Materials to build a Robot

Robot building from scratch would mean using raw materials like wood, plastic and metal to create a robot body. Most robot builders get ready made kits and assemble them; but if you are into building everything from scratch, then you would need the following materials.

Choosing the right material

When you are choosing a material, there are several aspects to consider. First and foremost is the price and availability. A ton of expensive materials out of your reach is useless, unless you are a billionaire planning to make a simple and stupid robot (Robots excuse!!!). The next aspect is about their shaping and machining. Get materials which are easy to handle and reshape with available tools. A strong metallic robot might look cool, but you cannot bend and break hard iron with your hobby knife. Make sure you have the right tools, right materials and the right skills.


If you would want your robot to be in shape for a few days, avoid using cardboard. However if you want to build a quick prototype, then a cardboard is a “must-have”. They can be easily cut into any shape and size and are widely available.


Wood is your first choice if you need to build an inexpensive robot. The wood slab in your backyard can do the work. When you think of a robot, it is easy to visualize it as a metal robot. Think again; wood has several advantages compared to other materials like plastic or metal. It is durable, inexpensive and easy to cut into shapes and does not require molding.

There are also different types of untreated wood and manufactured wood materials available and you can use them based on your requirement. Stay away from heavy wood pieces like one from Oak; they may be strong, but very difficult to cut and drill. Similarly, stay away from very soft wood like Pine; they are useless and break very easily.


This is a type of manufactured wood where thin wooden sheets are glued together and is one of the most widely used wood products and are available in different sizes and thickness. For robot chassis this is the best choice. However you cannot use this type of wood to create robot parts as the only possible shape of plywood is as a flat piece of wood.

Other types of manufactured wood like Oriented strand board, Fiberboard, Particle Board and hardboard can also be used for robot chassis. If you find them good enough and have necessary equipments to cut them into required shape, then go ahead and make your wood based chassis.

Balsa Wood

Extremely popular in the RC robot community, balsa wood is a soft, lightweight, but stiff material with multiple uses. It is not the lightest of all woods, but has an amazing strength to weight ratio. Raw balsa wood has high moisture content and it has to be dry before use. Extensively used in World War I, Balsa wood is still popular and is available either as sheets or as round dowels. If you are into building model airplanes from scratch, then you ought to have a pile of Balsa sheets, sticks and blocks. Cutting and sawing is also extremely easy and you don’t need a power-saw, but just a few simple hand tools and a sand paper to sand the wood.

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