Make Your Robot Vacuum Empty Itself

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Introduction: Make Your Robot Vacuum Empty Itself

Like it or not, as the only child living with my parents, it has always been my duty to do vacuuming. My relief came five years ago when my parents received a robot vacuum as a Christmas present. While the robot has greatly lightened my load, I honestly don’t enjoy the dirty task of emptying the dust bin every single time after the vacuum finishes its chore. Being a frugal son, I am not prepared to shell out $1,000 (CAD) or more to purchase a newer version of the robot vacuum that empties itself. Hence my only alternative is to use my ingenuity to create an affordable solution.

In this Instructable, I will show and provide you with the resources to make your own wonderful self-emptying robot vacuum solution which would only cost you $25 (for the Wi-Fi wall plug). The other materials are readily available at very little or no cost.

There are 4 main components to this project:

  1. Making the Robot Docking Base (Steps 2-10)
  2. Modifying the Robot Dust Bin (Steps 11-14)
  3. Building the Vacuum Stand (Optional) (Step 15)
  4. Plugging in and Programming the Robot and Wi-Fi Wall Plug (Step 16-20)


Note:

The design and materials used for the project was based on the iRobot Roomba model 655 with an AeroVac dust bin. Other 500 and 600 series Roombas with the same dust bin are compatible. If you have a different robot vacuum, this Instructable will provide you with the information to achieve the same goal.

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Materials

Essential Items:

  • iRobot Roomba 500/600 series robot vacuum
  • Robot charging base - Roomba Home Base
  • Household vacuum
  • Wi-Fi Wall Plug

(Make sure that the Wi-Fi wall plug is rated to handle the power draw or higher than that of the vacuum. In this project, Wemo Mini Smart Plug was chosen as it is rated for 120V~/15A/60Hz/1800W, and my household vacuum is 120V/10A/1200W.)

Making the Robot Docking Base:

Modifying the Robot Dust Bin:

  • Fridge magnets x 2
  • Small circular magnets x 2
  • Masking tape
  • Double sided tape
  • Thin packaging plastic

Building the Vacuum Cleaner Stand (optional):

  • 2 by 4 wood stud - approximately 5 ft long
  • A board large enough to accommodate the vacuum
  • Long screws

Tools

Making the Robot Docking Base:

  • Printer (to print out templates)
  • Scissors
  • Utility or craft knife
  • Hot glue gun
  • Glue stick
  • Ruler
  • Pencil

Modifying the Robot Dust Bin:

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Metal hack saw blade -- used to cut the dust bin plastic. I used the one pictured above, but you can also try these ones: 1, 2
  • Locking pliers -- used to hold the hack saw blade

Building the Vacuum Stand (optional):

  • Hand saw or electric saw
  • Electric drill
  • Screw driver
  • Hole Saw

Step 2: Making the Robot Docking Base - Visualizing the Design in 3D

Visit this link and click on the still image of the model to activate 3D viewing. Here you can explore what the dock looks like before cutting and making it from the cardboard lid. The hatched parts of the material are to be removed.

Visit this link for the 3D model of the completed dock.

For 3D printing, you can download the files for these 3D models from the links above. Please double check the measurements prior to printing to ensure accuracy.

Step 3: Making the Robot Docking Base - Print the Templates

Download and print out the attached PDF containing the cardboard cutout templates.

The printer settings should be scaled at 100% with the two sided printing option turned off.

I have included a scale near the bottom of each page. As long as the scale matches your ruler measurement, your templates are ready to go.

Step 4: Making the Robot Docking Base - Cut Out the PART 1 Templates

The goal of this step is to form the same shape of the dock as shown in the 3D visualizations.

Notes:

  • The templates PDF you print will have up-to-date labelling compared to the ones shown in these images.
  • Hover or tap on the image note boxes (☐) for more detailed instructions.
  • If you are viewing on a mobile device, you may not be able to see the image notes.

PART 1

Take PART 1 and cut out the bottom section labeled “save for PART 3”. Set that piece aside for later. Then tape the PART 1 piece to your cardboard box lid as shown in the first image above.

PART 1.1

Next, cut out the template pieces from PART 1.1 and follow the instructions described on the pieces.

After taping the PART 1.1 pieces onto the lid, mark a line across the bottom edge of the pieces.

The next cuts do not have templates.

Please see the image of the back side of the box and follow those cuts. The measurement is 2.3 cm (15/16 in) by 13.2 cm (5 3/16 in).

Follow the next images to draw a line across the top of the lid to connect the lines created using the PART 1.1 bottom edges. Do the same on the back side of the lid, and then cut along the lines including the PART 1.1 bottom edge lines.

Now we have done all the cuts to complete the platform used for holding the robot charging base.

Securing the Charging Base Platform

Loosen the platform from the rest of the lid and pull the flap outwards. Fold it down along the dotted line on the PART 1 template so that the flap rests firmly against the back side of the lid. Then, glue the flap down. See the image above for reference.

You can remove all the template pieces now.

Step 5: Making the Robot Docking Base - Cut and Glue the PART 2 Templates

For this step, flip over the cardboard lid to have its underside facing up, just like the small diagram on the PART 2 page.

Cut out the PART 2 templates. Cut out piece 1 along the solid lines. Cut out piece 2 along the dotted line with the scissor icons.

Using a glue stick, glue pieces 1 and 2 onto the lid. Piece 1 is glued onto the underside of the charging base platform. The numbers on the pieces should match the orientation of the numbers on the diagram.

Step 6: Making the Robot Docking Base - Cut the Support Templates

Gather the PART 3 template and the part cut out from the PART 1 template page. These pieces are used for supporting the dock under the weight of the robot.

Using a glue stick, glue the entire sheets of paper onto a piece of cardboard large enough to accommodate all the pieces. Then cut out all of them along the solid lines.

Step 7: Making the Robot Docking Base - Glue in the Supports

Refer to the diagrams on the page of the templates PDF labeled “PART 3: Locations of Pieces”.

Glue all the pieces from the previous step onto the lid, matching the diagrams. Glue according to the labelling on the pieces. The templates already glued onto the lid also provide guidance.

The numbers on the pieces should match the orientation of the numbers on the diagram.

After all pieces are in place, flip the whole lid right side up and place it on the floor to make sure that the bottom of the robot docking base is flat.

Step 8: Making the Robot Docking Base - Cut Out the Vacuum Hole

Mark a point 17.5 cm (6 7/8 in) down from both corners of the charging base platform fold.

Connect these 2 points to create a line that measures 13.2 cm (5 3/16 in). Draw a rectangle downwards using the line, measuring 4.5 cm (1 13/16 in) by 13.2 cm (5 3/16 in).

Cut out this rectangle. The resulting hole is used for vacuuming the dust out of the robot.

Step 9: Making the Robot Docking Base - Cut and Glue the Vacuum Seal

The piece of cardboard being cut in this step is used to help retain suction of the vacuum when cleaning out the robot dust bin.

Refer to the first image to draw the shape of the vacuum seal.

Cut out the hatched portion to resemble the image of the finished seal.

Glue the seal onto the robot docking base by lining up the seal with the vacuum hole. There should be a gap measuring 0.5 cm (3/16 in) between the top of the seal and top of the vacuum hole.

Step 10: Making the Robot Docking Base - Make the Vacuum Tube Connector

Find the PART 4 template and glue it onto a piece of cardboard, and then cut it out.

Follow the image note boxes (☐) on the images for how to fold the PART 4 piece into a connector and put it together with the vacuum tubes.

Step 11: Modifying the Robot Dust Bin - Cut Out the Robot Dust Bin Door

We will be cutting a door out of the bottom of the robot dust bin.

Remove the bottom of the dust bin using a Phillips screwdriver. Set aside the screws and the loose parts of the dust bin somewhere safe.

Mark out the area to cut following the first image in this step. The image note boxes (☐) provide the measurements in order.

Use the hacksaw blade to cut out a door on the plastic dust bin. I taped down a metal ruler along the lines to guide my saw blade. I also used tape to prevent scratching the rest of the dust bin (after making that mistake once).

When cutting the plastic, cut at an inward angle of about 45 degrees. This angle helps the door open and close properly.

Step 12: Modifying the Robot Dust Bin - Install the Dust Bin Hinge

I have not been able to find a small hinge flexible enough for this application. Instead, I used blue painter's tape for the hinge and it has held up very well. The tape should be placed on both the outside and inside of the dust bin door. You can experiment with different types of tape or use an appropriate hinge.

Step 13: Modifying the Robot Dust Bin - Install the Dust Bin Door Closure Magnets

I chose to use a combination of fridge magnets and small circular magnets that measure 10mm in diameter and 1.5 mm thick. I attached all of the magnets using double sided tape.

I found this combination to be the best for allowing the suction of the vacuum to open the door, while holding securely closed when the robot cleans.

The dust bin door closes when the robot backs out of the dock during each of its cleaning sessions.

Step 14: Modifying the Robot Dust Bin - Reassemble the Dust Bin

Put the dust bin fan grill back into its slot.

Fit the bottom of the dust bin back into place.

Reinstall the screws you set aside. That's it for the dust bin modifications!

Step 15: Building the Vacuum Stand (Optional)

Since the vacuum you have may be very different from mine, this step is intended for reference only.

The main purposes of building my stand are:

  • To prevent the docking base from being bumped by the robot (as the docking base is not tall enough to be detected by the robot’s bump sensor and it is very light)
  • To save space and keep all components better organized
  • To achieve a more polished look for the whole unit

If you don’t mind the less polished look of your vacuum sitting next to the robot dock, here are some potential alternatives you could consider:

  • Add weight to the cardboard docking base
  • Construct the docking base with a heavier material

To replicate the one I made, you can refer to the image above.

Step 16: Plug in the Robot Charging Base

Place the robot charging base onto the charging platform of the dock and thread the power cord through the power cord hole from underneath.

Flip the docking base upside down. you can use the space between the supports to hide the cord.

Cut a slit along the bottom of the dock where you prefer to run the cord out of the docking base. The indents you cut on support pieces 1 and 3 are for the cable to run to the middle of the dock’s back side, if you wish to run the cord out there.

Flip the docking base upright. Line up the front of the charging base with the fold line of the platform. This is important for the robot to dock accurately. Secure in place with masking tape.

Plug in the charging base to a wall outlet.

Step 17: Plug in the Vacuum

Plug in the Wi-Fi wall plug into the wall outlet and then plug in your vacuum to the Wi-Fi plug. With the Wi-Fi plug turned off, leave the vacuum power switch on. This will allow the smart plug to control the vacuum.

Connect the vacuum hose to the docking base.

Now you can dock your robot vacuum onto the docking base!

Step 18: Programming the Robot - Set Up Roomba’s Scheduled Cleaning

The first step to making the robot run on its own is to set up scheduled cleaning.

I followed iRobot’s instructions for my Roomba:

  • For 600 Series Roombas, see page 16 of the instruction manual.
  • For 500 Series, instructions from iRobot are available here.

If you have any other robot vacuum, a web search for scheduled cleaning should do the trick.

Step 19: Programming the Wi-Fi Wall Plug - Understanding the Concept

To have your Wi-Fi wall plug run after the Roomba has docked, scheduled timers must be set up for it as well. This may vary according to the Wi-Fi plug you have.

The key priorities for my set up are:

  • To have the Wi-Fi plug run for approximately 10 seconds only. This is sufficient to suck out the dust from the robot dust bin.
  • To turn on the vacuum after the robot has completed its cleaning cycle and returned back to the dock.

From my usage, my robot takes approximately an hour to clean and re-dock. You can time your robot to determine its runtime.

I have set my Roomba to run at 4:00PM every weekday. Therefore, my Wi-Fi plug has been set to run at 5:30PM every weekday just in case the robot takes a little longer sometimes.

Step 20: Programming the Wi-Fi Wall Plug - Setting It Up

The best solution I have found so far is using IFTTT to control my Wemo Mini Smart Plug.

The first step is to sign up for an IFTTT account. This can be done here.

Next, connect your Wemo account to your IFTTT account. Belkin provides great instructions for this here.

Now it’s time to get a little more technical.

If you are not familiar with doing the following tasks, you can simply copy the exact steps I make in the video clips below. There may be slight variances with what you see, but my steps will get you through.

First, we create an applet that turns on your Wi-Fi switch at your desired time:

Next, we create a webhook for turning off the vacuum (if you’re interested, click here to learn more about webhooks):

When selecting your Wi-Fi wall plug, it will show what you have named it. I have named mine Roomba.

As you may have noticed from the first video, the Date and Time service only offers triggers for every 15 minutes. However, we want the vacuum to turn off after a number of seconds.

Fortunately, someone by the username grapeot has graciously developed a web service to solve this problem. You can read through their post for more information. The following video shows how to set it up:

Here is the API from the post:

http://lab.grapeot.me/ifttt/delay?event={EVENT}&t={DELAY IN MINUTES}&key={YOUR KEY}

When replacing the placeholders with your values, make sure to replace the brackets { } as well.

I use 0.16 for t because it is roughly equal to 10 seconds. I want my vacuum to turn off after 10 seconds of vacuuming the robot.

For reference, here are a few other time intervals:

  • 0.08 minutes = 5 seconds
  • 0.16 minutes = 10 seconds
  • 0.25 minutes = 15 seconds
  • 0.33 minutes = 20 seconds

Now we create the last applet used to turn off your Wi-Fi switch:

And guess what--that’s it! You’ve successfully set up everything. Now you can sit back and watch your robot vacuum clean your house and clean itself. Please give yourself a pat on the back on my behalf for making it all the way through.

Step 21: Closing Remarks

If you’ve made it this far, thank you very much for your interest. I wish you all the success if you decide to make this for yourself. Please support me with your vote here: Instructables First Time Author 2020 Contest. I would greatly appreciate it!

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    14 Comments

    0
    adamelly1
    adamelly1

    Question 2 months ago on Step 12

    Any chance you can have a video to show how the robovac bin operates with the flap as I can’t quite get the operation of the flow? Everything looks fantastic. I want use your design but somehow get it to work with a built in wall vac system

    1
    Han Han Wu
    Han Han Wu

    1 year ago

    Wow! So cool and amazing! I’m so impressed by this Timon!😊👏

    0
    Timon C
    Timon C

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you for your support! :)

    1
    carolyip
    carolyip

    1 year ago

    Well done! That is exactly what i want.

    0
    Timon C
    Timon C

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks for your kind words! :)

    1
    ahklam414
    ahklam414

    1 year ago

    Very neat idea, no one like to empty dust can manually.

    0
    Timon C
    Timon C

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you! For sure, it's much easier to just throw out the full dust bag from the vacuum once in a while.

    1
    shalenediep
    shalenediep

    1 year ago

    Woooow so in depth!!! Super duper cool DIY!! 😆

    0
    Timon C
    Timon C

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks a lot for reading through! :)

    1
    tercero
    tercero

    1 year ago

    Hey, that's brilliant.
    I have the "neato" brand model, so this won't work for me, but I love the idea. Keep up the great work!

    1
    Timon C
    Timon C

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you! I just checked out how the Neato bots work. It would definitely require a little more mechanics, maybe a vacuum arm that lowers to clean the dust/dirt bin from the top... If I ever get one I might try it out! :)

    0
    kck725
    kck725

    1 year ago

    Absolutely AMAZING, such a creative and innovative approach to solving a day-to-day problem!

    0
    Timon C
    Timon C

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you for your encouragement! It was a great learning experience.