Tooling Up a Robotics Workshop

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.
TMT
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I am surprised by the no response I am getting from this question.
Doesn't anyone build robots anymore?
TMT
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wrote:

i missed the original post, what was it?
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It went:
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.
TMT
I'd say electronic parts, motors. material and tools and knowledge
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wrote:

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.
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On 25 Feb 2005 20:34:16 -0800, "Too_Many_Tools"

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 I'd buy: 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 spare blades.
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 router table.
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 port. They also have modules to drive RC servos from your USB or serial ports. 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 electroplating.
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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Jeff H........
Lies, All lies. Don't believe a word Difool/sayNO says. He fears the truth!
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Jeff Holinski wrote: 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.

You wish..
Me too!!
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Matthew Gunn wrote:

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:
( http://www.adcritic.com/interactive/view.php?idY27 )
And control it from a PC using a picaxe microcontroller:
( www.picaxe.co.uk)
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.
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RockyLogic's ANT-8 logic analyzer is superb. I wouldn't trade in my TDS-420A though.
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Jeff Holinski wrote:

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). http://www.shoptask.com/shoptaskwebsite/machines.htm
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
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D. Jay Newman wrote:

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.
                John Nagle                 Team Overbot
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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.
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Andy P wrote:

I used the pad2pad software, though I haven't ordered boards yet. Similar software, similar service, except they also *load the boards* with most of your parts. They only have a very few semis, but just getting all the SMD Rs and Cs is a big saving. And if you design with 2N2222's and 555's, you're covered for semi's also :-).
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D. Jay Newman wrote:
[snip some stuff]

Good choice.

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 created equal.
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.)
My $.02,
-Wayne
P.S. My real E-mail address is Wayne .at. Gramlich @dot@ Net.
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Wayne C. Gramlich wrote:

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 time. -- D. Jay Newman http://enerd.ws/robots /
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wrote:

that is for good software, there's ok cad/cam software that can be gotten free, there's a range of low cost ware ranging from garbage to better than you'd expect as well. some links: http://www.angelfire.com/az2/proff / http://www.angelfire.com/ego/stevenmanzer/CNCMachines.html http://www.luberth.com/cstep/ http://www.dakeng.com/ http://www.hobbycnc.com/
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jim dorey wrote:

Jim:
Maybe I'm dense, but I looked at the links above and could not figure out what you are getting at.
-Wayne
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wrote:

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 http://www.deskam.com/ 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 near free.
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jim dorey wrote:

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.
-Wayne
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wrote:

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. http://store.yahoo.net/cadandgraphics/cad.html 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. http://www.freebyte.com/cad/cad.htm some of the links look old, but it's been recently updated, and bcad looks cheap and good.
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