You say you want to build a giant robot? What is your purpose? World domination? Your girlfriend wont get that beer for you? Whatever it is, here is how to get started on building yourself a robot.
The purpose of this robot was for a stage prop for my friends and I 4th annual ROBOT PIRATE NINJA party. We got Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer to sponsor our event and with a budget of $300 they wanted a PBR robot for the stage.
Here is a video advertising the event.
Here is a video of the robot build, costume builds and the event.
Using your imagination, you can find everything you need to build a robot. From using old boxes and spare parts, you can customize your robot with things you already have or can acquire for free. Taking apart some car headlights, getting free cardboard at an appliance store, figuring out what you already have and what you can do with it is half the fun. Have a flashlight and a camera lens? make a projector. Mocked up a robot claw but found it didnt work out? use it as a stool.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
I started with cardboard, lots of cardboard, I went to an appliance store and they directed me to their warehouse area where I was able to take as much as I wanted for free.
Step 2: Gather Your Tools
Tools that were used:
- Sharp blade. You will be making lots of cuts so a blade that snaps off to a new edge is important.
- Glue gun
- Tape. Duct tape and painters tape
- Optional silver paint
- Foamcore rabbet cutter
- Lights of various styles
Step 3: Get Your Inspiration On.
Gather all the robots you have around you. Get online and do a search for robots and start taking notes and drawings.
Step 4: Keep a Notebook
A notebook allows you to document all your ideas. You can sketch ideas that you like from one robot and sketch ideas from others to build a robot that suits your needs. If there is a silkscreen of a robot on the notebook then you get extra points.
Step 5: Get Started
I luckily rear ended a car a few weeks before I started this project so I decided to salvage the headlight. They ended up being perfect robot eyes.
Step 6: Eye Assembly
After taking apart the headlight I needed lights. It had to be battery operated so it would be easy to transport and assemble. I found an old bike light that blinked and strobed and placed it in the housing. As for the ring of light, it ran on a 9 V battery that I wired a switch to.
Step 7: Working on the Head
I wanted the eyes in a box to resemble a retro robot. Other inspirations were Wall-E and Johnny 5. I used an Ensure box (thanks mom!) because it was the perfect size. I couldn't decide on what the head should look like so I made a small prototype before I committed to anything larger.
Using a old car wheel box and some FedEx boxes I taped some parts together to get a general feel of the look. Depending on the boxes you have and what you use, your robot can look anyway you choose.
Step 8: Give Me a Hand
Using the boxes from the appliance store I started construction on the arms.
Step 9: The Body
I began construction on the body to get some more details on how I wanted the arms and head to look.
The back and side panels are held together by foamcore hinges for ease of portability. The front piece is being held together by tape and will be attached with tape on the inside once its arrived at its destination. Using the Rabbet cutter will create a notch in your foamcore and give you clean smooth edges when you join them with other pieces.
Step 10: Making the Robot More Aweomeus to the Maximus?
I needed to display the PBR logo on the chest and thought a projection method may be cool. Lookng at other instructables such as this one: https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-iPod-Video-Projector---Requires-no-Power-or-Di/
I took off my camera lens and started experimenting. The idea worked but due to budget and time I decided that placing a print out of the logo on the chest and lighting it from inside would be easier.
Step 11: Redo the Head
After seeing how clean and nice the body was starting to look the head no longer met my standards. I decided to remake the head in foamcore using the previous head as a model. I created a box the same size as the Ensure box and did a test fit. Foamcore comes in various thicknesses that are sandwiched between two sheets of paper. I took my blade and on its lowest setting began to score one side of the foamcore. What this does is create one side to flex and then you can begin to bend the foamcore into circular shapes.
Step 12: Its Getting Late
At this point, It was late and I decided to make myself a hat. According to my watch it was almost 4am.
Step 13: Arms
The next night I began working on the arms. I tried using a combination of foamcore and cardboard but it didn't work out for me. I used the foamcore hinges to add mobility to the elbows. Throughout the entire project I used the blue tape to tape the parts together and when I got the parts the size I wanted, I hot glued the insides and removed the tape. The final claws were scored in the same way as the robot ears.
Step 14: Finishing Details
Lastly I added the final touches before painting. A notch was cut for the scrolling LED bar plug. I decided to create antennas for the ears for more details.
Step 15: Lets Paint!
The next day I took the robot to get painted. Since the body was built using foamcore hinges it was easier to transport. Once arrived at a friends backyard, assembly was easy. A tarp was laid and the test assembly began. Primer was first laid down and after it dried about 2 cans of super silver paint was used.
After some dinner, the paint had dried but there was a problem. The primer and paint had caused the foamcore to warp. Any part that wasn't super glued to shape warped. Super gluing parts into place was a bit difficult. The warping of the body was the worse. Thats when it was decided that super gluing all the parts into place and transporting the robot in a truck would be best for the robot. You can see how warped the top of the body is.
Step 17: Finishing Touches
After hot gluing the the body the robot was assembled and the light accents were added. Here is where you can be creative. Dollar stores sell very inexpensive "tap" lights that may be used. I hear they cost a dollar. Auto part stores are also a great place to shop for the "Fast and Furious" folk. Neon lights, strobes, LEDs, you name it. Pep Boys has a large selection.
Step 18: Set Up
The robot was transported on the back of a truck and PBR logos were added as well as beer cans and strobe lights for the event. I personally think the robot stole the show. Sure there were live performances and awesome music but the robot was built to steal attention. Mission accomplished.
Step 19: Wrap Up
Things I learned:
9 out of 10 Robots, Pirates and Ninjas agree that robots are awesome.
A $300 budget may seem large enough to build a robot but clever thinking and resources will go a long way. If you finding you cant use an object for one thing keep it anyway. You never know when you could re-purpose it for something else.
Foamcore will warp so to stop that you will need to keep your pieces sturdy. Glue your parts together first and then paint.
A needy dog will always find a way to distract you.
Inspiration is everywhere. Find it and use it for your purpose.
Look at things differently. That metal trash can? its actually a can of beer. That headlight for your car? its actually robot eyes. That box of Ensure? Its a robot neck. Those Fast and Furious style lights at Autozone? they are robot control panel lights.
After this project was completed I found myself looking at every headlight and tail light on the road to see if they would make good robot eyes.
Carboard trash is still useful. It allowed me to accomplish my goal by providing mocking up materials.
If I didn't keep the broken headlight, the robot eyes would not have turned out as well.
Being a pack rat has its advantages when building a robot.