Let's Make Robots!


Lives on my desk

As an ongoing project. I have been working on a small robot that could live on my desk as a pet, hence the Deskpet moniker. I’ve done some research into how to give him personality, as well as how to add emotion (links soon). Last weekend I decided to play with my CNC mill and cut out a design for the body of my deskpet robot. I’ve been working on this design for a while so it was just a matter of loading and running the program. Then, one of the guys at work used the CNC’d master to make an RTV mold, and I molded a urethane copy:

Deskpet1 Deskpet 2

The body is shown with a Nickel for scale. The pics are really crummy because I used my cell phone, I’ll post better pics later. This will make a robot small enough to use for Micro-Sumo competition, and is designed around the GM-10 motors. I may end up selling these as just the body, or as a complete robot kit.

I have finished the pcb schematic and have almost completed the layout. I hope to send the board out to BatchPCB for fab by the end of the week.


I finished routing the PCB. Maybe I'll be able to send it out for fab by tonight. 



These pics are quite old, but I got quite distracted with other projects and forgot to update. 

Here's an RC prototype using a Nordic keyfob transmitter:

Deskpet Proto

I also made the bodies available on Shapeways if anyone is interested:


The body is easily reproduceable by making a silicone mold, but be sure to get it made with "Transparent Detail" if you are gong to make a mold. The "White, Strong and Flexible" material doesn't release from the molds easily.

Next up is some ideas I had for an alternate body/frame for the deskpet:

Alternate Deskpet Body

Alternate Deskpet body - internal

This body is also on Shapeways, but I have not tested it yet, so I have not made it available for sale. While it looks a lot nicer, it would be a much trickier build. I also have a design for molding the tiny tank treads for this which still needs to be tested, I just ordered a pair of the tread molds and one of the bodies, so we'll see how it goes.

Finally I have been doing a lot of thinking and a bit of writing over the last year or so about the personality/emotions/learning for the deskpet robot. I wrote some of it down and recently made it available through my blog in case anyone is interested:


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The autorouter didn't like this board at all, could only route about 60% of the board. I ended up completely manually routing this board. And the rule regarding 90 degree angles only applies to high speed (like high RF frequency) traces. A sharp bend in the trace looks like a discontinuity to a high frequency signal and generates reflections. 45 degree angles work fine for 100's of MHz, but GHz signals usually are routed with rounded corners. The highest frequency signal on this board is the 16MHz clock, and those traces are only about 1/8" long, shouldn't be a problem.

Yes, I have spent several years actually planning and working on this robot. Thinking about it, doing research, etc. The board itself has about 2 weeks worth of work into it. I still need to run a cleanup pass. Maybe now that it's routed, the autorouter an make it pretty...

The CNC mill doesn't actually make things any easier, merely makes the final output look nicer. Basically trading money for skill. It takes quite a bit of work to get a CAD drawing ready to load into the Mill.

Making a mold is amazingly cheap and easy, but really only useful if you are going to make more than one of something. I use the prducts from TAP Plastics:

Silicone RTV Mold Materials

Quick-Cast Polyurethane Resin

Mold Making Guide

The only downside is that you need to pull a vacuum on the RTV and Polyurethane to get all the bubbles out and make sure the mold is filled. Alumilite also makes a pretty simple casting kit.

The equipment in my lab (yes I call it my robot lab ;-) is the result of about 15 years of hobby robotics ( http://robotguy.net/#RobotGallery to see most of my robots), as well as experience from about 10 years of professional robotics (I'm an Electrical Engineer at a robotics company).

Thanks for elaborating on the stuff about trace angles - always nice to learn new stuff :-)

I'm looking forward to seeing more of this project!

- Jimmy

Well rounded explaination. I think at GHz, I'd start to work about capacitance in the tracks as well. (A story for another day.)

For anyone who's interested, there's loads of stuff on the web on making RTV moulds and sucking the bubbles out. Liquid Latex is another option for small scale projects. Means you can also make plaster casts for working models and prototypes.

So, 15 years is what it takes, huh? I've only been able to afford it in the last 8 years, so I suppose I should be reasonably happy that my lab consists of a secondhand dual-trace 20MHz scope a dual benchtop PSU and a soldering iron. I have no budget. I had to make my own PCB etching tank using a fishtank aeration pump and an old ice-cream tub, for heaven's sake! My most used tool is probably my vertical drill press!

It might be cool if we showed off photos of our workshops or bedrooms, or wherever we make our toys. In fact, as if by magic, we can do it here.

Your website is ELITE! I want to see more of Rex and BigBot, though.

I was going to comment on this.. But I can only say "wow".

I am humbled and need words.

I've been lucky enough to see 3D printers live, and one day I'd love to make one. However, if I'm struggling to make a robot as simple as Turpis, how hard will this be for me? :) One day...


 “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.... -Marianne Williamson

Have you been to previous Robogames? I'd really like to go sometime, it looks like a great competition. You've got an awesome little microsumo there, hope it does well. I've only made a couple minisumos, but did mold some urethane wheels for one, though in a sorta hacked fashion. That's an incredible collection of robots!

I remember this little guy!

Good stuff.

That is a really impressive PCB design! Very cool!!!!!

if you really want it to have emotions, why dont you add a torso and head with emotional face in it!!! it should be like a mobile intelligent furby!!