Useful links and books for robot builders

V5.04 4-Nov-2005


Below is an extensive list of links to educational, commercial association, and purely commercial web sites. Each link is preceded by a letter which gives some guide to its content type:

I am in the process of prefixing a short description to each of these sites, which will be followed by a score out of 5 for each one, based not on their quality, but on their ability to impart useful information to the robot builder. A site may be brilliant but if it does not provide much useful information then it will score low here. Note that purely commercial supplier sites [C] scoring is relevant to how useful their stock is for robot builders, not on any technical content.

1. Electronics

1.1. General electronics sites

[E4] A collection of tutorials in electronics subjects. Well worth a look.

[L5] A huge collection of links to other electronics sites, nicely indexed.

[L5] Another excellent large collection of links to electronics and software sites.

[E4] A large resource of articles written by industry insiders, field service engineers, and semiconductor company engineers on a wide variety of electronics subjects.

[E3] A personal page by an electronics enthusiast. Very entertaining stuff, as well as informative.

[E5] A circuit theory textbook online

[C5] HVW Tech have many documents on a variety of electronics & robotics subjects on their site

[E5] Excellent optics resource and community

[E5] Excellent electronics resource and community

1.2. Electronics circuit archives

These sites offer archives of circuit diagrams. Most should be tested, but this is by no means guaranteed!
Electro Tech Online
Electro tech offers a great resource for discussing General Electronics, Electronic Projects, Robitics Chat and PIC/BASIC Programming. Electro Tech also offers Free Electronic Projects and Theory Articles.

1.3. Chip information

1.4. Electronics company information

1.5. PCB layout and manufacture

[C5] Eagle Layout Editor - The best free PCB design tool on the web. Superb. Free version is restricted to 10cm x 8cm size and no more than double sided but that still allows very complicated projects. Features schematic capture, extensive libraries, very good ripup-and-retry autorouter, user groups, extensive array of online public domain tools available for it.

[C5] PCB Pool - Very good value PCB production house. For example, a double sided 10cm x 8cm PCB designed using Eagle above cost just 24 for a one-off including all P&P costs. Based in Ireland. Very helpful on the phone.

[C3] ExpressPCB - A free PCB layout tool, with optional online manufacturing ordering (from USA). Cheap even though they come from the USA.

[C5] PROTEUS Lite - A shareware PCB layout package. Better than ExpressPCB but no tied manufacturing service.
Proteus Lite at

[E5] An excellent description of how to make your own PCBs. I did this stuff for 4 years and came to exactly the same conclusions as Mike has here. Making PCBs really isn't very hard these days now that most people have a PC which can run free layout software, and have a good printer that can print dark black onto transparencies.

[E4] Another guide to making PCBs

[E3] A method of building prototype circuits without making PCBs (and not using the dreaded Veroboard!). I'm not totally convinced by this method, personally I think it is always worth making a PCB. Using the techniques described in the links above, making PCBs is really quite easy.

[E5] An article describing the effects bad PCB layout can have, particularly on analogue circuits. Essential reading if you are building your own speed controller!

1.6. Kits

[C3] Quasar Electronics

[C3] Radio Shack (aka Tandy)

[C3] This Greek company sell battery charger kits.

1.7. MOSFETs

1.8. Optocouplers

[C3] A few manufacturers of optocouplers. All have online datasheets:

[C3] Agilent is the new name for Hewlett Packard Semiconductors.

[C3] IDT:

[C3] Infineeon is the new name for Siemens Semiconductors.

[C3] Sharp are a big name in optoelectronics:

[C3] Toshiba: ProductDetail&ProductID=2796

1.9. Electronic devices for robots

[T5] Acroname make some pretty cool stuff including range finding and machine vision. Lots of technical article here too.

[E5] An article describing range finding using the polaroid 6500 ranging module

[E4] Using infra-red devices for range-finding.

[E2] Robot vision - making your robot able to see!

1.10. Microcontrollers and development systems

[C3] Quasar Electronics PIC programmer and Atmel ABR programmer

[C3] The Atmel AVR series is popular amongst hobbyists.

[E5] A couple of build-your-own PIC programmers:

[E2] The Chip Directory section on microprocessors chronicles the development and describes a great many processors.

[E3] ePanorama's microcontroller links section

[C2] Rabbit Semiconductor make a clone Z80 microcontroller with a cheap development kit

1.11. Other useful electronics articles

[E3] A beginners guide to what capacitors are

[E4] All about capacitors. These devices are not as simple a you may think. An advanced guide.

2. Speed controllers

[C5] 4QD. Manufacturer of speed controllers. Has a lot of good technical info on the site too.

[E5] The Open Source Motor Controller project. A speed controller design & project.

[C1] IFI Robotics. Manufacturer of speed controllers.

[C5] A description of electronic speed controllers

3. Motors, Solenoids, and Actuators

[C3] Iskra. Manufacturer of electric motors. Includes sketchy performance characteristic graphs.

[C1] Parvalux. Manufacturer of electric motors. No technical data that I can find.

[C5] Litton. Manufacturer of electric motors and actuators. Includes comprehensive datasheets.

[E4] Theory of starter motors. Quite a good page.

[E5] Controlling voltage spikes (motor suppression). SGS Thomson Acrobat document.

[C4] Lynch. Manufacturer of electric motors. Characteristic graphs included.

[E4] Using car windscreen wiper motors

4. Batteries

[C3] A commercial battery charger manufacturer

[C3] A commercial battery charger manufacturer. Not sure whether any of these are suitable for SLA batteries though, even though they say they are suitable for all lead acid batteries.

[C3] A commercial battery charger manufacturer. Ths company manufacture a device which they purport will bring dead SLA batteries back to life.

[C3] Ibex make battery chargers and gave lots of useful information on their site.

[C1] US supplier of many types of batteries. Limited technical information.

5. Radio control

5.1. General interest sites

[E5] A comprehensive introduction to using radio control on fighting robots.

[C4] Loads of helpful articles, mainly about CB, which are still relevant to us.

[C5] The Model Electronics Company site has some great stuff, presenting projects as well as commercial products.

[E5] This radio ham has loads of useful information on his site

[E4] Everything You NEVER Wanted To Know About Radios! Some technical inaccuracies to do with AM & FM bandwidth, but a reasonable introduction.

[E4] The theory of superheterodyne (dual conversion) radio receivers

[L4] The Panorama Electronics Link Site - Radio section. Loads of links to technical sites to do with radio communications, antennas, etc.

[E2] The British Model Flying Association has some information on radio control.

[C2] Low Power Radio Solutions sell telemetry modules. The CDP-02 from Circuit Design operates at 459MHz which is an allowable frequency for Robot Wars in teh UK.

[L3] Some links to hobby radio control sites.

[E4] A good RC information site version.htm

[E2] The Radiocommunications Agency in the UK govern the frequency spectrum. This is the band of the spectrum that we are using.,1252,M942369080308,00.html

[C5] This document from the Model Electronics Company describes all the model frequency bands

[E1] If you are thinking about designing a 40MHz radio link yourself, like I was at one point, then Motorola produce this excellent IC (MC13310) which was designed for CT1 cordless phones that will operate at the 40MHz channel frequencies. Software for driving this chip is shown in the Embedded chapter in "Radio.c".
Motorola ICs

[E1] Unfortunately Motorola no longer supply the above chip. However, a very similar IC, the UAA2062, is produced by Phillips

[E4] A large site containing information on RC electronics

5.2. RC Receivers and Servos.

[C5] HVW Tech. Lots of technical information included.

[E4] Information about the encoding of radio control radio sets

[E2] Another page like that above

[E5] A basic introduction to radio control servos

[E5] Another Servo tutorial (in two parts)

[E5] More in-depth information on RC servos

[E5] Some circuits for generating and receiving PPM RC signals

[E3] Servo pinouts and connectors

[C5] A three part tutorial in PPM radio control

5.3. Radio control hobby stores.

[C2] Quick UK

[C4] Sussex Model Centre

[C2] Tower Hobbies

5.4. Radio control equipment manufacturers

[L3] Links to many RC electronics manufacturers

[C1] Hitec. Manufacturer of RC sets.

[C2] QuickUK supply 40MHz base loaded antennas:

[C2] Novak. Manufacturer of ESCs and receivers

[C2] Airtronics. Manufacturer of RC sets.

[C2] Futaba. Manufacturer of RC sets.

5.5. Radio interference.

Note that this section is specifically about interference problems in radio control modelling. All the comments in the EMC and radio sections also applies.

[E4] An article about interference for RC plane flyers.

[E5] This model club has a page on radio interference and tips on how to reduce the problem.

[C5]Technobots supply products to robot builders, and have this excellent help page for EMC.

5.6. Antenna.

[E4] Capacity hat antenna used by a competitor

[C2] Quick UK supply 40MHz antennas which are rather hard to get hold of. Part no H5330

[C1] Flair products also sell 40MHz antennas. Part no MX75119.

[C1] Radio tech manufacture antennas for the 459MHz band. Part nos Hel-458 and 1/4-458

6. Pneumatics and Hydraulics

[E4] A teaching and practical site on hydraulic engineering

[E5] Integrated Publishing's online book on fluid power. Excellent tutorial!

[E3] John Reid's (builder of KillerHurtz) short guide to pneumatics on fighting robots.

[E5] An excellent tutorial all about axe weapons powered by pneumatics. If you can convert the American units (pounds, feet, and slugs!) which he cheekily calls 'English units', then there's a lot of useful information in there.

[T2] A commercial site with a reasonable amount of technical explanation of pneumatics and pneumatic components.

[C-] This company supplies paintball equipment, some of which can be used for robotic pneumatic systems.

7. Mechanical

[E4] A site all about engineering units, and definitions of physical quantities such as energy, power, etc.

[A2] A site by the Engineered Wood Association devoted to technical information about wood products.

[C-] A commercial supplier of engineering components - bearings, drives etc. Based in Manchester.

[L2] A commercial directory of engineering companies.

[C-] A commercial site from IKO, the bearing manufacturer. RS stock these bearings.

[C-] A commercial site from Kobo, who make chains, sprockets and other drive equipment.

7.1. Materials

7.1.1. The materials database web site

7.1.2. Titanium

Titanium design and fabrication handbook for industrial applications:

Titanium alloy datasheets

Titanium data and reference manual

Comparative strength to weight ratios

7.1.3. Various metals

Mechanical properties of metals

7.1.4. Plastics & composites

Boedeker (Kevlar)




Getting started in composites

USA based supplier of carbon fibre laminates. Does custom jobs. Some technical information on web page. May provide sponsorship!

7.1.5. Plywood

Technical specifications

Plywood for stressed skin panels

7.1.6. Other materials

Ceramics such as Alumina are used as armour in military applications:

7.1.7. Glossaries

Plastics glossary

Mechanical Properties glossary

Plywood glossary

8. Weapons

[E5] An excellent tutorial all about axe weapons powered by pneumatics. If you can convert the American units (pounds, feet, and slugs!) which he cheekily calls 'English units', then there's a lot of useful information in there.

9. Suppliers

9.1. Radio control

[L5] A huge list of links to RC companies

[C3] Another source of radio control equipment

[C3] Another source of radio control equipment

[C3] Another source of radio control equipment

[C3] Another source of radio control equipment 16&Chemical=&Physical=&Mechanical=1

9.2. Robot stuff

[C2] IFI Robotics - American supplier of robot electronics. Radio sets are at 900MHz though so unusable in the UK.

[T5] Acroname make some pretty cool stuff including range finding and machine vision. Lots of technical article here too.

9.3. Electronics component distributors

[C5] RS require an online account to be opened to order through, which is easy enough. They have loads of technical information and datasheets online too which is good.

[C5] Farnell accept private (non-account) orders using a credit card. They have a large range of datasheets online too.

[C3] Maplin allow full web ordering.

[C2] Web orders from CPC must be through an account unfortunately, but you can browse the catalogue and order over the phone.

9.4. Electronics test equipment

[C-] Triplett are an American TE company that make a cheap ($109) clamp-on DMM. From their site, navigate along "Site Navigation Menu -> Products Menu -> Digital Testers -> Model 9310 AC/DC Clamp-On Meter"

Better still, this clamp-on ammeter (model number 72-6174) just plugs into your existing DMM and only costs 30. It is available from CPC in the UK.

10. Robot combat organisations, competitions, and forums

[E5] UK Robot Wars and its discussion forum. Tip Swap is the most useful conversation in the forum.

[E2] The National Association for Robot Competition, which also has a message forum

[E3] The American BattleBots, and forum

[T3] Acroname (a commercial supplier of advanced robotic equipment) operate a forum, based mostly around their parts

[E4] Electrotech online have several relevant forums

11. Robotics

[E5] Reading Universities robotics department links. This is the premier robotics university in the UK, which features Professor KevinWarwick in the Cybernetics department.

12. Build guides

[E3] Army Of Darkness team website.

[E3] Team delta website.

[E3] How to make an antweight motor.

[E3] Slippery Strana's guide to building an antweight robot.

[E3] Team Vicous website.

[E3] Hell raiser's build guide.

[E3] Team Guv'nor build guide.

[E3] Xno build guide.


Note that I have not seen many of these books, but selected them from Amazon by their reviews and content to be of reasonable intellectual content without being too mathematical.

1. Electronics

The Art of Electronics

Horowitz and Hill

DESCRIPTION: The bible of electronics design engineers. If you only get one electronics book, get this one!


Digital System Design

Barry Wilkinson, Rafic Makki

SYNOPSIS: The second edition of this work introduces the fundamental topics of digital system design. Divided into three parts, it covers logic design (into which a new section on ANSI/IEEE floating point standard has been included), the components of a microprocessor system and more extended aspects of digital system design. A major new chapter on VLSI system design and testing by Rafic Makki is included. In the second part, a new chapter discusses the instructions found in microprocessors, and three 32-bit processors are used as examples (the Motorola 88100 RISC processor, the Intel 80 x 86 family and the Motorola 680 x 0 family). In the third part, the material offered is a continuation of chapter 4 in part one, dealing with sequential circuit design. It offers a more detailed view. There is also a new section on designing with programmable logic devices (PLD).

AMAZON REVIEW: Good book for people starting to learn Digital systems. A well laid out book for university people wanting to learn the basics about Digital Systems design. May be not that good value for money, but the book is still good.


PIC microcontrollers for beginners,too!

Nebojsa Matic and Dragan Andric
no ISBN - online book
No review here - have a look yourself!

RF Circuit Design

Christopher Bowick

DESCRIPTION: If you are interested in the radio & antennas side of robotics, then this book seems to be the best text book on the market.


The Arrl Handbook for Radio Amateurs 2001

Chuck Hutchinson

DESCRIPTION: Another good book if you want to know about the practical aspects of the radio side of things.


Practical Antenna Handbook (TAB Mastering Electronics Series)

Joseph Carr

SYNOPSIS: Antennas are basic to all forms of communications, and this text covers the various types of antennas. There is a practical introduction to designing, construction, and installing a wide range of communication antennas. --This text refers to the Paperback edition of this title.

PUBLISHER'S REVIEW: The most popular book on antennas ever written, widely known as "the antenna builder's bible", Joe Carr's Practical Antenna Handbook is a work for anyone with an interest in antennas, from novices to experienced engineers. The third edition blends theoretical concepts needed to design practical antennas, and the hard-learned practical lessons derived from actually building and using antennas. NEW! Added Material on: *Wire antenna construction methods * Antenna modeling software * Antennas for radio astronomy * Antennas for Radio Direction Finding.


2. Robotics

This site has a list of quite advanced books about machine intelligence and suchlike.

Robot Builder's Bonanza

Gordon McComb
McGraw- Hill

DESCRIPTION: A major revision of the best-selling "bible" of amateur robotics building--packed with the latest in servo motor technology, microcontrolled robots, remote control, Lego Mindstorms Kits, and other commercial kits. Gives electronics hobbyists fully illustrated plans for 11 complete Robots, as well as all-new coverage of Robotix-based Robots, Lego Technic-based Robots, Functionoids with Lego Mindstorms, and Location and Motorized Systems with Servo Motors. Features a pictures and parts list that accompany all projects, and material on using the BASIC Stamp and other microcontrollers.

AMAZON REVIEWS: (4/5, 5/5) see


Build Your Own Robot

Karl Lunt

AMAZON REVIEW: (4/5) The author is very passionate about his subject making this an enjoyable as well as informative book. The circuits and mechanics are simple (if you have a little electronics background). Made me wish I lived in Seattle.


Robots, Androids and Animatrons : 12 Incredible Projects You Can Build

John Iovine

AMAZON REVIEW: (4/5) This is one of the great books for robot builders. It has very comprehensive notes and information for builders. But this is not recommended for beginners or even builders who do not have knowledge about neural networks. So I would say this is a great book, if you are an experience builder with neural network knowldege.!!!


An Introduction to Robotics

Harpit Singh Sandhu

SYNOPSIS: This is an introduction for the amateur to the ideas and concepts, both theoretical and practical, of robotics. It is divided into two sections. The first covers how and why robots work and how they are controlled. The second discusses how to make a simple two-legged humanoid robot that can be programmed to walk. There are no complicated formulae or equations to grapple with or complicated circuit diagrams to decipher, and you do not have to be a machinist or a programmer. The robot can be built quickly on a workbench or even a kitchen table, with a minimum number of hand-tools, and all the parts are easily available.

AMAZON REVIEW: (5/5) A truly great book for beginners. I bought this book knowing nothing about the workings or theory behind robotics. This book starts you off with a gentle history of the technology that makes robots possible and goes through all the theory of what a robot should be with regard to your needs. Once you are confident in the workings and software side of things part two of the book shows you how to build the robot pictured on the cover, giving all working dimensions of the robot, all the programmes needed to control it, plus even a list of suppliers where you can buy the components. All in all, a very interesting and easily understandable book which will be of benefit to anyone with a passing interest in robotics.



D A Malcolm Jr

SYNOPSIS: This introductory text comprehensively covers the manipulator and the basic geometries used on robotic systems; electric motor drive systems and hydraulic pneumatic drive systems; communication between components in work- shell and communication to host computers. Full coverage of interfacing, end-of- arm tooling, sensors and vision systems is included, and the final chapter focuses on retraining, economic considerations, and workers' fears concerning robots. As with computer controlled devices, programming is discussed throughout the text and includes the latest technology, incorporating a variety of contemporary robotic systems from industry. Changes to the second edition include a discussion of SCARA ROBOTS, aspects of safety included throughout the text and an additional chapter added, identifying the fundamentals of communication as used between robot controller and peripheral devices within the work-cell. This book should be of interest to degree and diploma students on courses covering the operation of robotic systems in departments of electrical and electronic engineering.



Ben Zion Sandler

SYNOPSIS: At last a robotics design guide packed with fascinating examples and brilliant design ideas. Most robotics and automation books today emphasize the electrical and control aspects of design without any practical coverage of how to design and build the components, the machine, or the system. The author draws on his years of industrial design experience to show the reader the design process by focusing on the real, physical parts of robots and automated systems. Robotics, is an essential addition to the toolbox of any engineer or hobbyist involved in the design of any type of robot or automated mechanical system. It is the only book available that takes the reader through a step-by-step design process in this rapidly advancing specialty area of machine design. This book provides the professional engineer and student with important and detailed methods and examples of how to design the mechanical parts of robots and automated systems.



3. Mechanical

Practical Welding

Stuart W Gibson

SYNOPSIS: This title has been written for students taking welding courses at technical schools, colleges and other training institutions. It should also be of use to other courses where welding forms part of the studies, such as in construction and metalwork. Welding theory is structured around practical information and welding processes. This is supported by illustrations and examples of actual welding tasks and jobs. The underlying focus of this text is that of relating the principles of welding to actual practical situations. The "Motivate" series has been developed to meet the need for practical, appropriate and up-to-date technical and vocational core textbooks. The series is based on the principle that each book must be relevant to the needs of the reader, and contain all that is required for a comprehensive understanding and study of the subject area. Each title in the series highlights the key concepts; includes illustrations, examples and exercises; features end-of-chapter summaries allowing for self-check, followed by exercises and questions; answers to the questions and a list of key words.