Introduction: BeanBot - an Arduino Based Autonomous Paper Robot!

About: I am a Sales Engineer that likes to tinker. There is something so satisfying about taking something apart to find out how it works and building a gadget from scratch. My hands bare the scars of projects of my …

Is there anything more inspiring than a blank piece of paper? If you are an avid tinkerer or builder then you no doubt start your projects out by sketching them on paper. I had an idea to see if it is possible to construct a robot frame out of paper. I'm going to show you the basics of what you need to build an obstacle avoiding robot and how to do it on a budget by constructing it with notebook paper!

Let's get started!

Step 1: Materials for the Frame

Here's a list of what you'll need to construct the robot's body:

  • Notebook paper (or paper of any kind)
  • Scissors
  • Scotch Tape
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Ruler
  • Pen or marker

Step 2: Creating Paper Tubes

What we are going to be doing is rolling the paper into tubes. Then we will use these tubes to build the body of the robot.

So for my design we are going to build a cube for the main body and then add to it later. To construct the cube, I rolled 6 pieces of paper lengthwise and wrapped the paper with scotch tape. You'll want to make sure that the tubes are pretty tightly wound and that all of the tubes are uniform. This will mean that the robot is not too flimsy later on.

Pro Tip: I used a plastic cooking spoon from the kitchen to roll the paper up.

When you are finished you should have 6 paper tubes ready to go!

Step 3: Constructing the Frame

Now with your paper tubes rolled, you are going to cut each of them directly in half. Use a ruler to make sure you are as accurate as possible with the lengths. You should be left with 12 smaller paper tubes of equal lengths.

Heat up your hot glue gun and using 4 of the paper tubes, you are going to construct a square. Give the hot glue time to dry and make sure that you reinforce each joint with extra hot glue.

After it has dried, we are going to add 4 paper tubes standing up on each corner of the square.

Finally create another square with the last 4 paper tubes and hot glue it to the top of the cube. You should have something resembling the last picture. Again, this is a great time to go back to each joint and reinforce it with hot glue.

Pro Tip: Once I had the cube assembled, I went around the tubes with a layer of scotch tape. This makes the body way more rigid and able to hold some electronics later ;)

Step 4: Constructing the Frame Continued...

To create the platforms, I wrapped scotch tape around the top and the bottom of the cube to create platforms for the electronics to sit on. Go all the way across in one direction and then across in the other direction.

This next step is not necessary but I did want to give the robot a little bit of height so that I could add a face to the robot. I created 4 more paper tubes and arranged them in a 4 sided pyramid on top of the cube.

The next part is where you can get a little creative if you'd like. I decided that adding a friendly face to the robot such as Mr. Bean would make the robot look a little more friendly. My cats sure seemed to get a kick out of the robot coming down the hallway. All you need to do is create another paper tube, cut it in half, and use some hot glue and tape to attach the face to the tubes on top of the robot frame.

On the back of the robot I used a few paper tubes and a spare ball bearing to create a tail for the robot. This ensures that the robot will be able to turn and move along the ground smoothly.

Pro Tip: I should add that you can make whatever type of robot body that you'd like. As long as you have a few levels to hold the electronics, you can create whatever type of shape you'd like using the paper tubes.

Step 5: Now It's Time for the Electronics!

Here is a list of the electronics I used in this project:

  • 2 Continuous Rotation Servos
  • Arduino Mega 2560 (You can use an Arduino Uno if you'd like)
  • 1 Ultrasonic Distance Sensor
  • Jumper Wires
    • Pro Tip: (The red and white wire I use it actually telephone wire that you can pick up from Home Depot. It's around $10 a spool and works great for projects)
  • 9 Volts Battery to power the Arduino
  • 5 Volt Power Source for the Arduino

Step 6: Assembling the Electronics

You can arrange the electronics however you'd like. The arrangement I have works well. Just remember to keep a bulk of the weight towards the bottom of the robot.

Using hot glue I placed the Arduino Mega on top, the power supplies go on the bottom, the servos are mounted to the bottom of the frame, and lastly I placed the Ultrasonic Sensor on the front of the robot. You'll need to make sure that the sensor is mounted flush so that it gets accurate readings.

I connected a 9V adapter to a toggle switch as a secondary power supply for the Arduino.

Attach the servos to the lowest point on the frame. Because this is a PaperBot, the body will flex a little bit with some weight on it.

As you'll see I have used two 3D printed wheels attached to the servos. Feel free to use anything you would like for the wheels. Cardboard works well as do old CDs. I wrapped rubber-bands around the wheels to give the robot more traction on carpet.

Pro Tip: Servos do not require any kind of motor driver to attach them to the Arduino. The servos have all the circuitry built into them so that you can wire them directly into the Arduino. They do draw quite a bit of power so if you find that your Arduino is power cycling then you need to add another power source to the board. That is why I have two power sources to the Arduino.

Step 7: Wiring and Programming

Now for the really fun part! I have drawn out a wiring diagram to show how everything is connected. If you are using an Arduino Uno the pins should be the exact same and you won't need to change anything around. If you need more outputs for 5V, I recommend adding a small breadboard to run the 5V to all the gadgets on-board.

I have included the Arduino code as well and it is heavily commented so that someone that does not have a ton of experience can read their way through it and understand what's going on pretty well.

Step 8: All Done!!!

Congratulations! You have just finished building your very own paper bot!

With this project there is a lot of room for modifications. I encourage you to continue experimenting with different designs and adding more functionality to the robot. This project was meant to be an easy AND cheap way to play around with different robot designs. If you mess up or something gets damaged, then fixing it is easy with some paper tubes and hot glue.

I hope you all enjoyed the project and I can't wait to see what you build!


Paper Contest 2018

Participated in the
Paper Contest 2018