Formica

Finally! Formica Swarm Robot Kits!

Last year, at 25C3 in Berlin, I spoke about our Formica swarm robotics platform. Lots of people asked for a kit, and I told them it would be released "soon". I've received a lot of emails since then asking about the status of the project, and I always reply apologetically saying that I've been awfully busy recently, and we really are getting round to it.

Submitted by jeff on Sat, 10/17/2009 - 03:10. categories [ ]

Formica at Skycon

I'll be speaking about the Formica swarm robotics project this Saturday at Skycon , the 2nd conference on computers and IT held by Skynet, Limerick University's computer society. If you're in/near Ireland, you should definitely attend. There are some interesting speakers lined up, including Randall Munroe of xkcd ! I'm quite excited, I've never been invited to speak anywhere before. Tickets are on sale now, and are extremely good value.

Submitted by jeff on Thu, 02/12/2009 - 05:01. categories [ ]

Pimp your tiny ride

At 25C3, I met a papercrafter named Magdalena . She had the excellent idea of making the Formica robots cuter through the strategic application of paper hats. Recently, she mailed me these prototypes . Here they are printed, folded and stuck to the tops of the photodiodes with double-sided tape. Genius!

Submitted by jeff on Thu, 02/12/2009 - 04:52. categories [ ]

Being and speaking at 25C3

You know that weird period between Christmas and New Years, when nothing really gets done? This year, I spent mine at 25C3; the 25th annual Chaos Communication Congress. Four thousand-odd geeks from around the world gather to share their ideas, hack, talk, game, build, start collaborations, and more. I'd never been to a hacker conference before, so I decided to jump in at the deep end and give a talk on Formica! It was a truly incredible experience...

Submitted by jeff on Tue, 01/13/2009 - 15:53. categories [ ]

FAQ

Please post any questions you have in a comment, below. We will answer it, and add it to the page.

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Test Points

Since connectors are expensive and bulky, we designed circular contacts into the PCB layout for testing the circuit and flashing the MSP430. I made a simple "bed of nails" test jig with spring-loaded contacts to mate with these pads.

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Firmware

TODO: write this

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Charging Contacts

The robots have two skis soldered to the bottom of the PCB and two charging prongs on the top. As well as supporting the front of the robot, the skis are ground terminals for charging. They make contact with a foil pad in the charging bay. The angled charging prongs are designed to wedge under the aluminium rail in the bay, which is powered.

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Wheels

The wheels are the only components on the robot which require any considerable custom fabrication. Surprisingly, we couldn't find a commercially available rubber wheel a few millemetres across! We had a look around for suitable rubber washers, etc, but found nothing. Instead, I developed a simple method of mass producing the wheels from neoprene sheet.

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Circuit Design

Circuit Design

The circuit design aims to minimise cost, area and component count. In this section, subcircuits will be introduced and discussed.

Power 

An MCP1702 3.3V linear regulator provides a stable source for the MSP430. Its maximum supply voltage is too low for direct connection to the battery and in any case, the noise produced by the motors would likely be too great.

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