Nova Spot Micro 3 - a Spot Mini Clone Quadruped Robot Dog

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Introduction: Nova Spot Micro 3 - a Spot Mini Clone Quadruped Robot Dog

Hello Lovely People,

This project is (obviously) based on Boston Dynamics 'Spot Mini' robot dog. The original 3D design and files were created by Deok-yeon Kim on Thingiverse.com, to which I have made many design and structural changes to, as well as extended the length of her body, available on my Thingiverse.com or Github pages. Deok-yeon's design also included no electronics or Arduino code, all of which I have created into a working robotics project to share with you!

The following Instructable will unfortunately seem lacking in details, as the decision to create this was based on demand from my YouTube followers, and so I did not start documenting the build until Nova was already on her feet. But I am happy to answer any questions... just follow me on YouTube or join Nova's discord server:

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/ChrisLocke1969

Discord Server: https://discord.gg/bJWgTMccUx

Let's get started!!

Here are the supplies you will need to complete the project. In most cases equivalent substitutions are allowed, however, I can not offer any support assistance or advice thereafter.


NOTE: the part links below are Amazon affiliate links, more or less for short-link convenience, as I myself purchased 95% of the items in this list from Amazon. The links won't cost you any more, but will provide a few pennies to the project - with no obligation.


Supplies

The full parts list with links is available on Nova's website:

https://novaspotmicro.com/parts-list/

Step 1: The Bones & Body

This project requires lots of 3D printing, so get ready for nearly 100 hours or more of listening to your printer whirl and whizz!

For most parts, especially structural ones, I suggest the following 3D printer settings:

  • minimum layer height of .15mm
  • shell and top/bottom thickness of 0.8 to 1.2
  • infill of 15% to 100%

Each part is different, and will require some thought and trial and error regarding printer bed orientation and support material settings.

Some parts, like the yellow body shell parts, should be printed at 1.2 shell thickness and 100% infill, since they are thin, and for maximum strength. And the black bone framework parts should also have moderate to high settings, for strength and for fasteners.

Here is a video where I share my general printing advice and technique, along with a demonstration of how I use Tinkercad to make design changes.



The Bones

The black colored parts are the "bones" of Nova. They provide the base for the structural integrity of the robot, along with the 12 high-torque, all-metal-gear servos they are attached to. They are assembled using various length 3mm and 4mm cap head screws, metal servo horns, and careful servo wire routing of the leg assemblies.

Below is an assembly view of Nova's bone / framework structure:



The Body

The yellow colored parts are the "body" of Nova. They provide some structural integrity of the robot, and a good part of her aesthetics. The top and bottom covers are printed as two parts each, since they were too large for most common 3D printers. These parts are easily glued together, with angled seams and glue tabs included in the design. The body parts are mostly fastened by their adjoining black bone parts, along with only 4 main body panel screws on each top and bottom side of Nova.

For best results, outside surfaces of most of the body parts should be facing up when 3D printing. The only exceptions to this are the Top and Bottom Covers (which are best printed standing vertically), and the MidArm Covers (which are best printed outside surface downwards with support).

Below is an assembly view of Nova's bone / framework structure:

Assembly

The assembly of the bones, body, and servo motor parts is pretty straightforward. The only moderately tricky part is assembling of the MidArm & MidArm Cover together with the Wrist. Here are a couple of videos with assembly guidance and some tips. CORRECTION: Please use BLUE Loctite thread lock and not RED! Red is permanent, and blue is not - you'll be better off if and when disassembling.

And finally, here is a recent video showing all of the latest body and bone parts, and their assembly:

Be sure to subscribe and check out my YouTube Channel for many more videos on assembly and design.

Step 2: The Muscles

Ok, now we're going to geek-out a bit and get a little technical.

Disclaimer - I am NOT an electrical engineer, I am merely a hobbyist with passion. While I may sometimes sound like I know exactly what I am talking about regarding motors, circuits, and the like - I only know what I've done myself, and haven't much working knowledge of the theory or physics behind electrical engineering. Please be cautious, as electricity can be dangerous and destructive. You have been warned! ;)

The Muscles

12 Servo motors and various power components are the "muscles" of Nova, providing the power and actuation to allow us to move her joints, and subsequently move her body. Nova has 3 joints per leg:

  • Coax / Hip Socket
  • Femur / Hip Joint
  • Tibia / Knee Joint

Other flavors of Spot-Micro projects use less expensive, and so less powerful motors, but to no avail or success in my humble opinion. At final build, Nova weighs just around 6 pounds. Using non-high torque or plastic servos is a waste of time and money, as they cannot handle nor perform under such conditions.

The motors are controlled by a PWM Controller board that handles the power management and pulse control of the motors. Calibrating the motors during leg assembly is very important. Here is a video explaining calibration, motors, and PWM control:

And here is a video reviewing Power Management components:

Step 3: The Heart & Brain

Other flavors of the Spot-Micro project mostly use Raspberry PIs, along with complicated ROS or other robot control systems. Personally, and because I am simply a hobbyist, I prefer to take the more raw approach, regardless of the level of difficulty, in attempts to learn all that I can about a project along the way. That being said, I chose to use Arduino for Nova, which does indeed pose a lot of challenges, but also provides greater satisfaction of accomplishment in the end.

I have recently made major changes to my original electrical designs, by where now Nova runs TWO connected microcontrollers: an Arduino Mega and a Nano


The Heart

Nova uses an Arduino Mega for her heart. This board is connected to and controls the following components:

  • PWM Controller & Motors
  • MPU 6050
  • PS2 Remote Receiver
  • Battery Voltage / Amp Monitoring
  • Power Distribution Components
  • Arduino Nano (Nova's brain!)



The Brains
Nova uses an Arduino Nano for her brain. This board is connected to and controls the following components:

  • OLED Display
  • Ultra-Sonic Sensors (2)
  • RGB LEDs (4)
  • OLED & RGB Controls
  • Arduino Mega (Nova's heart!)

This video describes the electronic components, but please note, this was prior to adding the Arduino Nano, which will be clear in the video following this one:

Here is a video describing how and why I decided to add a second microcontroller to the project:


MPU6050 Inertia Measurement Unit Demonstration


PWM Controller and Servos Demonstration




Step 4: The Conscience

This always ends up being the most complex part of any robotics project, in my humble opinion. Thankfully, I have a slight advantage over most hobbyists, in that I am a software developer by 26+ year career. And while this does not make me an expert at coding for Arduino, hardware, or more importantly, robotics... it certainly gives me an understanding of software design, capacities, and minimal frustration & grief over any coding learning curves.

As I mentioned before in this Instructable, most other flavors of this project have opted to use out-of-the-box software on a Raspberry Pi, or none at all. I've only seen a few projects where there is much hope or promise to be moving on the ground, if at all, even with their off-the-shelf solutions. And as I also explained previously, this is pretty much why I build projects - to struggle, and to learn.

The Conscience

I have built a hexapod as my most ambitious project until Nova came along, and I learned a lot from the project which I've applied to the design and build of Nova. The structure of her software comes from a motor-driving class I wrote for the hexapod project, and it works really well for controlling, sequencing, and choreographing movements of a robot.

Along with motor and movement code, the software also controls all of the components of Nova in conjunction with one another, as well as the communication between the two Arduino systems. Though as of this article, some features are not complete or fully integrated to date.

Here are a few videos reviewing the software that I have written for Nova to give her life and an ever-expanding conscience:

Step 5: Accessories

STORAGE / WORK STAND

There have been a couple of iterations for a stand that changed along with Nova's body design.

Here is the latest stand version:

PIR SENSORS

Nova now has 3 PIR Sensors installed and coded, ready for testing and inclusion in the next release of wiring, STL, and software files!

Here is a video showing the PIR Sensors and how they will work.



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Step 6: The Files

I have made all of the project files available for download and use free of charge. The Github repository contains everything, including Code, 3D STL files, Wiring Diagrams, Parts List, and more. And I continue to post updated files to both GitHub and Thingiverse, as well as project video updates on YouTube - be sure to like, share, and subscribe, please & thank you, and happy building!

Github: https://github.com/cguweb-com/Arduino-Projects/tree/main/Nova-SM3

Thingiverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4767006 (tips are activated and much appreciated!)

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/ChrisLocke1969

Discord Server: https://discord.gg/bJWgTMccUx

Latest Project Update Video

Step 7: The Future

Nova is a project in progress, with several other builders contributing to discussing and developing new ideas. Below is a short list of features under way or in discussion to be added to Nova in her toddler years through adulthood.

  • Movable Head
  • Video Camera(s)
  • Internet Connected
  • Infra-red Human Detectors
  • Follow Me Mode
  • Inverse Kinematics
  • Voice Controls
  • Low-power Sleep Mode
  • LIDAR Mapping

Join Nova's YouTube Channel and/or Discord Server to share your ideas!

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/ChrisLocke1969

Discord Server: https://discord.gg/bJWgTMccUx

Big vs Small Challenge

Second Prize in the
Big vs Small Challenge

2 People Made This Project!

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74 Comments

0
ArronM
ArronM

7 months ago on Introduction

Thank you for the time and effort put into this, this is outstanding! Great job! I cant wait to try this out for myself.

0
cguweb
cguweb

Reply 7 months ago

Awesome, thanks to you, too, Arron! Its quite a project, but so satisfying! ;)
you can find links to all (most) parts on Nova's website at novaspotmicro.com

If you're referring to the newest ones I added in my last couple of videos, I will get that link added today sometime, thanks for reminding me lol

0
ChrisFish
ChrisFish

7 months ago

Hi Chris. I would like to say thank you for the work put into this project. I have just finished printing and assembling my Spot Mini. Next is to do the electronics and firmware, cant wait to work on it during Chrismas.
Once again, thank you for your hard work and being so humble to share it with us.
Have a Merry Christmas.

0
cguweb
cguweb

Reply 7 months ago

Thanks so much, Chris! Its feedback and appreciation like this that drives the Nova project! I think the software should be wrapping up right along with your electro-build portion, so get ready to walk shortly thereafter!! ;)

Happy holidays to you, too!

0
Ralphxyz
Ralphxyz

Question 7 months ago

Do you have a link for the motors? Great project, thanks!
Ralph

0
andyg366
andyg366

Question 9 months ago

Hi,
can you tell me how big the biggest printed part is? That I can buy a 3d printer accordingly?
I am thinking of buying a SLA printer but they have smaller printing areas ( around 5x3x6) than the FDM printers and some parts look a lot bigger than this.

thanks
Andy

0
cguweb
cguweb

Reply 9 months ago

I use Ender 3 pro, which has 220mm x 220mm x 250mm area... the top and bottom covers nearly max it out, so yes, I think an SLA printer of those dimensions wouldn't work so well for this project, sorry

0
andyg366
andyg366

Reply 9 months ago

Hi,
thx for that info. The ender looks pretty interesting, I will look into one of those.

0
KNERD_UNO
KNERD_UNO

Question 1 year ago

What about an alternative for the "Lynxmotion PS2 Controller V4"? It seems Robotstore is their only seller, and RobotStore shipping prices are beyond ridiculous.

0
cguweb
cguweb

Answer 1 year ago

I cannot argue with you there! Its been on my mind to replace it, but I just don't know with what. Bluetooth is garbage for response time, in my opinion... wifi isn't easily supported on teensy or arduino... and RC controllers seem too complex for a robot. Any suggestions?

0
KNERD_UNO
KNERD_UNO

Reply 1 year ago

I remembered a video where an Indian guy had made a nice 6 x6 stair climbing rover. I went and found it again. He is using nearly the same set up to control the rover. However, this one is 2.4GHz instead of Bluetooth. He provided a link to an Indian company called "Robot Kits India" and the product is called "RF 2.4Ghz Multi Channel Wireless PS2 Remote & Motor Driver 20A for 2 Motors." They ship globally economy for free, but that probably means no tracking, and they provide no warranty. Price is about $31 USD. Other than that, I have only found DIY kits. Some with a CAD image of a PC Board you have to get printed, and another DIY you have to assemble yourself called "Payne Open Source Arduino DIY Remote Control Transmitter," and has a Arduino Nano plugged into a socket on the board.

Other than that there is nothing else I have found yet. Unless you go up to a Raspberry Pi , and use PS3 controller with 2.4Ghz USB dongle.

0
cguweb
cguweb

Reply 1 year ago

its awful, ain't it? lol this is why I settled on the PS2, but that was long before doing these projects online and having others want to build them. My apologies to all reading this thread! I honestly think DIY is the way to go at this point... for a lot of reasons. A friend in the Nova community found this gem, though there isn't much for the electronics or code, I think its a great start and inspiration.
https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4366099

James Bruton has a cool one he uses for his robot dog and others, as well.

For the next few weeks though, I am off hardware and doing nothing but coding. Nova needs some exercise after all the surgery lately. lol Thanks so much for your feedback and input! I will look into those remotes! Another user also suggested XBox controller, but not sure we can get that working with teensy or arduino.

0
KNERD_UNO
KNERD_UNO

Reply 1 year ago

Thanks for taking the time for the great responses. I think maybe that Payne remote kit may be the way to go. It is only abut $20, and includes all;the pieces already; you just have to solder it all together, The only thing missing is a case, and maybe there is one on Thingiverse.

Looking forward to all the software changes you will be making.

On another note. I was watching another "Tested" and got an even closer look at the Spot. Seems it has a few cameras, and the next day, I saw on Amazon, a camera hat board for the Pi. You can add three additional cameras to the Pi with this. Seems going with the Pi for all around vision is a logical next step for this project.

Maybe time to may different versions, than just upgraded ones?

0
cguweb
cguweb

Reply 1 year ago

I've had to pause my progress on this project for a little while due to personal reasons and commitments... but I am still kicking around the idea of build our own from scratch. There are a few ok DIY ones and kits out there, thanks to you I've seen the best of the best, I think. But I don't see any of them as a solid complete solution, for Nova at least. So i will indeed mostly build one from scratch, borrowing ideas from some of these along the way.

If you're not subscribed to our youtube channel, please do - I would love to revisit this discussion with you and get your feedback before diving into building when I get back to the project.

0
KNERD_UNO
KNERD_UNO

Reply 1 year ago

I found a company called Sunfounder which makes a basic controllers using a nRF24l01 Module Arduino nano, and a single joystick. I cannot find any evidence they sell it alone, but I do see it included with some of their kits. They call it the "SunFounder Mobile Robot Remote Controller "

0
NicolasG146
NicolasG146

1 year ago

Hello! I’m desperate , I finished the Nova robot but I can’t get an answer with the PS2 V4 lynxmotion controller! my pins are well connected to my mega Arduino and the receiver LED is fixed, but no robot reaction so I don’t know what to do... :-( I see that in the code there is the pin PS2_SELL 26 and my recepteur de PS2 V4 is ATT may be the cause of the malfunction? on my PS2 V4 receiver this is ATT may be the cause of the malfunction? If you have an idea to solve my problem and help me on this end project to have a robot answer with the PS2 I would be really happy, thanks help me please :-)

0
cguweb
cguweb

Reply 1 year ago

yes, sounds like you are connected ok. I assume the lights on the receiver are on? If so, you should be ok... but connecting the remote is a bit tricky... follow steps in this video I just released, I hope it helps:

0
KNERD_UNO
KNERD_UNO

Question 1 year ago

I have been ordering the parts for this. I do have a question about one of them. The "10pcs MH-SR602 Mini Motion Sensor Detector Module SR602 Pyroelectric Infrared PIR kit Sensory Switch Bracket DIY" you linked to on Amazon. The reviews seem off. What I mean is people are complaining about receiving non functioning sensors, or poorly soldered parts, but they are still giving them 4 and 5 stars. What has your experience been?

0
cguweb
cguweb

Answer 1 year ago

Hi...
hmmmm.. "switch bracket DIY" - that seems odd, yes. And I'm pretty sure what I picked up was a 3-pack, not 10. Here is an updated version of the parts list... my PIR sensors were great, no problems. In fact, I don't recall having an issue with a single piece of hardware I purchased (thankfully!).

https://novaspotmicro.com/parts-list/