Eensy weensy robot picks things up

Eensy weensy robot picks things up


Mikey77 writes:

Build a 1/20 cubic inch robot with a gripper that can pick up and move small objects. It is controlled by a Picaxe microcontroller. At this point in time, I believe this may be the world’s smallest wheeled robot with a gripper. That will no doubt change, tomorrow or next week, when someone builds something smaller.

The main problem with building really small robots is the relatively large size of even the smallest motors and batteries. They take up most of the volume of a micro robot. I am experimenting with ways to eventually make robots that are truly microscopic. As an interim step, I made the three tiny robots and the controller described in this instructable. I believe with modifications, these proof of concept robots, could be scaled down to microscopic size.

16 thoughts on “Eensy weensy robot picks things up

  1. How says:

    I love the tiny tires, how brilliant to use beads as tires. I’ve used really tiny foreign coins as wheels in some of the robots that I’ve constructed.

  2. Kieran says:

    It’s hardly fair to call this thing a robot, all it is is a box with a magnet inside that’s moved by another magnet on a CNC machine, it’s not self powered and it is required to be on the CNC table to work. It’s no different than if the CNC tool head were to actually push the “robot” around, but you’d all be far less impressed by that.

    1. mikey77 says:

      Nothing is truly autonomous. Even you and I are dependent on outside machinery and energy sources for our mobility (i.e. the earth and sun).

      Moving as much as possible outside of the robot is literally out of the box thinking. Is an industrial robot that has cables that go to an external power supply and computer controller not a robot?

      And no, it is not the same thing as directly connecting a CNC tool head to a robot. By using a magnetic controller robots can, for example, operate untethered inside the human digestive track.

      These techniques of magnetic control may limit the range of a robot, but for microscopic cell manipulation or medical robots that move through a human body that is not a problem.
      That is probably why there are scores of robotic researchers at dozens of universities experimenting with magnetically controlled robots of all shapes and sizes.

      It is narrow minded thinking and tunnel vision that keeps art and science from advancing.

      If you limit your self to the ideas and techniques of the past, you will severely limit everyones future.

      1. Stunmonkey says:

        “It is narrow minded thinking and tunnel vision that keeps art and science from advancing. If you limit your self to the ideas and techniques of the past, you will severely limit everyones future.”

        First; This IS an idea and technique from the past.

        Secondly; If you are openly inclusive of every idea without regard to merit or substance, it is just as limiting as tunnel vision. If you don’t parse crap than thats all you will eventually have – look at steampunk.

        Third; Every third-rate hack and crank falls back on the old saw that everyone is simply too narrow-minded to see their greatness. Get over yourself and show us something worthy and we’ll pay attention.

    2. Kyle McDonald says:

      I agree — this is really neat, but is less intuitively a “robot” than his other work. Maybe “remotely operable actuator” or something along those lines…

  3. Simon says:

    My first thought was also this isn’t a robot (even though it is very neat) but then I thought no, it is IF you consider the entire the deice, i.e. the little cute bit and the controller that makes it move about. I think the summary is a little misleading making it appear that the little bug is autonomous by itself. To say “Build a 1/20 cubic inch robot” isn’t really right when it only works when used with a massive controller.

    That said this is still pretty cool. Personally I find his previous roots that were truly self contained more impressive but it will be interesting to see where this goes.

    1. mikey77 says:

      I agree that self contained robots are the most impressive. But my goal is not to impress a bunch of anonymous people. I am simply sharing what I have learned in my amateur robotic experiments.

      It took me a full day to figure how to program the Picaxe to work with the Pololu servo controller. And the info I provided could save others hours of frustration using that particular circuit in a conventional robot with on board electronics.

      also, if I built a 1/20 inch FM broadcast radio would it be incorrect to call it that simply because it relied on an external large transmitter and power supply to be useful?

      I am having fun experimenting with small robots.

      And some of you are having fun spitting on my work.

      At the end of the day we all get to have fun.

      1. Josh Hernandez says:

        Hi Mikey77,
        Your instructable is great, very detailed, and it’s pretty clear to me that you’re not trying to fool anyone into thinking these little guys are autonomous, but I was a little disappointed when I saw the trick behind it. My first impression was, “Wow, how did he get all that stuff into that little case?” and then “oh, I’ve been had!”
        Maybe if you called it a “robot” in quotes, there wouldn’t be so much controversy. Your project is pretty sophisticated, and the applications for it are not trivial, and yet the initial disappointment tinges my appreciation of it.

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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