Robot Systems: Hardware Overview

Building a Robot from scratch involves choosing the right software and hardware. In the previous article, I explained the various libraries that help the robot with moving, detecting, navigating and controlling. Now this article explains the hardware side: The computers, the motors, the sensors with which to equip the robot. As in my previous article, this list is in all means not exhaustive, but lists components that I found during my research and find interesting to keep them here.

This article originally appeared at my blog.

Single Board Computers

A single board computer is the central component on which the robotic middleware is installed. It will provide the computing power necessary for forming the essential abstraction of your robot. It will also receive and coordinate the messages received from its individual parts. And its also the component receiving and parsing central control commands.

Raspberry Pi 4

Jetson Nano

BeagleBoard X15

Microcontrollers

Microcontrollers are small computers that get programmed to perform a very specific task in your robot, like reading and processing sensor data or controlling your robot’s motors.

Arduino UNO

Arduino Nano

Feather boards

Seeduino

Pocketbeagle

NodeMCU v2

Argon Wifi Development Board

Espressif Systems ESP8266

Espressif Systems ESP32

ST Microelectronics STM32

Teensy 3.6

MSP430 Launchpad

Netduino N3 Wi-Fi

Chassis

The chassis forms one of the robots main appearance: How it moves and interacts with the world. Here I just list the chassis types and link to concrete examples.

2 Wheels + Caster

4 Wheels

Tracks

Continuous Belt

Quadrupled

Motors

Motors serve different functions in your robot. Thinking bottom up, it starts with the movements on the ground, continuous to joints that move arms, and fine precision motors for grabbing objects. In this category, I will explain the different motor types and how they work. For an in-depth explanation, read this very detailed article.

Synchronous AC Motor

Asynchronous AC / Induction

Brushed DC motor

Brushed DC Geared Motors

Brushless DC motor / Synchronous DC motor

Brushless DC stepper motor

Brushless DC Servo Motors

Sensors

Sensors allow the robot to investigate its environment. Data gets collected, translated, and processed. In this category, I just list the different sensor types and how they work.

Light

Proximity

Sound

Images

Movements and Acceleration

Environment

Complete Kits

The last section contains a selection of complete robot kits that come with chassis, sensors, microcomputers and an instruction how to assemble everything into a functioning robot

Conclusion

In this article, I explained the various types of hardware that make up a robot. The “nervous system” of a robot are its SBC and MC, build on top of a chassis, and moves with motors. Sensors give the robot access to its environment, enabling it to process and act on external situations. The various example should provide you with a good overview about the many choices that you can make.

IT Project Manager & Developer