When I think about all my builds over the years, I find there are a few components I use over and over again — kind of like my own personal Lego set. Here are my Top 10, and why I reach for them again and again:
1. SHAFT KEYS: Yes, set screws can hold rotating gears or wheels on shafts, but they’ll often slip under load. Shaft keys, on the other hand, never slip.
2. SHAFT COLLARS: If you use both shaft keys and shaft collars, your set screw could fall completely out and you’d still be fine.
3. MOUNTED BEARINGS: Bearings are essential in moving robots, but they require precise tolerances for mounting. After I discovered premounted bearings, I never looked back.
4. FLEXIBLE SHAFT COUPLINGS: Join distant components quickly and easily without having to know or care exactly how far apart they may be. As a bonus, they add a little bit of cushion.
5. HOSE CLAMPS: Great for securing small components to frames. No holes needed. Just wrap it around a tube and tighten with a screwdriver. Quick, easy, and adjustable.
6. BARRIER STRIPS: If the lifeblood of a robot is power, then the wiring is its circulatory system. Barrier strips make it easy to distributing that power as needed and allow you to easily reconfigure wiring without cutting and/or soldering.
7. VELCRO: Sometimes you just need a temporary connection. I use both the adhesive-backed “tape” variety (for mounting small components like radio control receivers and battery packs), and the two-sided “strap” kind (for cinching down large batteries).
8. CRIMP CONNECTORS: Make sure your connections stay connected, but that they can also be modified without too much trouble. A reliable crimping tool is absolutely essential.
9. SWITCHES: Use toggle switches to turn things on and off, and momentary switches for detecting when a mechanical component has reached a desired position.
10. CABLE TIES: Tame your wiring and keep it out of harm’s way. Not to be used for structural applications — unless you’re really desperate.
This week marks the official launch of Make: Volume 39 — Robotics, which drops on newsstands the 27th. Be sure to grab a copy at a retailer near you, or subscribe online right now and never miss another issue.
We are celebrating with five days of robot-related articles, pictures, videos, reviews and projects. Tune into this space for Robot Week!
3 thoughts on “Grant Imahara’s Ten Favorite Robot Building Blocks”
I hate CABLE TIES! They are weak, expensive, bulky, lumpy, and have sharp points that can draw blood. I much prefer WAXED LACING CORD. Once I was shown how to use it by a ham in Jr. High I have never looked back.
My dad worked for Western Electric, and called it “12 cord” The lacings in the phone office where a thing of beauty!
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