beanz Magazine

Robot Motors

Solarbotics on Flickr

An introduction to the devices that’ll make your robots zoom, skitter, and spin.

The term robot was introduced to the world in 1921 in a Czech play, Rossum’s Universal Robots. The word is derived from a term meaning “forced labor” and was used to describe an artificial person.

Fast forward almost 100 years to 2018 and not all roboticists agree on what exactly makes a robot a robot.

However most would agree that robots are made of the following main components: a control system (such as the CPU of a computer), sensors (such as infra-red, sound, pressure, …), actuators (usually a motor), a power supply (such as batteries) and end effectors (such as a gripper or a tool). These parts work together so that the robot can take in information from the world around it and respond appropriately.

Learning how each component works and how to wire them all together in order to build a functioning robot is a long-term project. To start, it is helpful to learn about the main components on their own. In this issue we will begin to understand actuators commonly used in basic robots.

Technically, an actuator is the part of a machine that is responsible for its motion. Most robots use motors as actuators.

There are quite a variety of motors available for beginning projects, and even more as we delve deeper into robotics. Perhaps three of the most common low-price motors are simple DC motors, stepper motors, and servos. These three groups of motors themselves encompass several subgroups. How can we know what motor to use for what purpose?

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