Introduction: DIY PIXAR: M-O (Microbe Obliterator) Cleaner Bot

Picture of DIY PIXAR: M-O (Microbe Obliterator) Cleaner Bot

Hey Instructabrarians, it's July 27th and you know what that means! Probably not because I just made it up, it's PIXAR Animation Fan Week! Folks, if you've ever seen my DIY PIXAR booth at the San Mateo Maker Faire, you'll know that I am a mega huge PIXAR fan.  I absolutely love their movies and grew up watching their very first film Toy Story and have
since had an avid obsession with each one of their movies. And this week, in honor for their newest exhibit at the Oakland Museum of Art, PIXAR 25 Years of Animation, I'm very pleased to present some of my favorite PIXAR builds I've made!

First one this week is M-O the Microbe Obliterator.  You might remember him from PIXAR's Oscar Winning film WALL-E, he was tiny cleaning robot whose sole purpose was to keep protect the Axiom from FOREIGN CONTAMINANTs. Now, we've seen a lot of fantastic cleaning robots on this website, and I thought I could perhaps weigh in with some of my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Directive) brethren to share my love for
cleaning. WALL-E is one of my favorite movies and from that film, and M-O is probably my favorite PIXAR character of all time.  That's why he's the first in my PIXAR related instructables this week!

Step 1: Modus-Operandi

Picture of Modus-Operandi
When I reverse engineer anything into real life, my underlying goal is always to respect the construction of the object. As I began to plan out M-O, I knew I wanted my robot to feature nearly everything that his on screen character counterpart displayed. The features I wanted my robot to exhibit were these:
  1.  Rotating scrub brush (his main cleaning functionality as shown in WALL-E)
  2. Vehicular Rollerball (ability to move around)
  3. Extendable Arms
  4. Disinfectant Carrying Backpack
  5. Compactability, no external battery packs or wires, everything should be able to fit within his tiny frame
With these in mind, I drew this rough sketch of how I thought everything might be able work in real life.  Now he's still a work in progress, so if anyone has any ideas/ suggestions on how I might be able to improve my build, please share!  I'm always looking for better ways to improve my builds.

Step 2: Materials

Picture of Materials

Ok, there's probably a simpler way to build this robot, but I really wanted to add in as much features to my M-O as there were in the film (ie motorized rollerball, extendable arms, rotating scrub brush, etc). I ended up doing a lot of part hunting for various electronic stores, flea markets and craft stores in order to get all of the parts I needed for my robot.

1) Clean N Go M-O toy (I remember I bought mine at Toys R Us.  Not sure if they still sell them but you can definitely get them on eBay)
2) Computer mouse ball(s)
3) Wooden Dowels (around 1/2 inch diameter)
4) Black Felt (or unless you want to get creative with your brushes, see step 6)
5) Thin plastic sheet (like from empty pastry containers)
6) small brass nails
7) thin black wire tubing
8) those small plastic quarter machine capsules you can find at supermarkets
9) Clear plastic tubing (I got mine at Tap Plastics)
10) Small Rubberbands (you can also use the tips from water balloons)
11) Large plastic drinking straw
oh and also a straightened paperclip

1) Computer fan motors (needs to be really really small, like close to 1/2'' in diameter)
2) Small DC hobby motors (like those found in some RC vehicles)
2) thin insulated wire
3) 1.5 volt watch batteries (like those used for LED throwies)
4) Small switches

1) Dremel
2) Electric Drill w/ old drill bits (like ones you probably won't care to see again)
3) Metal Vice
4) Super Glue & Epoxy
5) Pliers, tweezers and wire cutters
6) Screwdriver kit
7) Hot Glue
8) Soldering Iron

Step 3: Disassemble M-O Toy

Picture of Disassemble M-O Toy

Ok, to to begin, start by disassembling your Clean N Go M-O robot toy and remove all of his action "toy" features.  There are four screws at the bottom of the toy, which are holding in the plastic "wheel plate" at the bottom.  Unscrew these and then using your tweezers/ pliers remove the blue plastic toy cleaning mechanism. 

To remove the top of the head, unscrew the four screw that are situated directly underneath and around the neck.  The top of the head should be opened fairly easily.

Then, to remove the arms, locate the two slots right underneath the head.  You'll notice two yellow spacers that are connecting M-O's arm pegs to his body.  Using your tweezers/ pliers, remove these.

Once you have disassembled everything, use your dremel tool and cut away at the bottom faceplate, until all you are left with is a rectangular frame.

Step 4: Prepare the Rollerball

Picture of Prepare the Rollerball

Ok, so now that you've fully disassembled the M-O toy, it's time to begin working on the electronics!  In the movie WALL-E, M-O travels along the ground using a small rollerball system, which can propel him at high speeds as he cleans.  Creating this wasn't that easy and it actually took me several months of testing and experimentation before I finally settled on an idea.  The way my motor system works is sort of like a bicycle & chain combination.  A dense rubber ball is situated within a kind of plastic housing container.  Two motors are place on opposing sides of the ball's plastic housing, and the ball is fixated on an axel paperclipTwo rubber bands are connected between the axel and the motors, and thusly, when the motors spin, they turn the ball.

First, straighten a paperclip.  This will be used as the axel for your rollerball. 

Then, using the metal vice and your power drilldrill a hole as straight as possible through the mouseball.  Yeah, I know it sounds difficult (and it really is) but so far I haven't been able to think of any better way to keep the ball within the housing and still have enough space for the motors to make it spin.  Be very careful to keep the ball stabilized as best as possible, otherwise you may break your drill bits.  Also, don't make the hole too large, otherwise you won't be able to balance the paper clip axel. 

Once that's done, you can begin working on the housing.  Using your dremel bit, drill small holes on each sides of the plastic quarter machine capsule, barely underneath the top's curve (this is where you'll place the motors).  The quarter machine capsule will fit around your mouse ball nicely, so make sure you have enough space between the motors and the ball, so that it can spin easily.

After that, cut an appropriate length from you plastic tubing (around 1 1/2inches), so that, when the plastic tubing is placed on top of the plastic capsule,  will allow the mouse ball to barely peek out from the bottom. 

Once you're done, you can glue everything together (ie, mouseball in housing, supported by paperclip axel, two mini rc motors above, and then wire through the plastic tubing).

Step 5: Motorized Roller

Picture of Motorized Roller

Now it's time to begin working on the motorization arm cleaners!  These rotating arm motors are what allows M-O to carry out his specialized cleaning directive in the film.  Now, these aren't too difficult to build, as long as you have the right parts. 

Begin by taking apart the arms from your M-O toy (if you haven't already). The arms are protected by a plastic faceplate, which should be easily removable, by either using a screwdriver or a tweezer.  Once you remove the arms, you'll notice that there is a thin slot which allows for the arm of the toy to extract in and out.  VERY carefully, extend the slot to the back, but do not cut it all the way (you need to have the clip at the end).

Dremel out the hands until they are completely flat.  This will be the holder for the computer fan motors.

Then, taking your small computer fan, cut it out from the housing so that all is left is the motor and the fan blade.  Then, using your wire cutters, snap/cut off all of the blades from the fan until you are simply left with a round disc. These will serve as the primary "holders" for the scrub brush. 

Once you have completed that, glue the small computer fan motor onto the robot's hands.  Then, drill a small hole from the plastic faceplate and the robot's body, so that the wire from the motor can go through. 

Do this for both arms.

Note: I forgot to mention this, but when taking apart the computer fans make sure you do not lose the ball bearing!  It's really small and very easily lost so be very careful not to loose it!  If you can, you can try gluing it in carefully, but make sure that it still allows enough space for the fan blade- pin to fit.  I actually broke mine this way.

Step 6: Preparing the Head/ Battery Container

Picture of Preparing the Head/ Battery Container

Now that you're done with both the body and the arms, we can carry on to the head.  M-O's empty head is provides you with a lot of great space, perfect for concealing all of the batteries for the robot.  This is also where I'm going to be placing both of the switches, one for roller-ball and the other for the arm motors.

Using your dremel tool, cut a slot between the two screw holes on the bottom part of the head, so that your micro switch can fit in easily.  Then, cut a small hole in the back so that wires from your fan blades can come through.  Then dremel a small hole on the top of the body, so that the wires can come through it too.

For the Roller- Ball head, there's a small hole at the bottom of the body, protected by a screw.  Remove that screw, so that the Roller-Ball wires can come through the neck.

Step 7: Optional: Disinfectant Backpack

Picture of Optional: Disinfectant Backpack

Great!  Now that you've finished everything with the head, arms, and roller ball system, it's time to begin with the optional step: the Disinfectant Backpack!  Now essentially, you don't really need to do this, you could just glue the half opened plastic blue backpack onto the robot and carry on to step 8, but I personally think that this doing this extra step will make your M-O robot so much cooler.  It's so easy to do!  Plus, imagine how convenient it would be to not only carry around a tiny scrubbing robot, but also your own emergency pack of cleaning solution! 

The blue backpack is exactly 1'' by 1 1/2'', so you want to cut a rectangle that shape out of the thin plastic sheet.  This will be placed over the missing back, as to create a sturdy containment for holding all of your solutions.  Then using your dremel tool, drill a small hole on the top of the container, which you can use to fill it up.  As a water proof cap, I used a tiny mechanical pencil eraser.

Then all you have to do is glue it up!

Step 8: Scrub Brushes!

Picture of Scrub Brushes!

Alright! Now that you've successfully created everything, it's time to work on creating M-O's customized scrub brushes!  This part is my personal favorite of the project, as these brushes are super easy to create and you can really get creative when making these. 

For the easiest scrub brush, measure the length between each arms, and then cut an appropriately sized piece from your wooden dowel.  Then hot glue the dowel to each of the fan blades (that way it can later be removed, if necessary).  Then, take a piece of (black) felt and wrap it around the dowel, holding it together with rubber bands/ hot glue.  And there you go! 

You can actually get really creative when working on these mini brushes.  I personally have an entire collection of them dedicated to different spills and messes such as a sponge, a metal scrubber and yarn mop. 

Step 9: Putting It Together

Picture of Putting It Together

Yes, you're almost finished!  Now that you have finished creating everything, it's time to connect it up and put together the finished robot!

To make the battery packs for the 1.5 watch batteries, I cut a small section out from a large plastic drinking straw.  Also, for the wires, I put thin pieces of sheet metal, just to make the connection easier.

For connecting the motors together (the hobby motors to each other, and the scrub brush motors together),  solder each of the motor's plus wires together, and each of their minus wires together.  In that sense, when each set of motors (the hobby and scrub brush) will be sharing their own batter packs.

Remember that when connecting the plastic tubing pipe for the Roller Ball, that the wires are going to need to go through the neck hole, so glue the plastic tube directly underneath it.  The motors for the scrub brushes get fed through the hole at the top of the body, through the black insulated wire tubing, and into the back of the head.  The black insulated tubing will provide protection for the wires, as well as being very flexible.

Finally, solder each of the wires from the motors to the switch

Note:  It would be a very good idea to label which wires are for which motors ahead of time, so you won't have to be testing each wire combination later.

Step 10: Completed!

Picture of Completed!

So there you have it, a working M-O cleaning bot replica!  I never truly feel that my inventions are ever fully completed, there's still a lot of things I love adding to them, and M-O is still a work in progress for me.  I'm thinking of perhaps adding on a mini flashing LED siren light later as well as a couple more brushes. 

Anyway, I hope that all of your other electronic projects go well and that I may have provided you with some additional help for cleaning up afterwards. Oh, and stay tuned for my next PIXAR instructable later on this week!


Infinitevortex (author)2014-01-08

Very cool! Can you post a video of him in operation?

thedevilyoudont (author)2012-01-29

WOW pretty sweet man! can a make a suggestion though? if you were to use a second set of drive motors and wire them up similar to how a tank drives (one side forward and one side back to turn) you could potentially set it up to move similar to the balancing robots you see here (and this would take some doing and probably a full redesign (thinking I might do it myself too) but you could also use the liquid filled backpack as a kind of ballast to help him balance. alternately if you were to attach the brushes a little differently so they were hinged he could potentially be steered by raising/lowering the arms in opposing directions...
just future Ideas though no criticism meant and certainly nothing negative you did an amazing job on this little guy. Im definitely going to try to make one

dandroid20xx (author)2011-10-12

This is brillant

mph121 (author)2011-10-02


Matrix-technician (author)2011-05-31

This is absolutely amazing!. One of my favorite character robots on this site! I must have one of these! Also a sugesstion. If and when i make mine i thought about using a higher grade micro motor. such as you find in rc helicopters. How well did these cheap motors perform? If the seemed to do alright let me know. I would be much happier using a cheap motor i fit works just fine.

SHIFT! (author)Matrix-technician2011-05-31

Although I'm pretty sure they shouldn't cost more than $5 each or so.

SHIFT! (author)Matrix-technician2011-05-31

Hmmm, not sure. I used mine from a 1.5 micro dc motor that came from mini rc cars not helicopters so I wouldn't know. I just bought two cars, both of which cost $15 each at my local hobby shop and they both contained a total of 2 motors separate.

Matrix-technician (author)2011-05-31

It would be really cool to add some kind of simple pump system to actually dispence the bacpack solution directly onto the brush or have it do like a fan spray onto the surface being cleaned.

SHIFT! (author)Matrix-technician2011-05-31

This has been addressed before and yes have thought of doing this but there wouldn't be enough space for all of the electronics.

Matrix-technician (author)2011-05-31

Could you substitute a cd player spinner motor in place of these fan motors?

SHIFT! (author)Matrix-technician2011-05-31

I suppose you might, not sure how big a CD spinner motor is though. I just used a fan blade because it's small enough and operates under very low voltage.

ms10 (author)2011-05-28

i liked it
where did you got all these things from

ksiedlecki (author)2011-05-22

can u send me all the materials used, and maybe where to find the materials like the motors, etc.
me email:
also, can u post a vid of it moving.

SHIFT! (author)ksiedlecki2011-05-23

Video will be posted eventually.  All the parts need are listed on the parts page.

spylock (author)2011-05-22

The drawing is cool,they actually look pretty nice frammed.

sunshiine (author)2011-05-17

I will share this! Thanks for posting.

Codynater (author)2011-05-01

Yo, How much did this cost you all together? I was thinkin about making one of these, but afterall, I dunno how old you are, but im only 13, so to me this is kinda hard. Also, have you ever considered to sell some of these on Ebay!? Cuz I would definatly buy one!!! Plz get back bro,

SHIFT! (author)Codynater2011-05-01

Hi Codynater, I can't remember the exact cost of him, but IIRC all of the parts were under $15. However, it's not exactly the cost rather than finding all the parts the actually worked.  If you've got all the right parts (ie mini computer fan, small cm dc motors) then you could probably do this project- it's not extremely difficult.

I have no plans on selling any of my builds.  Sorry.

Codynater (author)SHIFT!2011-05-02

Ok, I have enough money to cover the cost of this, but im pretty sure I have everything I would need to make him. Also, He is one of my most favorite pixar characters, so this is a really cool project, and hopefully its not extremely difficult, but I know you have had experience, so I dunno, But if I need any help ill be sure to ask you!

SHIFT! (author)Codynater2011-05-02

Fantastic! Good luck with your build and please send me a picture of your finished product!

Cobalt59 (author)2011-02-27

He is SO CUTE! I love pixar animation!

SHIFT! (author)Cobalt592011-03-01

Thanks Cobalt59! I love M-O, he's my all time fave PIXAR character!

Cobalt59 (author)SHIFT!2011-03-04

My favourite would have to be Luxo jr. But I don't know if he counts.

SHIFT! (author)Cobalt592011-03-07

Nope LUXO Jr. totally counts- he is in every single PIXAR film after all.

Cobalt59 (author)SHIFT!2011-03-08

That's true!

aminn (author)2011-03-07

great nice. dud..

SHIFT! (author)aminn2011-03-07

Thanks aminn!

Miscellaneous (author)2010-11-22

Does this robot only move in one direction or does it have the ability (when it hits a wall or such) to turn and continue on its way?

SHIFT! (author)Miscellaneous2010-11-28

It's unidirectional for the time being. But like I said, this is a work in progress and for a larger scale model I'm planning on adding a drive track to him so he can hopefully follow a line.

Waren-Neutron (author)2010-10-31

such a nice job to make a robot

lupus mortii (author)2010-09-18

use a tube to attach the backpack to the brush so it can actually clean things

SHIFT! (author)lupus mortii2010-09-21

Thanks for your comment lupus. Yes I did think about doing something like that originally, but I ultimately decided not to do so sense along with trying to make the robot function, I wanted it to be a real life replica of the one on screen.

However, one of the brushes I actually made for my M-O robot functions as a Sponge. I added a thin siphon like tube from the backpack and into the hollow brush, so that water can fill up periodically. Then, as it rolls across the ground, it gently expels the cleaning water over the messy area.

Applejuice11 (author)2010-09-09

This is SOOOO cute! i need to make this! M-O is my favorite character ever!

SHIFT! (author)Applejuice112010-09-21

Thanks Applejuice11! I love M-O too, he's easily my favorite PIXAR character of all time! He's a very interesting character, that he's so cute but takes his job extremely seriously, which is what I really pushed for in the design of my bot.

tech industries (author)2010-08-30

just a couple suggestions: 1.what if you added some type of double gyroscope inside so the whole thing could balance on just the mousewheel, at least for a short period of time could attach a servo to the mouse-ball container so it could act as some sort of steering 3. using a microcontroller (such as an arduino nano) programmed to clean at regular intervals, like a mini-roomba 4. shape the the cleaning head so it resembles the blades of an impeller; that way, you could have some pump action which could actually be used to draw some disinfectant from the backpack (presumably to be used when cleaning) I just wanted to run these by you and anyone else who comments on this instructable, as I was thinking of making one of these myself

SHIFT! (author)tech industries2010-09-21

Thanks for your comments and suggestions Tech Industries! My main thing with building this robot was 1) Make it as Movie Accurate as possible and 2) Make it actually function. I was originally thinking about using a gyroscopic balancer on him, or at least making him bottom heavy so he can move upright, but the problem I found while doing so was that the electronics to move his rollerball around wouldn't be small enough to fit nicely inside his torso, and I would have to create some kind of extruding base (which I didn't want to do). I know it doesn't quite look like it from the pictures, but I actually had a few problems getting all of the basic electronics to fit in him already, so I had to make a few sacrifices to make it fit. I also wasn't really interested in adding any sort of addendum to the Water Backpack, as that wasn't really in the movie. I did, however, make several interchangeable Sponge and Mop brushes for wet and dry cleaning.

I will probably build a larger scale version of M-O during the summer, which should have a balancing gyroscope.

knexman123 (author)2010-08-24

dose it actully move arond and if it dose you should post a vid of it

SHIFT! (author)knexman1232010-08-25

Yep, it can move around fully, but right now only goes in a straight line. I'll post a video of it soon.

knexman123 (author)SHIFT!2010-08-25

thats coool i would love to see the a vidio i would deffentyl make it if it had steering

knexman123 (author)knexman1232010-08-26

you could have a little jocky wheel at the back with a servo and a sender and reciver hooked up to all the motors in so u could control it with a remote

jeffreyshi (author)SHIFT!2010-08-25

i would really appreciate that. It sounds like a great idea!!!

BECKBERRY (author)2010-08-01

This is sooo cool! My little brother is a piggy, this would make a great present for my mother!!!

SHIFT! (author)BECKBERRY2010-08-01

Definitely! The parts for this robot are a tad difficult to find, but once you've got them, it really works like a charm!

BECKBERRY (author)SHIFT!2010-08-21


hamado (author)2010-08-08

but please can be more specific about the materials used thank u(:

SHIFT! (author)hamado2010-08-10

Sure! Was there something specific that you needed to know more about? Really I just ended up using parts that were the most available to me at the time.

Holcan (author)2010-08-07


mrownsalot (author)2010-07-28

Hey, just wanted to say that this is an AWESOME instructable, but including a "black line following abillity" would make it cooler.

SHIFT! (author)mrownsalot2010-07-28

Hey thanks mrownsalot! And yes, I'd have to add in a steering mechanism, but a line following M-O would be very cool.

iBurn (author)SHIFT!2010-07-29

DOOO IIITTTTTTTTT I'll send you a cookie in the mail if you do.

About This Instructable




Bio: "Almost Toast"
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