Wednesday, March 19, 2008

BUILDING ROBOTS: essential tools to make life easy

You can build most of the commercial robot kits with nothing more than the tools just discussed. The following tools, however, will make your robot building easier & more enjoyable

Digital multimeter (DMM)— A digital multimeter is an indispensable piece of electronic test equipment. As the name implies, it is designed to test ("meter") a number of different electronic components & events. Learning to use one of these gadgets can be a lifesaver when trying to figure out whether or not a component is dead

Third hand— It won't take you long while soldering electronics to realize you don't have enough hands available to hold the iron or need a robot arm!!!, the spool of the solder, & the components you are joining. You can only employ a parent, spouse, or child so many times before they'll mutiny. The answer is a device called a third hand (also sometimes called a helping hand). It sits on a sturdy base & has a number of adjustable "arms" with "alligator clips" on the ends. Some also have a magnifying glass, which can be helpful in the robot building process.

Metal file set— Inevitably, builders need to shave material here & there to make parts fit. The easiest & neatest way to do this is with a file set. You can get a cheap set for under $10.

Heat sink— A heat sink is a device that shunts heat away from an electronic component. Your computer has one or more heat sinks inside of it to keep damaging heat away from your processor & other components. In electronics, a heat sink tool is a little aluminum clip that you attach to components (on the component lead between the component & where you're soldering) to keep them relatively cool while you solder.

Battery recharger— Because most robots live on battery power (as does most every other portable electronics device in our lives), buying disposable batteries can get very expensive.

Hot glue gun— God bless this tool. A hot glue gun can quickly "weld" just about anything to just about anything else. Sticks of glue are fed into the gun, heated, & squeezed out the other end.



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