I strongly recommend Gordon McComb's _Robot_Builder's_Sourcebook_
for robotics parts ideas. Really, this is only robotics book on
my short indoor bookshelf. It sits next to the DigiKey, Mouser,
and Jameco electronics catalogs.
For robot frames I use foamed PVC and HDPE. The foamed PVC can
be purchased from Tap Plastics from the internet. It comes in 1/8"
thickness and 1/4" thickness. It cuts and drills like butter.
HDPE is basically cutting board plastic. It may be cheapist to
simply buy a cutting board. I get mine from the scrap bins at
Tap plastics. HDPE cuts and drill easily. I can also tap threads
into it. I rarely use acrylic, but I do have a pile of it that I
got from the Tap plastics scrap bin. Lastly, I use angle aluminum.
I purchase mine from Metal Supermarkets, but Home Depot also sells
I have a large collection of hardware screws, nuts, washers, etc.
so I do not have to run off to the hardware store. These are
carefully stored in 40 drawer organizers. When I buy hardware,
it is always in units of 100 (or more.) I always hold everything
together with screws. If I change my mind, I just unscrew,
drill another hole somewhere else and try something different.
I used to keep a lot on hand but, seriously, I recently just gave 90% of
it away. I spent good money for it over the last 20-30 years, never used
the bulk of it, and it was just taking up space in my garage. I'm at a
time in my life when I want to downsize rather than acquire, I guess.
Today I am very much in the "just in the time" mindframe. Of course I
keep basic pieces of plastic and aluminum (same exact stuff as Wayne in
his reply), and I have storage bins for hardware. I gravitate toward
4-40 hardware, which you can't get at most hardware stores, so I keep a
variety of that in storage bins.
But I'm no longer a collector of junk and I tend to buy things when I
need them. Most of my circuits these days are based on a
microcontroller, so even my electronics bench is fairly bare because the
circuits are much simpler. Gone are the boxes and boxes of caps,
resistors, transistors, and other stuff. I have two 24-drawer bins for
all my remaining electronics parts, and I don't use 98% of it. But,
it's more convenient than going out each time if I need an LED or
What I like to do is plan ahead for my projects, order what I need from
my favorite online resources (Spark Fun for the unusual stuff, Digikey
for Sharp sensors, microcontrollers, and some others, a variety of
catalog resources like Jameco or BG Micro for everything else), and then
wait for the packages arrive. Honestly, it's more fun that way 'cuz it's
like Christmas all over again!
I suspect that what sort of materials people use is too individual for
a general answer to be helpful.
My general rule of thumb is that whenever I need something I buy
extra. So if I need one perfboard I buy two; if I need six screws I
buy a box. That's built up a pretty good collection of just the
things I need most over time.
Polytechforum.com is a website by engineers for engineers. It is not affiliated with any of manufacturers or vendors discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.