Robot Cloning by DIY 3d Printers!




About: Mike's Bio: He is a computer programmer by day and an amateur roboticist by night. Mike and his humanoid robot Boomer have competed in the last six Robogames and have won multiple bronze, silver and gold met...

The DARwIn-OP is a open hardware and software project which greatly aided me in doing this project.

        DARwIn-OP is an acronym for (Dynamic Anthropomorphic Robot with Intelligence - Open Platform) or DARwIn for short. The DARwIn-OP was developed by the RoMeLa research lab at Virginia Tech in collaboration with University of Pennsylvania, Purdue University and ROBOTIS. ROBOTIS is a world leading South Korean robotics’ company. Their Dynamixel servos are the leading robotic servos in the world and the key to why the DARwIn-OP is so ground breaking. The lead designer of the DARwIn-OP project has Dr. Dennis Hong of Virginia Tech’s RoMeLa and ROBOTIS. The robot is a state of the art research and development humanoid robot. The DARwIn-OP weighs in at about 2.9 kilograms and a height of 45.5 cm.

The idea behind this project is to find new and cheaper ways to create and build robots. As 3d printing becomes cheaper and easier to use more and more people will have access to this way of manufacturing. I hope that this instrucable will  open up more peoples eyes as to the power of this new personal fabrication method.

Below is a link to my Make magazine article on how I made the clone.

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Step 1: Why I Wanted to Own a DARwIn-OP!

I thought it would be a good idea to show a production version of the DARwIn-OP in action to show the reason why I wanted this cool robot.

This is video of the DARwIn-OP in its natural environment Robocup soccer.


Step 2: Download CAD File

First step was to download all of the 3d CAD files.

Link to file location.

Other download information links

Step 3: Create .STL Files for All of the Parts.

I used Autodesk Inventor to create my .STL files, you can use your favorite 3d design software.

If you need a cheaper way try AutoDesk 123D Beta if you can still download it.

Here is a link to my Thingiverse project page for my DARwIn-OP clone where I have upload all of the .STL files for the robot.

Step 4: Print Out All Parts on a 3d Printer.

I used the UP! Plus 3d printer to print out almost all of the robot, again you can use a 3d printer that you own or have access to. This took me almost two months to get all of the parts printed out correctly. 

UP! Plus 3d printer.

The Afinia H-Series: 3D Printer is the exact same printer.

Step 5: Buy the Electronics for the Robot.

Link to website.

The easiest part of this project.

Step 6: Buy Your Servos for the Robot.

Yes the MX-28T servos are expensive but they are state of the art robotic servos. The servos of your robot are alwas the key as to how well your robot will preform.

Link to where to buy them.

Step 7: Buy Fastners for the Robot.

It may not seem like it but this was one of the hardest parts of this projected. I was aided by the detail list in the assembly manual. After a lot of phone calls and e-mails and internet research I found McMaster-Carr in Chicago was the best place to order fasteners from.

Step 8: Assembly Robot

The DARwIn-OP has three very detail manuals that you can download. They are an Assembly, Wiring and Fabrication manuals. 

Step 9: Download Software to Robot and Laptop

The control software is open source and works on windows and Linux.

DARwIn-OP support website.

Step 10: Turning on Robot for the First Time

This is always a very scary moment when doing this for the first time.

Step 11: Test the Robot

This is also a terrifying moment but it can also bring great joy!

Step 12: Redesign Parts That Break

This brings out the great advantage of personal fabrication. The ability to make part after part until you get it right or iteration.

Step 13: Print Out New and Improved Parts

How cool is it to have a 3d printer of your own!

Step 14: Reassembly Robot With the New Parts.

I like building robots so I enjoy this part!

Step 15: Retest Robot With New Parts.

This can be boring but it has to be done.

Step 16: Loop

Do While ( robot Fails )

     CALL step 12,
     CALL step 13,
     CALL step 14,
     CALL step 15,

Step 17: Robot Is Working!

If you are like me, you will we always be going back to step 14 because of new ideas or ways to make your robot better.

Total cost for my project was 6000 USD if you don't include the 3d printers that I used. A lot of money yes but if you buy a factory made DARwIn-OP from Robotis the cost is 12,000.00 USD. So I saved about 50% of the cost of the robot by building it myself.

If you are interested in following future upgrades and mods to this robot you can check out my blog.

Video of the robot walking:

Step 18: Future Upgrade Possibilities.

Modifying the covers of the DARwIn can lead to some interesting modification ideas. 

Simplest would be changing there color to hardest which would be modifying their design.

A great example is changing the color of the covers to mimic the Ironman power suit.

Jet-pack and weapons for the power suit may take some more time and research.

The images where created in AutoDesk Inventor by my friend Yoshihiro Shibata.

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    64 Discussions

    This is another video of a DARwIn shows off its soccer skills, the programming was by a South Korean team.

    4 years ago

    Is there a cheaper alternate to the servos ? I'm a student and really want to make this but cannot afford those servos


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Gasp, those are some pricey servos! How do they perform compared to regular servos? Faster and stronger? What do you think would happen if I tried cheap servos instead?

    12 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I don't want to discourage you from trying but!

    When most people talk about regular servos they mean 10.00 analog servos from China. I have used them on lots of projects but they just do not have the holding torque, speed or resolution for humanoid robots.

    Even the low end AX-12s from ROBOTIS blow them away.

    The only servo line that compares too them is the Kondo line of high end servos.

    I would tell you good luck and keep me updated on your progress.

    hi, CAn I use this project STL part files as is for AX-12A or AX-18A Dynamixel series?? Or it's only for MX series?



    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I see. After reading the specs I started to get it. Full 360 encoding isn't something a normal servo can do.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Tomdf, MX-28T are butt kicking servos. High speed, high holding torque, almost no backlash during movement. They are almost perfect servos for humanoid robotic uses.

    The MX-28T have metal gears and built-in PID controllers as well. You can read the load on them, the temperature and voltage levels too.

    There are plenty of methods by which you can read the servo position. That might not be as accurate as a Dynamixel, but sufficient for many hobby applications.

    One method is to use a magnetic sensor. A guy had made a nice magnetic sensor and that was very cheap. It gave great results and he was selling it a few years back. I would post the link of that if I find it.
    Another obvious method is make hole in the servo and read the pot directly. Here's a tutorial for it.

    Of course in any of these methods you would have to open and modify the servo that might void your warranty. But looking at the price difference between a Dynamixel and Servo, warranty is not a big issue.

    They make much cheaper Dynamixels, these are just top of the line. They also give you load, temp, greater range of movement and other things. You could rig this up too but it would be a lot of work for all the servers. Load is very important for walking.


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Hi Guys, I just need to know something, can I use these STL Parts files to assemble the Robot with AX-18A or AX-12A or it's only compatible with MX series form factor?

    Thanks a lot


    Hi Mike and Boomer, just wondering how you are getting on with the project?