Posts Tagged ‘Project’

Shakeable Dynamo Part 1: Why bother?

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First of all I have to start by condemning Brother Industries for what ultimately motivated me to build this basic prototype, allow me to explain and I apologise for the rant, the good stuff follows…

I read an article on the BBC news website (Vibration packs aim to replace batteries for gadgets) about a new type of battery developed by Brother that would require no external power source to charge it, just vibration from shaking it a few times. The aim being to replace batteries in low power applications such as TV remotes etc… thus removing alot of these batteries from the environment and ultimately saving energy.

A really nice, clean and elegant solution which could really benefit not only the developed world but for people in the developing countries. What a great company Brother Industries is until you read at the bottom of the article “There are no plans to commercialise the batteries as yet, according to Brother.”

Wait… So you’ve invented, or rather figured a way to not only replace millions of batteries in the common household, cutting down on waste and pollution providing free energy. But also a way to provide cheap portable power sources to people who can’t afford batteries, giving us as near as you’ll get to an ‘ever lasting battery‘!

And instead of rushing this to market, you do what… Nothing! Absolutely nothing. What a shame and a waste, I can’t help but feel that people at Brother have an interest in Duracell etc… as they obviously wouldn’t appreciate a battery that you don’t need to replace. It’s that kind of mindset of greed and ignorance that ruins the planet for the rest of us.

So this is leading somewhere, I assure you! I thought, how hard can this be to build my own – wouldn’t it be great to build a set of batteries that I could use to power my remote, wait wouldn’t it be even cooler to use this to power my Arduino? or even better build an interactive TV remote that you used like a wand to change channel with no power source needed. When you start imagining the potential applications and how this could revolutionise electronics and interactivity, its even more of a shame on Brother for doing nothing with this. Imagine Nintendo using this in their Wii remotes for instance? Imagine this being used to build a simple water tester… etc.

Anyway, here’s the start of it I’m going to show you how to build a basic dynamo with a bridge rectifier that converts our AC current to DC, and the size of it is not much bigger than an AA battery – it’s my first attempt and it turned out pretty well. It generates enough electricity to power an LED – doesn’t sound like much but when I figure out a condensing and charging circuit that’s when the fun starts – for which I’m hoping that you fine people of the web will help me out! 🙂

Ready to learn a bit about electro-magnetism and inductance?

Shakeable Dynamo Part 2: Building the initial dynamo
Shakeable Dynamo Part 3: How electromagnetic induction works
Shakeable Dynamo Part 4: Building the bridge rectifier

Arduino Robot Arm – LarryArm v0.1

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I have constructed a basic Arduino robot arm using 3 servos that cost me £15 in total plus a couple of hours in time to build and it’s very simple that I think anyone can replicate and build this. I already had the Arduino Duemilanove ATMEGA328, some foamboard, tools and glue. The robot arm has 3 joints and moves in the X and Y dimensions – not the Z (although I will build this in subsequent versions). I’ve included some very basic Arduino robot arm code along with robot arm design / blueprints and measurements for you to download and build (on any material).

So firstly, I had a look around for robot arm kits that could be brought rather than fabricating the parts myself – I found the prices to be extremely prohibitive. I then looked at getting a design fabricated but most of the designs I’ve seen rarely give you or decent assembly instructions. I also looked at servo brackets and constructor sets but again whilst the odd piece is OK trying to get the parts for a robot arm is too expensive.

Where does this leave me, apart from being too poor to afford a robot arm kit? Well I thought how hard can it be to design and build my own robot arm? Surely I can do it for less and if it works I can publish the results and schematics rather than just a video of it working. So follow my below steps.

The first problem of designing your robot arm is how do you mount the servos? Most kits tend to use some kind of bracket that the servo is mounted into, the armature then mounted to this bracket. For a simpleton like me this seems like a lot of effort, my workshop skills not being that great and neither is my patience, I didn’t want to go down this route. After much thought I hit upon a simple idea, rather than build a bracket, how about altering the servo casing its self. They’re made from ABS plastic, they’re cheap and tough enough that drilling a hole to create a mounting peg should be easy, the drawing below shows where I added the bolt at the bottom, although measurements only show the nut the bolt is about 8mm in length – all depends on how thick your material is you’re using for the arm.

As you can see from the photos below, I take the base of the servo off and drill a hole in about the same position as the servo shaft at the top, this then allows me to place the servo directly into the armature using a bolt through the base of the servo so that it can turn freely in the arm without needing a bracket.

Robot Arm Servo Modification


Take the servo base off


Drill the servo base


Modded servo for arm

Arduino Robot Arm Design


Once this problem is overcome, the rest is easy. You can use my robot arm design below, click on the image to download the PDF:

Just print this off and stick it to the material that you’re cutting then cut the shapes out, if you’re using something more rigid than foamboard you won’t need the cross supports I added. I’ve also included a measurement of my servo in the diagram and remember to alter the measurements for the thickness of your material if needed (My foamboard was 5mm thick).

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Robot Arm Assembly Instructions


Robot arm


Robot arm parts




Nearly finished robot arm

And as you can see from above the main arm gets assembled using nothing more than hot glue and my cutting isn’t even that neat. Here are the assembly steps:

1) Download and print my design
2) Glue the printouts to your material you wish to use
3) Cut all parts out
4) In joints B and D you’ll need to make a hole for the servo bolt to sit in – my drawings have this area marked as well as a larger circle for positioning the top of the servo
5) Now we fx the parts together, you’ll need to put the servos into joints A and C first, I used ht glue to fix the servo wheel to the arm, but you can screw it instead for a stronger fixing
6) With joints A and C in place we attach the joints B and D
7) Finally we attach joint A to a base so that we can counter weight the arm

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Robot Arm Arduino Sketch and Circuit


Thats it. Now we just plug the servos into the Arduino board and control them with a simple sketch (below). For the circuit I used a breadboard to share the power supply to all the servos and the outside pin (normally white or orange) gets connected to a PWM pin on the Arduino board (9, 10 or 11 in this case)

The control of the servos and the circuit is no more complicated than my other Arduino servo projects

LarryArm v0.1 Arduino Robot Arm test sketch to check servos and arm works.


Servo shoulder;
Servo elbow;
Servo wrist;
int pos = 0;    

void setup()

void loop()
  for(pos = 0; pos < 180; pos += 1)     {                                       shoulder.write(pos);       elbow.write(pos);     wrist.write(pos);     delay(15);            }    for(pos = 180; pos>=1; pos-=1)

With that loaded in I got the following result, it worked but there were a couple of bugs. Turns out the servos are using more power than my USB port to te Arduino board can provide, so I’ll have to run the servos on a separate power supply. Also turns out that you get what you pay for, I brought the cheapest servos and they struggle to accurately write their position. For anyone wondering what that is on top of the arm its just the heaviest thing I could find near by to counter weight the robot arm.