Time to spend some money....
What would you buy to tool up a workshop for building robots?
Metal, wood, plastic and electronics...what do you wish you had?
Looking forward to the suggestions.
I'd say electronic parts, motors. material and tools and knowledge
i'd probably want similar things to what i'd want in a rather general
metal shop hybridised with a pcb fab shop, but i don't want to use
chemicals. i'd rather not have a lot of noise, so it'd mostly be large
induction motors instead of universals. metal lathe, drill press, end
mill, light duty cnc mill, all on tiny roll away carts. i'd want a large
stock of plaster for making moulds, to cast plastic parts from plain old
pete(pop bottles). with nice quiet machines i could get away with
bringing the shop into my apartment, right now i have to get precast or
precut shapes, it means i must be a lot more creative, but it costs a bit
more to just buy parts.
Your budget is a large limiting factor in something like this.
Assuming I and some spare cash to spend on such a shop, here's what
Benchtop drill press. Under $100 cdn. Get a decent assortment of bits
and a drum sanding kit. A cross slider vise is handy for accurate
positioning. Pick up a prismatic jaw for the vise for drilling round
bars. With the right bits you'll be able to do some basic milling on
plastic and soft metals. (but it's slow and not that accurate)
Scroll saw. About $150cdn. Will cut tighter corners than a bandsaw and
is cheaper. Also possible to do inside cuts. Get an assortment of
A dremel kit with a nice assortment of bits. I find the router table
for it is a handy attachment with plastic cutting bits. The drill
press isn't that usefull for most plastic or metal work since the bits
spin so fast that heat is a problem. About $150cdn for a kit and
Small metal lathe. About $600-800cdn. You can get a 7X14" lathe that
can autofeed for cutting threads for that price. Can also do taper
cuts. Make sure to get a tailstock chuck and some spare cutters.
A small mig welder is handy if you do a lot of steel or aluminum work.
You'll probably spend $500-600cdn with some gas and wire. (assuming
you know how to weld)
A spare computer. You don't need much power here so it can be your
older system. You should have some sort of cad software, some circut
design software, and if possible a laser printer.
The idea is that you can layout frames in the computer, print them
out, then stick them to your metal or plastic using spray on adhesive.
(available at art supply stores) This gives you an easy template for
cutting and drilling and if you revise the design you just change the
cad file, print it out and stick on another template.
For laying out circut boards, you design them in the computer, print
them on the laser printer and photoetch them.
Parallax also sells an ocilliscope module that plugs into your USB
They also have modules to drive RC servos from your USB or serial
If possible you should locate the computer in another room and use
keyboard/mouse, and monitor extensions so the dust doesnt' kill it.
You'll need a good electronics bench. This would include a well lit
soldering station, a selection of wire, and an assortment of small
screwdrivers, nut drivers, fasteners, jumper wires, misc clamps, heat
shrink tubing, ect.
A externally ventilated drying box would be handy if you'r working
with fiberglass, rubber coating, painting, or anything else that gives
off fumes. I'd go with at least a 3' cube with a few heatlamps.
A decent shop vac for doing cleanup.
A selection of hand tools. Drill, sawzall, angle grinder, palm sander.
A torch and chopsaw are handy to have, but might be a bit much for a
basement workshop and you can do a lot of work without them.
A milling machine would also be nice if you have lots of cash to
spend, but it would be the last machine I'd buy. (although it could
replace the drill press and slider vise)
If you want to do your own anodizing or plating you'll need a few
plastic tanks, (coolers work well) pumps, and a power supply for
This stuff would let you do most robotics projects you'd want. Of
course there's probably stuff I've forgotten.
Or, you could just send me a blank cheque and I'll build my ideal
workshop and send you a picture and an inventory. :)
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Lies, All lies. Don't believe a word Difool/sayNO says.
He fears the truth!
All good stuff I would say.
If you make your own circuit board with through hole components, the
dremel and drill press with some small (0.5, 0.8, 1.0 mm) bits would be
perfect. Like you say though, maybe not so good for plastics.
I've been thinking about getting an oscilloscope myself. Are those USB
ones any good? What sort of limitations do they have ie. frequency,
voltage? I don't think I will need a really high spec scope but you
know how it goes, as soon as something has a limitation you invariably
need to go beyond that limitation.
I agree with that.
I am looking into putting some money into my own tools after
I finish my current book.
On the electronics side I want an osciliscope.
On the mechanical side I'm looking at a 3-in-1 machine
(lathe, drill, mill).
I would get this fully CNC'd out so that I can make parts
with as little effort on my part as possible.
Also, with the right software it should be able to make
single-sided PCBs fairly easily.
D. Jay Newman
I got an HP oscilloscope on from ebay for $10 US plus another $25 for
shipping and it hasn't let me down yet. Well, not entirely true, I wish
I had a digital storage Oscope, but until I can get one for 35 bucks...
I would also suggest you get either a good handheld or benchtop meter.
I got one from allelectronics.com that does frequency to 20khz (not
high, but ok enough for alot of things) capacitance, voltage, currrent,
resistance, audible continuity, transistor and diode testing for about $30.
A function generator is nice too, one with square, sine, and saw waves.
I built one using a maxim MAX038 chip:
And control it from a PC using a picaxe microcontroller:
most of the other parts I needed for it I got as free samples (including
the MAX038 itself) form maxim. It gives me the three waveforms,
adjustable duty cycle, frequency, sync pulse output, frequency
modulaiton and sweeping and some other things I'm probably forgetting.
It works not only as a function generator but a relatively stable
reference oscillator when needed to be. Also will generate clock pulses
needed for other prototyping needs without integrating a clocking
circuit yet. Total cost of that was probably around $20.
Another thing I've found invaluable is circuit simulation software. I
use Electronics Workbench 5 ("acquired" it back when I was in college),
but anyhitng your familiar with, or want to be, would work well.
I also use a Knight Electronics experimentor that I got form ebay for
less than $20. This gives me nearly all the digital and analog features
I'd want for prototyping, but I ripped off the breadboard that was on it
(just velcro'd) and use a much larger one that's separate from the
system itself. I may add more functionality to it in the big space left
by removing the breadboard if I see the need. It's nice because it's
all contained in a plastic lunchbox kinda case, and I can pull it out
when I need it and put it away when I dont.
I also couldn't live without my TI-83+ graphing calculator. Next to the
computers it's probably the most expensive bit of electronic equipment
I've bought so far. Sure, I could use a computer to do the same things
it does, but it's convenient to have it wherever and whenever it's
needed. Used to have a 95 (I think) but it got stolen :(. This is
another college years acquisition.
All this cost me ~$200 US and a little time and effort on my part, and
it's gone a long way towards making life easier and more productive from
the elctronics standpoint.
Don't make your own PCBs. There are so many board houses,
and the business is so competitive, that it's far better to
send the work out. It's so easy now, too; you send out
a file, and boards come back. Under $100 per turn, even.
And that's double sided with plated through holes.
Expresspcb.com has by far the coolest setup I've come across (if someone
knows better, let me know!)
You can get a protoboard service..3 identical boards (that have to
measure by whatever thier measurements are..like 2.5x3.8 inches) for 51
dollars shipped I believe. Double sided through hole plating, no solder
mask, no silk screen.
The best part about thier setup is you can download thier software,
design the pcb with it, then just click a menu option to quote a cost
with various production and volume options, and then another menu option
lets you order the boards right from the program. It uploads the design
to thier computers, and they tool up and make the boards, and mail em
off to you.
[snip some stuff]
Ummmm... CNC looks so easy on the outside, but when you actually
get around to doing it, it turns out to be much, much harder.
Plan on spending some serious $$$ for CAD/CAM software.
I couldn't find any accuracy and repeatability numbers for
the shoptask machine. (I didn't look too hard.) It matters
a great deal. Ballscrews are nice, but not all ballscrews are
The 3-in-1 machines tend to be an exercise in compromises.
Some people love them because they are very space limited,
but many people wind up selling their 3-in-1's off and buying a
separate lathe, mill and drill press.
Lastly, the tooling costs for outfitting a machine are quite
significant. A typical rule of thumb is to plan on spending
almost as much in tooling as you do in the machine itself.
You might want to back off a little and start with a smaller
Taig or Sherline benchtop units before diving into some big iron.
The Taig and Sherline's have a pretty good reputation and
tend to have a higher resale value. Many people opt. to keep
their benchtop units when the decide to get larger machines.
Making PCB's by milling out the space between traces is
called mechanical etching and is quite a bit harder
than most people realize. The mechanical etching bits tend
to wear out after 200-300 inches of etching and they cost
about $10 each. I was actually able to mechanically etch
a couple of boards in my life time, but rapidly concluded
that shipping board designs out to PCB house is really much
more cost effective. There are plenty of them out there --
for speed I use AP Circuits in Canada (2 days) and for low cost
I use Olimex in Bulgaria ($38 for 4"x6" including shipping.)
P.S. My real E-mail address is Wayne .at. Gramlich @dot@ Net.
This I understand. I'm setting this workshop up with some
fairly serious money because I need to work from home
while my wife gets better or worse.
I've talked with people, and there are few who have bad things
to say about this machine.
When I can afford a bigger house, I'll get bigger machines.
Right now a 3-in-1 fits in the space I need.
Ayup. Actually I'll probably be spending more.
I thought about that, but the smaller machines won't do the sort
of things I want to do. Sometimes bigger *is* better. :)
Yes, I've used Olimex also. I know these difficulties, but
it is hard to argue with a prototype that can be ready quickly.
But for a finished product I will go to a board house every
D. Jay Newman
for example, cstep, there's some software there, all the guy asks is
something around 2 dollars as a donation fo his ware that controls a
circuit board mill from standard files. hobbycnc has some plans and built
controllers, and a link to
which has some reasonabl
priced cam ware. dakeng has open source cnc ware.
my point is that if you want a commercial package you will have to spend
lots of money, but you can get every bit of woftware you need for free, or
At least now, I have better understanding of what you are getting at.
None of the software you list above comes close to meeting *my* needs.
Many people who get into hobbyist grade CNC wind up purchasing a
3D CAD package -- examples Rhino, Vector, BobCAD, Dolphin, TurboCAD,
etc. These packages clock in at $500-$1500. These were the packages
I was referring to in my original reply to Jay. I am unaware of any
free package that comes close to the features that these packages have.
I would love you (or anybody else) to show me wrong.
But I do agree with you, there is some nice, free, or almost free stuff
out there. In particular, there are several G-code interpreters out
there (EMC, TurboCNC, and Mach II) that are quite reasonably priced.
there's probably something out there for free that does that stuff. free
stuff doesn't work too well for everybody, but i figure that it'll get the
job done 95% of the time. but if the links aren't for you they're for
somebody that will get use.
maybe intellicad, i've been looking at the site, looks like theres an
unlimited non-commercial version, but i'm too lazy to dig it up.
has some stuff that's
marked down, like turbocad, probably an old version, but if you don't need
super up to date it'll probably work.
some of the links look old, but it's been recently updated, and bcad looks
cheap and good.