Advanced tools for building robots
These are pliers with a curved cutting edge which helps in cutting wires, clean up extra leads in components, etc. They have a stronger hold compared to wire strippers and can even cut hard metal wires.
Hot glue gun
Stick anything to anything using a hot glue gun :). A thermoplastic adhesive (glue sticks) melts inside a hot glue gun and squeezed out of its nozzles. The hot glue hardens on cooling and sticks to the surface. Hot glue is best suited to quickly stick components and also to insulate an object. However, be informed that they lose their strength upon heating. You can also use superglue to stick most of the components if you don’t have a hot glue gun.
Hot air gun
Also known as heat gun emits a stream of hot air. If you ever use a heat shrink tubing around your wires and solder joints, then a heat gun is best suited. With a bit of practice, you can also use a heat gun to solder and desolder SMD components. Do not confuse this with a hair dryer which looks similar; hot air gun runs at much higher temperature. (Do not try to dry your hair using a hot air gun as it might fry your head)
AC-DC Voltage converter
The name says it all. AC-DC voltage converter is used to convert AC from our home lines to DC. This converter has a coil inside and the output voltage can be varied from 1.5 volts to 18 volts. However, the current is generally limited to 500mA or 800mA. While building a robot, it is best to use these converters and save on batteries.
- Hand driller or Dremel: A small hand driller is very useful if you need to drill holes into PCB’s. If you are making PCB’s at home using etching technique (or any other method), then a small driller helps in making holes in PCB’s to mount components. If you are willing to, I suggest you to invest in a small electronic rotary tool (generally known as Dremel, the company name) which not only makes holes in PCB’s , but can also be used to cut, sand, carve and polish different materials.
- Drill (or commonly known as driller): A drill or a driller is used to drill holes into objects and runs on electricity. There are other manually operated drills which are not very convenient. A drill bit is attached to a drill and the rotating drill bit creates circular holes on the target material. Although this is similar to the previously mentioned rotary tool, is much more powerful. Drill bits are available in various sizes and are usually strong enough to drill wood and soft metals. If you are constructing a big robot and the platform is wood, then a drill is most essential tool. Apart from the size and capacity, there is no much difference in the working principle between this and the previously mentioned rotary tool.
These are tools used to pick and place tiny objects which are too small to be handled with our bare hands. They have one fixed end and two tongs at the other end. If you are into soldering SMD (surface mount devices) components, then tweezers are your best helping hand. These tools come in variety of shapes and sizes and I would recommend you to get a set of tweezers with different shapes.
Hacksaw is used to cut materials like plastic, metal and wood. It consists of a fine toothed blade held under tension in a metal frame. The blades are very brittle and break off while cutting; if you practice enough, then you can cut most metals, wood and plastic very easily.
For robots, you need a multimeter and LED for testing your circuits, and an electrical tester is generally used for testing AC lines to check if a conductor is live. This device looks like a small general purpose screw driver except that there is a neon lamp or a LED inside the tester. When you touch the front tip to a conductor and the backside grounded through your finger, it lights up if it detects voltage. In case you need to work on AC (if your robot uses your home AC power lines to work), then this should be a part of your lab kit.
Hammer is very useful if you want to deliver exceptional force on an object. They can be used to drive nails, breaking objects, bending metal sheets and rods etc. If any day, your robot goes against you and tries to harm you, keep it handy. A strong blow on the robots head and you are safe. :)
A torch here would mean a handheld electrically powered flash light. These devices generally run on batteries and have innumerous uses. A quick and handy light source;
Also known as a helping hand, this is one of the most important tools if you want to solder a lot of boards. These helping hands consist of a weighty base and arms with alligator clips attached. These clips are used to hold light weight objects, like PCB’s and then you can easily solder components over the PCB. Care should be taken while holding PCB’s as the clips can get a strong hold and break the tracks on PCB’s. Optionally, these third hands have a magnifier attached above the two alligator clips.
Scrubber and Sand paper
A scrubber is used to clean dust and grease on other materials; scrubbers can be either metal or wool. Sand paper, as the name suggests is used to sand the surface of other objects.
If you are building your first robot, then I am sure you would not make a mistake of throwing away components into a trash bin. But if you take it as a hobby or a profession, then you tend to create a lot of electronic waste. Keep a junk box near and dump all your e-waste into it. Why is it called a “Junk box”? This is because you can reuse most of this e-waste from this junk box to build wonderful robots. So, better don’t trash it; keep it with you unless your mom shouts at you…
Soldering emits a lot of smoke. I am not sure if it is dangerous, but it is advisable to keep a smoke absorber near your workspace to suck in the bad smoke.
A magnifier is used to see tiny objects. SMD components are hard to see and the markings on them are almost invisible to the naked eye. Always get a magnifier with a light source attached.
A file is a tool in the form or a bar or rod with small cutting edges on its surface. They come in different sizes and shapes and are very useful to cut fine amount of material from any objects. It is good to have a minimum of 5-6 different types of files with different sizes, shapes and tooth (the cutting edges on the surface) configurations.
Not a real necessity, but good to have one. If you have a programmer board and install board as two different boards, then you need to keep moving the chip from one board to another, in which case it is quite handy. Chip extractor is a U-shaped metal tool with an inward bent lip. However with experience, I can say that this never works right. If the chip is firmly inserted into the socket and then pulled out using a chip extractor, you end up bending (or worst, breaking) the pins. I normally use a small long screwdriver between the chip and socket and slowly push the chip upwards.
This is another optional tool which is used to measure the distance between two ends of an object. The tips of the caliper are adjustable and the scale helps to measure the length. Vernier caliper is the most commonly found caliper where the readings are read on the scale marked on the tool. Dial caliper on the other hand shows the readings on a simple dial. Digital caliper, as the name suggests shows the readings on a digital screen.
Your first robot might be made in cardboard with CD’s attached as wheels. As you go further, it is customary to build nice looking robots. Purchase construction materials for your robot platform like aluminum sheets, plastic sheets, wooden sheets, and HDPE and PVC sheets. You can also pile up different motors, tracks, wheels for different requirements.