In an era where automation and robotics are revolutionizing industries, the significance of mobile robots cannot be overstated. From household, healthcare and manufacturing to defense and space exploration, mobile robots are becoming indispensable tools. This article aims to provide an understanding of the essentials involved in building a mobile robot. Whether you're a seasoned engineer, a researcher, or a robotics enthusiast, this guide offers valuable insights into the fascinating world of mobile robotics.
If you are looking for a ready-made mobile robot, there are many popular, different sized and performing robots available in the market. As ACROME, we also provide a Mobile Robotics Kit containing a ready-to-use mobile robot and a simple environment for the robot. Please check the product page to learn more about this turn-key mobile robotics teaching & research solution.
Before diving into the intricacies of building a mobile robot, it's crucial to understand its basic components. A mobile robot is generally comprised of the following elements explained with such a biological analogy:
The mechanical structure is the backbone of any mobile robot. It not only provides physical support but also influences the robot's capabilities. The design can range from simple differential structures to complex omnidirectional systems. 2 important topics need to be considered when deciding and building the mechanical structure of a mobile robot:
Choosing the right material for the right job is paramount as it impacts the robot's durability, weight, and functionality. Common materials include:
When it comes to building a mobile robot, one of the most critical decisions you’ll make is the type of powertrain to use. The powertrain determines how your robot moves and navigates, affecting its overall performance and capabilities. Let’s explore the different types of powertrains you can consider:
Actuators are the components that convert the control signals from the control system into physical movement. They are essentially the muscles of a mobile robot, enabling it to interact with its environment.
The choice of actuators is pivotal as it directly affects the robot's performance. You may check our blog document, “Beginners Guide to Actuators” to learn more about different types of actuators that are used in robotics and control as well. Here, we will provide a short list of actuators that are more suitable for mobile robotic applications.
Here are the 3 major actuator types which are used in mobile robots:
The most commonly used actuators in mobile robots are the electric motors, specifically DC brushed motors. They are versatile and can be used in various configurations to provide different types of movement, power and energy efficiency. To learn more about the electric motors that are used in mobile robotics, please check our special Where to and How to use the DC brushed motors article.
These are generally used in industrial robots and are known for their high force and speed. However, they are less commonly used in mobile robots due to their size and complexity.
These are materials that change shape in response to changes in temperature, and they are used in specialized applications where lightweight and silent operations are required.
While the actuators are the muscles, motor controllers like ACROME's Smart Motor Drivers (SMDs) are the jockeys that guide them. SMDs offer precise control, safety features, and ease of integration, making them ideal for complex mobile robotic applications.
Smart Motor Drivers (SMDs) are becoming increasingly important in the world of mobile robotics. They offer a range of advantages such as precise control, energy efficiency, and ease of integration. ACROME's SMDs, for instance, provide a modular and high-performance solution for controlling various types of motors, making them an excellent choice for mobile robots that require reliable and precise actuation.
Actuators consume the most power in a mobile robot. Therefore, choosing energy-efficient actuators and optimizing their operation can significantly extend the robot's operational time. There are many methods for energy efficiency, where some are related with the actuators and their controllers as well.
Sensors play an indispensable role in the functionality of a mobile robot. They gather data from the environment, which is then processed by the control system to make informed decisions. The choice of sensors can significantly influence the robot's capabilities.
Although there are unlimited count of sensors in the market, most of the sensors used in mobile robots are falling into one of the following categories:
These are used to detect the presence of objects within a certain range. They are crucial for collision avoidance and are commonly used in applications like automated vacuum cleaners and warehouse robots.
Also known as cameras, these sensors provide a wealth of information and are used in complex applications like autonomous vehicles and drones. They can be paired with machine learning algorithms for object recognition, tracking, and more.
These sensors are vital for maintaining the orientation and balance of the robot. They are commonly found in bipedal robots and drones.
These include temperature, humidity, and gas sensors. They are used in specialized robots that operate in extreme conditions like underwater or in hazardous environments.
The concept of sensor fusion involves combining data from multiple sensors to improve the robot's perception and decision-making capabilities. For example, combining data from vision sensors and proximity sensors can enable a robot to navigate more effectively through a cluttered environment.
Sensors require regular calibration to ensure accurate data collection. Failing to maintain and calibrate sensors can lead to performance issues and may compromise the safety of the robot and its surroundings.
The control system is the computational unit of the robot, responsible for processing sensor data and making decisions. It's essentially the brain of the operation and can range from simple microcontrollers to complex embedded systems. Again, there are 3 major control system types predominant in the literature:
These systems react to sensor data in real-time without any prior processing. They are suitable for simple tasks but are limited in their capabilities.
These are more advanced systems that involve data processing and decision-making based on algorithms and models. They are used in complex robots that require planning and problem-solving skills.
These systems combine the features of both reactive and deliberative systems to create a more versatile control unit.
The power supply is a critical component that determines how long and how far a robot can operate. It's essentially the lifeblood of the machine.
The most common power source for mobile robots, batteries come in various forms like Li-ion, NiMH, and lead-acid, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
These are used in long-duration applications and are common in industrial settings.
Some robots are connected to an external power source via a cable. While this provides a constant power supply, it limits the robot's mobility.
Effective power management involves monitoring the robot's energy consumption and optimizing its operations to extend battery life. This is crucial for applications where the robot needs to operate autonomously for extended periods.
Proper design and safety mechanisms are essential to prevent issues like short circuits, overheating, and explosions, especially in robots that operate in sensitive or hazardous environments.
As we stand on the cusp of a new era in robotics, the future holds immense possibilities. With advancements in AI, machine learning, and sensor technology, mobile robots are becoming increasingly sophisticated. ACROME's Smart Motor Drivers (SMDs) are poised to play a role in this evolution. Their adaptability, precision, and ease of use make them an ideal choice for future robotics applications, from autonomous vehicles to advanced manufacturing systems.
If you plan to construct a mobile robot, whether it be for a school project, a professional application, or even just as a hobby, ACROME's Smart Motor Drivers should be one of your primary component choices. Their flexibility, enhanced security features, and integration simplicity make them an indispensable resource for any robotics project. By selecting ACROME's SMDs, you are not only purchasing but also investing in your robotics pursuits.
For those interested in diving deeper into the world of mobile robotics and ACROME's SMDs, some resources are available. From hands-on videos and tutorials to technical documentation, ACROME offers a range of materials to help you get the most out of your Smart Motor Drivers and to help you build your own Mobile Robots.