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

  • 1.5 Ghz Quad Core ARM Cortex-72 processor, 1–8 GB RAM

Jetson Nano

  • 1,43 GhZ Quad Core ARM A57, 4 GB RAM

BeagleBoard X15


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

  • ATmga328P MCU, 2KB RAM

Arduino Nano

  • ATmga328P MCU

Feather boards


  • ATmga328P MCU


  • OSD3358 1GHz ARM, 512MB RAM

NodeMCU v2

  • ATmga328P MCU, 128KB RAM

Argon Wifi Development Board

  • ARM Cortex-M4F 32-bi, 4 MB RAM

Espressif Systems ESP8266

Espressif Systems ESP32

  • Tensilica Xtensa LX6 microprocessor, 520 KB RAM

ST Microelectronics STM32

  • ARM Cortex-M4F / M7F

Teensy 3.6

  • ARM Cortex M4 processor, 256KB RAM

MSP430 Launchpad

Netduino N3 Wi-Fi

  • ARM Cortex M4 processor, 256KB RAM


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


Continuous Belt



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

  • Stator produces a constant magnetic field that powers the rotor

Asynchronous AC / Induction

  • The stator produces a magnetic field which powers the rotor

Brushed DC motor

  • Inside the stator, brushes apply electric current to a rotating set of magnets that in turn power the rotor

Brushed DC Geared Motors

  • Improvement of the DC motor that comes with a set of intertwined gears to provide better torque and reduced speed

Brushless DC motor / Synchronous DC motor

  • Provide an alternating magnetic field inside the stator that power the rotor

Brushless DC stepper motor

  • Provide an alternating magnetic field inside the stator that power the rotor, and divides the rotation into discrete steps

Brushless DC Servo Motors

  • A special Brushless Motor that provides fine grained control of the rotor via an analogous or digital signal


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.


  • Photo resistor converts light intensity to electric resistance


  • Infra Red Transceivers emit infra-red light and measure the light reflection


  • Microphone


  • Camera

Movements and Acceleration

  • Provided via motors and their controllers


  • Temperature

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


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.

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