing the tracks to stretch and almost climb off the wheels, so [James] plans to experiment with some other materials in the future. The chassis consists of two 2020 T-slot extrusions, which allows convenient mounting of the wheel bogies and other components.
For initial driving tests [James] fitted two completely overpowered 1500 W brushless motors that he had on hand, which he plans to replace with smaller geared DC motors at a later stage.
A standard RC system is used for control, but it does not offer a simple way to control a skid steer vehicle. To solve this, [James] added an Arduino between the RC receiver and the motor ESC. It converts the PWM throttle and turn signal from the transmitter, and combines is into differential PWM outputs for the two ESCs.
[Markus_p] has already finished one really successful 3D printed tracked robot build. Now he’s finished a second one using standard motors and incorporating what he learned from the first. The results are pretty impressive and you can see a video demo of the beast, below.
Most of the robot is PLA, although there are some parts that use PETG and flex plastic. There is an infrared-capable camera up front and another regular camera on the rear. All the electronics are pretty much off the shelf modules like an FPV transmitter and an electronic controller for the motors. There’s a servo to tilt the camera, as you can see in the second video.
The body fits together using nuts and magnets. The robot in the video takes a good beating and doesn’t seem to fall apart so it must be sufficient. What appealed to us was the size of the thing. It looks like it would be trivially easy to mount some processing power inside or on top of the rover and it could make a great motion base for a more sophisticated robot.
As an avid “Haunt Hacker”, [Steve Koci] knows a thing or two about bringing high-tech to Halloween. Wanting to build a mobile robot that could accompany him to conventions as a demonstration of the sort of animatronic mechanisms and controls he uses, he came up with the idea of JARVIS. The original plan was to make a more traditional robot, but with the addition of an animated skull and some Steampunk-style embellishments, JARVIS is definitely the kind of thing you don’t want to run into on an October night.
Construction of JARVIS started in 2016, after [Steve] saw the Agent 390 tracked robot chassis from ServoCity. With the addition of extra wheels and a custom track, he converted the Agent 390 into a triangular track arrangement which he said he’s had his eye on since “Johnny 5” sported them back in Short Circuit.
There’s a dizzying array of electronics required to make JARVIS move and talk, not least of which is the “Banshee” prop controller. This device is made to simplify the construction of animatronic heads and provides not only organic-looking randomized movement but automatic jaw synchronization. Using a wireless audio connection, [Steve] is able to talk through a speaker mounted on the chest of the robot, while the skull automatically matches its mouth to his speech in real time. Combined with the GoPro in a two-axis gimbal, this allows JARVIS to function as a fairly robust telepresence platform. Much to the delight/horror of those it’s used on.
Getting JARVIS to move requires not only the two beefy motors and a dedicated controller supplied by the Agent 390 platform, but no less than thirteen servos for the head, arms, and grippers. There’s even a linear actuator used to tilt the skull up and down, presumably for terrifying people of various heights and ages. JARVIS even has a pair of Adafruit’s electronic eyes mounted in the skull, as if you thought you would be spared the horror of seeing glowing eyes following you in the dark.
To control all this hardware, [Steve] uses two RC transmitters in conjunction with a smartphone displaying the video feed coming from the GoPro. It takes some serious finger-gymnastics to get JARVIS doing its thing, which [Steve] says he’s still trying to master.
… I had a cheap Chinese drone that was broken, but its camera seemed to be operating and when I took apart my drone I found a small WiFi chip with a video transmitter. I (decided) that I will use this little circuit for a project and I started to buy and salvage the parts.
Being a tracked robot, it can negotiate most types of terrain and climb hills up to 40 degrees. It is powered by two 18650 lithium-ion batteries with a capacity of 2600 mAh and the remote control is based on the HC-12 serial communication module. You can control it with a joystick and watch the camera’s live-stream in a virtual reality glass. That’s pretty neat but it’s not all.
[Imetomi] also used a hacked Nacomimi Brainwave Toy to make a brain controlled version of his robot. The brainwaves are detected using sensors placed on the scalp. To actually control it the operator has to focus on the right hand to move right, focus on the left hand to move left, blink to move forward and blink again to stop. There is also an ultrasonic sensor to help navigation so the robot doesn’t bump into things. It’s not very precise but you can always build the joystick version or, even better, make a version with both controls.