Introduction: No-Solder, Funny Robot in Minutes (Bristlebot)

Picture of No-Solder, Funny Robot in Minutes (Bristlebot)

Build a cheap robot with no soldering, no programming, and no mechanical work. It is built on a dishwashing brush. To move forward, it will use the vibrations transmitted asymmetrically by the skew of the bristles.

I saw such a robot at the robotics festival of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. I first thought it had a propeller, but soon understood it was working with vibrations.

Credits of this wonderful idea must be given to Pascal Peitrequin, explaining how to build one on .

My only and very modest contribution is to show a construction requiring yet less tools and materials.

UPDATE: the no-solder no-programming idea came to me from the No-sew duct tape zipper pouch, a sweet project.

UPDATE: Pascal Peitrequin told me his contribution was to use a dishwashing brush, after seeing bristle bots made with toothbrushes. (a bristlebot by evilmadscientist)

Data Sheet:
- Cost: almost nothing, all should be found in a household (more or less)
- Energy: 2 x AA (or AAA) batteries
- Autonomy: hours
- Propulsion: vibrations (sonic ?)
- Actuator: small electrical motor, no reductor needed (the highest RPMs, the better)
- Speed: between snail and turtle
- Software: none. Open-loop. Not even one neuron. Can we still call it a robot ?
- Limitations: won't wash your dishes (finally, lot more neurons are required for this !)

Step 1: Needed Materials and Tools

Picture of Needed Materials and Tools

- electrical cable connectors (only one needed)
- one 3 to 4.5V motor, possibly from a scrap toy
- two zip ties
- insulated hard wire (new toys use a lot of these, to be attached to their packaging)
- 4 x paper clips
- 1 x spare dish-washing brush head

Important note on the brush head
- It is extremely important that the bristles have an average skew. Otherwise the vibrations won't be asymmetrical in average, and the robot will not advance.
- If you don't find a spare brush head, use a brush and saw the handle away.

- zip tie tool (optional)
- screwdriver
- cutter
- adhesive tape
- flat nose pliers
- diagonal cut pliers

Step 2: Bend the Paper Clips

Picture of Bend the Paper Clips

Bend one end of each clip as shown on the pictures below. Use the flat nose pliers to get these results.

Step 3: Tape the Paper Clips to the Batteries

Picture of Tape the Paper Clips to the Batteries

Tape each clip to each end of each battery. Apply a little pressure to insure electrical contact.

The clips may not touch each other.

Step 4: Tape the Batteries to the Brush

Picture of Tape the Batteries to the Brush

Tape the batteries as shown. The angle of the paper clip already gives some expression...

Will be more firmly attached in a next step.

Step 5: Connect the Batteries Together

Picture of Connect the Batteries Together

Now we will connect the + pole of one battery to the - pole of the other.

Cut some wire to needed length (not too short) and remove insulation at each end. Bend the ends tightly as shown.

Insert each end as shown.

Step 6: Prepare the Motor

Picture of Prepare the Motor

1. Remove the insulation plastic from one cable connectors, and tighten it to the motor axis. This is what will produce the vibrations.

2. Cut one small cable. Strip half an inch of insulation to both ends (use a cutter with extreme caution, then pull the plastic away with your teeth).

3. Bend one end.

4+5. Insert the bent end into the hole of one motor's connector. Hold at the connector and twist the cable.

Repeat 2 to 5 with another longer cable.

6. strip the insulation at opposite sides of both cables, and bend the ends.

Step 7: Tighten Everything Together

Picture of Tighten Everything Together

Now bind the brush, the batteries and the motor using the zip ties and the tool.

Connect the shorter cable to the nearby paper clip.

Step 8: El Cheapo On-Off Switch

Picture of El Cheapo On-Off Switch

As promised, no special pieces are required, so we'll build a poor-man's on-off switch.

Bend the longer cable to form a hook to be snapped into the paper clip. Don't expect snap noise however.

Closing the circuit will make the motor vibrate.

Step 9: Done !

Picture of Done !

Even with no decoration, it looks like a funny little animal !

Step 10: Try It !

Picture of Try It !
It best crawls on a flat surface. On paper at best. Or on a plate, to circle forever...

(oops quite shaky videos, maybe I should transcode them ?)

Step 11: Possible Future Improvements

You can:
- decorate it
- add LEDs
- etc.

You can also (in full violation of the simplicity and no-solder principle):
- use a battery holder
- use a switch
- solder the ends

Now build your own one and have fun !!!


yoda-iz-my-idol (author)2009-08-19

u should put leds on the front and back

Drasa (author)yoda-iz-my-idol2010-11-30

And it will look like a slow old grandma riding a bike in the night. That was the first thing that got into my mind xD

D_zeno (author)2010-09-07

I really like this instructable, I think I'm gonna make one soon

asli insan (author)2010-08-31

can it wash dishes?? LOL

bassclarinet23 (author)2009-12-22

It could scrub the dishes!

beehard44 (author)bassclarinet232010-07-27

or freak out ants crawling across my table.....

doctor who fan 123 (author)2010-06-29

i tried it and it is so cool : )

laxap (author)doctor who fan 1232010-06-29

great! do you have photos to post?

FrozenIce (author)2010-05-20


eulaliaaaa! (author)2010-05-06

Scrubbing Bubbles!

dungeon runner (author)2010-02-24

Try making the weight more uneven, then tapping them so the smack into each other. Last one standing wins. It's a bristlebot war!

There can be only one!


rajsekhar291 (author)2009-05-24

I don't know about cable connector and I don't nave it.can you plz suggest any alternate for this purpose or explain about cable connector

laxap (author)rajsekhar2912009-05-25

The only purpose of the connector is to serve as a mass put in rotation by the motor. If sufficiently unbalanced (i.e. with its gravity center away from the motor axis) it creates vibrations. Pagers are using this principle. These connectors that I used (also called screw terminal connectors), once the plastic shell removed, are convenient because they can be easily tightened, and have some mass. Maybe you can obtain some results with a zip tie, or some metal wire.

Hycro (author)laxap2009-11-22

A vinyl or rubber eraser pushed onto the armature and then glued for and extra secure hold might work...

dragonface (author)2009-09-10

can i use anyting other than a connector cable to produce vibrations..please answer

laxap (author)dragonface2009-09-10

yes, anything of high density (i.e. small and heavy), unbalanced, and that you can tighten very well to the motor axis.

spacecappa (author)2009-08-04

question, does it matter if the motor is magnetic to the batterys ?

laxap (author)spacecappa2009-08-05

What do you exactly mean ? Electro motors contain magnetic fields. Their vicinity to the batteries don't affect each other.

thepelton (author)2009-05-18

Fun! Can you make it polish countertops?

I3uckwheat (author)thepelton2009-07-28

you could put a polishing cloth under it and let it go would work well on hard wood floors

tinkerC (author)thepelton2009-05-19

Let it go, and hope it doesn't fall!

thepelton (author)tinkerC2009-05-20


tinkerC (author)thepelton2009-05-20

Maybe make walls for the countertop.

thepelton (author)tinkerC2009-05-21

Or set it loose on a table with raised edges like they use in the autopsy room in "CSI".

tommy tinker (author)thepelton2009-05-21

It would be great on a boat or ship where they have borders to keep plates and cups from sliding off the table!

thepelton (author)tommy tinker2009-05-22

I think they only had such tables in the scullery on my ship, the USS Frederick.

tinkerC (author)thepelton2009-05-25

Maybe not, though.

laxap (author)thepelton2009-05-18

Certainly ! with a lot of time and batteries... ;-)

alphamale962 (author)2009-07-24

to make it a lil bit better add an unbalanced weight to the end of the motor, or find a broken game console controller and remove the vibrator from it and use that, you can find these motors all over the net if you want one easy, or radioshack has one for 4 bucks, the bot just screams along

Jawa888 (author)2009-05-21

I relay want to tie that but can't find a brush

Bosun Rick (author)Jawa8882009-05-23

Try Wal-Mart, you can get one for under a buck

Jawa888 (author)Bosun Rick2009-05-25

I don't live in America there's no Wal-Mart in Ireland. I found one any way and made one on a tooth brush to

reywolf (author)Jawa8882009-05-26

hurray! wal-mart hasn't taken over the world like all we americans thought! it's just taken us!

coolrobot (author)reywolf2009-07-24


ZOMBIE_FINNY (author)Jawa8882009-05-31

there is no wal mart but there is asda isnt there well there is in england and asda is owned by wal mart

henyobarker (author)2009-06-19

There is no Wal-mart in New Zealand (next to aussie)

HamsterPants (author)henyobarker2009-07-07

There's no Wal-Mart in Key West either. we have to drive 4 hours up to Miami in order to find a Wal-Mart.

rcweinkauf (author)2009-06-11

Do you think this would work with something like an old motor from a Playstation controller?

laxap (author)rcweinkauf2009-06-13

it should work quite ideally.

rcweinkauf (author)laxap2009-06-16

Alright. :D I'll definitely give this one a try.

Grey_Wolfe (author)2009-05-19

Lol, a Roomba for your plates. Takes ten times as long, but you don't have to hang out while it's cleaned. :)

tinkerC (author)Grey_Wolfe2009-05-19

Roomba? Unfair competition! ( I know, life is not fair ) Disproportionate force! A Roomba can cover the plate without moving!

Udon (author)tinkerC2009-05-21

What about a whole herd of these things vs. one Roomba? That sounds more even.

mad.hatter. (author)Udon2009-06-14

yea power in numbers

Bitsi (author)2009-05-17

Do you think that my cat would like this? Maybe with some nice feathers or fur added?

ReCreate (author)Bitsi2009-05-17

Yes Untill the second it lays its paw on it,it tips over,It gets boring again :P

thinkdunson (author)ReCreate2009-06-11

actually, cats usually love vibration. when it tips over, the cat can spend some time cleaning it's teeth on the vibrating bristles. fun and healthy!

ReCreate (author)thinkdunson2009-06-11


thinkdunson (author)ReCreate2009-06-13

as to the healthy part, i'm not sure how well the brush would clean their teeth, but as to the vibrating part, yes, i've had three cats in a row that love biting things that vibrate.

ReCreate (author)thinkdunson2009-06-13

Hmm...I have a vibrating motor here...I'll see if any of my cat's respond to it(other than fear XD). Maybe i can Put it inside of some sort of...Ball or something.

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