I got a chance to play around with Actobotics, a robust aluminum and steel building system designed for robots and other DIY projects. It’s a relatively new system, at least in my circle of friends and the sites I visit. Sparkfun picked up the product line only last December, while there are zero Make: Projects or instructables mentioning it. It was less than a year ago that Beatty Robotics built Actobot, a robot showing off the system’s capabilities.
So this is a new building system with a lot of promise. Let’s check it out!
The first thing anyone notices about Actobotics are the beautiful channels, u-shaped beams peppered with half-inch holes as well as smaller, 0.14” or 0.16” holes. The channels come in several lengths ranging from 1.5” to 24”—yes, Actobotics products use Imperial measurements. The entire line uses a 0.770” hub pattern, so everything works with everything.
So, the channels are the basic building block of the Actobotics system. They’re very light, but sturdy, and offer an absurd number of mounting options. Despite being swiss cheesed with mounting holes, the channels have a very solid feel and let’s face it, they’re very cool looking. The awesome thing is, if the channels were all that Actobotics was, I’d still like them. However, the product line includes a lot more great hardware.
In addition to the channels, Actobotics use aluminum beams. They look intriguingly like Lego Technic beams but unfortunately, they are not at all compatible. It’s the same configuration, however—a strip of metal with #6 connector holes spaced evenly down their lengths.
My sense of the beams is that they’re not meant to stand on their own as a building material, but rather were ancillary to the channels, doing finer support work than the bigger girders can manage. The beams come in several lengths ranging from 5-hole (two outermost holes are spaced 1.54”, or twice 0.770”) to a 32-hole beam that is over a foot long.
You gotta check out all the hardware that support the channels and beams. It’s a very robust assortment of robotic parts, so useful that people with no interest in the channels and beams buy them for their own robotics projects.
A set that seems prime for making big and sturdy robots, Actobotics makes its case with sturdy structural elements and a dizzying selection of mounts, adapters, couplers, and clamps. It’s available at Servo City as well as Sparkfun. The slideshow below gives you an idea of what is available.
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