A hackable, Arduino™ compatible, good looking robot that will transform the way you learn, play and experiment with mobile machines and a perfect starting point for any aspiring evil genius intent on building an open-source robot army.
We are Creative Robotics Ltd, a little company that makes creative products for robot builders, and we have been working on a robot kit to go with our totally unique HUB-ee™ wheel hub motors.
HUB-ee™ wheels are designed to make robotics a bit easier by wrapping up all the features you need for a robots wheel – motor, gears, sensors and electronics – inside the wheel hub. You can get HUB-ee™ wheels from cool places like sparkfun.org, robotshop or Technobots and build your own platforms, but we thought it would be even better to create our own complete system. After a lot of sketching and designing we are proud to present LEO, the hackable, Arduino™ compatible, great looking robot that will transform the way you learn, play and experiment with mobile machines. LEO is a perfect starting point for any aspiring evil genius intent on building an open-source robot army.
LEO – Flexible, expandable, open source fun
LEO is based around the ATMega32U4 and comes pre-loaded with a USB bootloader so you can use the Arduino™ IDE to program the robot. We called it LEO for two reasons, the processor and core electronics are derived from the Leonardo board, and because Lions are cool!
LEO is the product of over a decade of design experience in building autonomous robots, experience that also inspired the creation of our HUB-ee™ wheels. Unlike most small robotic platforms on the market LEO can be reconfigured from simple symmetrical two wheel drive to four wheel drive in a matter of minutes and comes with a pair of modular tactile bumpers at each end for basic obstacle detection.
LEO comes with 12 analogue inputs, up to 18 digital inputs, two of which support hardware PWM, an I2C and Serial port, plus the front and rear bumpers, motor current sensors and wheel encoders. A comprehensive software library gives you access to the IO ports as well as interrupt driven, full resolution wheel encoders, PID speed control and interrupt driven bumpers.
You can add expansion boards to LEO using our dual ‘Hood’ stacking system. Hoods are a bit like shields, you can use them to add functionality like extra processors, manual controls, sensors and wireless radios – we call them hoods because LEO is a vehicle (and cars have hoods), and also to differentiate them from the shield system. LEO can have two different types of hood at the same time, one for general analog and digital I/O and a second just for serial and I2C communications. This allows you to fit LEO with a Bluetooth, zigbee or Wifi module without interfering with the general purpose I/O.
As well as operating as a standalone robot you can also use LEO as a base for a more sophisticated controller like the Raspberry Pi or you can fit a WiFi, bluetooth or Zigbee module for control via WiFi or Smartphone. We have included an Arduino robot compatible connector on the PCB so you can retro-fit the top layer of the official Arduino robot onto LEO and take advantage of the more sophisticated drive configurations and wheel encoder feedback that our HUB-ee™ wheels offer. LEO also comes with a laser cut protective cover sporting a range of mounting holes for the Raspberry Pi, Beaglebone™, standard Arduino™ and the Due/MEGA boards.
Leo is an open source robot project, all the PCB schematic design files, CAD files for the bumper and caster wheel will be available for download under the creative commons attribution sharealike license. Software libraries will be available on GitHub.
LEO is designed to be hacked, customised and generally messed around with. The flexible yet simple design combined with our HUB-ee™ wheels opens up a new world of creative possibilities for experimental robot builders and tinkerers
Here is a rundown of the specifications:
ATMega 32U4 processor (With Arduino™ IDE compatible bootloader)
12 digital I/O pins via an I2C port expander:
Configurable pull up/down and interrupt capable
6 digital I/O directly connected to the ATMega 32U4:
2 PWM capable pins
4 external interrupt capable pins
USART and I2C Serial ports
12 Analog inputs
User programmable button
"COMM Hood" and "IO Hood" expansion system for general purpose and communication add on boards
Dual, four wheel and tracked configurations
Front and rear tactile bumpers
Dual HUB-ee™ motor plus slave motor connections
Dual wheel quadrature encoder reading (128 counts per revolution)
Dual motor current feedback
Automatic motor disable when powered by USB
Comprehensive firmware supporting encoders, external IO, PID Speed control and serial command set
Arduino™ robot compatible connector and mounting holes
Leo will run from 6-12v, and would normally run from 7.2V if you use rechargeable AA batteries or 9V if you use non-rechargeable ones. We will NOT be supplying it with batteries – mainly because it helps reduce the shipping costs and avoids the hassle of complying with import export regulations on chemical batteries.
It has a charger socket so you can plug in a battery charger suitable for AA NiMh cells. We also included an auxiliary power regulator on the PCB that delivers 5V at up to 3 Amps, ideal for any power hungry peripherals you might want to add.
Leo is designed for experimenters and tinkerers. It includes two headers for standard hobby servos which can be used to create pan/tilt systems for mounting sensors or for experimenting with more advances steering using servos or 'Mars rover' style rocker suspension. We even made sure that the battery holders on the LEO pcb can be located in several positions so you can play around with the weight distribution and make room for floor sensors and suspension systems. The expansion hood system can be used to add extra functionality and, in addition to the Bluetooth Comm hood available with some rewards.
The following hoods and other extras will be available when LEO goes on sale:
WiFi Comm Hood
General Prototyping Hood
Button and dial Hood (User buttons and analog controls)
• Line follower kit.
MBed DIPCortex compatible prototyping Hood
Arduino Pro-Mini compatible prototyping Hood
Raspberry Pi serial converter
Tank Tracks (These are currently available from many on-line stores)
We are working on a few exciting mechanical extras for more sophisticated drive systems such as servo steering and rocker suspension. We will be introducing a growing range of extras like this so you can enhance and expand the possibilities for learning and fun with LEO.
Pledges and Rewards
The standard “Token of support” pledges come with a big thank you on our website plus a discount of between 5 and 15% if you decide to buy LEO or any other creative robotics products direct from our on-line store after the campaign ends (the discount can be used once)
Because LEO is designed to customised, expanded and generally hacked for pleasure, for education and whatever other evil genius purpose you have in mind, all pledges for actual hardware come with a 10% discount on any subsequent purchase of add-ons or spare parts for LEO, or any other creative robotics products when bought direct from our on-line store (As above, the discount can be used once)
For those of you who have already bought some of our HUB-ee™ wheels we have a basic pledge for the robot PCB and a set of plastic parts (bumpers and caster wheel) but without any HUB-ee™ wheels.
For those wanting a complete robot the most economical option is a two wheeled LEO, or for a little extra you get all four wheels. The various robot options are also available as pledges with a Bluetooth comm hood included – The Bluetooth hood uses the Microchip (formerly Roving Networks) RN41 bluetooth module and gives you up to 100M range.
An education pack pledge is also available for those wanting to use LEO in teaching, research or workshops. You get six robots, each with four wheels.
For those wanting to burn a little more cash we have a ‘custom robot’ rewards. You get four wheels, prototyping and Bluetooth hoods PLUS we let you customise the PCB silkscreen – You can have your name or any other (non defamatory or offensive) text included on the silkscreen and your own choice of silkscreen and solder resist colours.
Timeline and Production
Once we get funded we have allocated six weeks to do any final PCB design tweaks and get prototypes for testing (this is assuming we have any modifications to make based on feedback by backers) It will also take about eight weeks to get the tooling for the bumpers and caster made up, verified and shipped to the UK, so we actually allow two and a half months because, as we found out with our HUB-ee wheels, things can and do go wrong. The PCB fabrication and assembly process should take less than two months and would happen in parallel with the plastic tooling, then we have to package everything up and start shipping orders ... Sooo, based on previous experience (which has included disappearing shipments, Chinese factories closing for holidays, or going bust and our tooling going AWOL in Shenzhen!) we expect to start shipping four months after the campaign ends, and would be sad and disappointed (not to mention apologetic) if it actually took five.
1. April 2014: Successful campaign end
2. May 2014 Final PCB design sign off and production of test equipment.
3. June 2014 Injection moult tooling sign off.
4. July 2014 Production boards arrive, tooling arrives
5. August 2014 Assembly, testing and packing for shipping to backers.
The LEO PCB’s will be assembled in the UK. The plastic parts will be handled through our expert partners PDC Ltd, who will get them made in China through one of their accredited tooling manufacturers, we will then get them shipped back to the UK where the parts will be produced.
The final products will be assembled and tested here at Creative Robotics HQ in Stratford Upon Avon, in the west Midlands, just outside Birmingham.
Shipping is included for the UK and an additional £2.00 is added to non UK orders for shipping to the USA, Canada and the EU. We will ship anywhere on the surface of the planet but it may incur an extra charge.
If you pledge and want shipping outside the USA, Canada and the EU please be aware that you may have to pay for any extra shipping charges.
If we get enough pledges from the same country then we can bulk ship to a fulfilment company in the area and you might not have to pay anything extra (But we cannot guarantee that yet)
These may change as the campaign moves forward, we have plenty of ideas for enhancements to the basic design, but we aren’t in the habit of making promises until we know we can make it work.
£75,000.00 Smartphone app – we will get our act together and write a proper smartphone app to control LEO via Bluetooth and slip a free prototyping hood in with every robot.
Everyone gets a free prototyping hood (you can even choose between plain, or one designed for an Arduino Pro-Mini or MBed module) and we will add a whole extra tool for new injection moulded parts like pan tilt servo mounts.
Thanks also to PDC Ltd for their plastics manufacturing expertise.
All our prototype PCB's for LEO were produced in the UK by Ragworm:
Risks and challenges
We learned a load of hard lessons when we developed our HUB-ee wheels, and we did it all with our own money, not with pledges from the crowd, so we think we have a reasonable idea of the potential pitfalls of a project like this. Over the last few years we have had to do many things, for example sourcing components from factories in China, arranging for PCB manufacture and assembly (and designing the test equipment) designing plastic injection moulded parts and commissioning tooling, getting parts imported back to our own country, assembling, testing, packing and then shipping the final products out to distributors across the world. I wouldn’t say we are experts at this by any means but our prior experience gives us some confidence in our costs and timescales, and we have contingencies built into all the costs. There are two distinct aspects to this project and each has its own risks.
PCB Design and manufacture
The main risk here is that we blow all the money getting defective boards made. We have made the mistake before of ordering a bunch of boards before discovering a critical error so we follow a rigorous development and testing protocol – No final board design will be committed to manufacture until it has been thoroughly tested. The current LEOBot prototype passed most of our tests (YAY!) but we found a few errors and a few areas for improvement so we are working on an enhanced version. We will also be listening to feedback during our funding campaign and look at what, if any extra features could be added based on suggestions from backers. What we won’t do is start adding new features without carefully testing them first to make sure it will all go through manufacturing without a glitch.
Plastic Part tooling and production
The bumpers that give our robot the ability to detect contact with obstacles and the caster used in two wheel drive configurations will both be produced by injection moulding. We have a fair bit of experience with this manufacturing method but we also have an excellent partner company PDC Ltd who are experts in plastics manufacture, and who oversaw all our tooling for the HUB-ee wheels. They are also a nice bunch of people who like playing with robots, and they have even run their own successful Kickstarter campaign for war-gaming models (checkout PDC Gaming: http://www.pdcgaming.co.uk/)
How we costed the project
When working out our budget and the various rewards we assumed a production run of 500 robots - this is fairly small by commercial standards but large enough to be reasonably economic and would require at least 1000 wheels (which is the minimum quantity we can produce without breaking the bank!) Also included in the funding goal are the costs of getting the injection mould tooling made, the costs of making test equipment for the finished robots and various little contingencies for when things don't go quite as we planned or for when component costs change.
Things start to get very cheap when you make lots and lots of them.
In order to set the rewards and funding target for LEO we very carefully worked out the full cost of making 500 bots and added a percentage as a contingency, and maybe to give us a bit left over at the end. This dictated the levels for the rewards but for just 500 bots you end up paying a lot to get them made.
LEO has a lot of great features that add value to the robot and make it much better (we think) than some of the competition on Kickstarter but these features also cost money.
"I've already bought some of your neat little wheels, just give me the rest WITH BLUETOOTH" - No Problem, we will give you the assembled and tested PCB, Bluetooth board, bumpers and caster wheel. You can add the wheels.
Wireless Teaching/Swarm robotics pack - A swarm of 6 LEO robots, each with four wheels WITH BLUETOOTH. Ideal for clasrooms, community workshops, or those withing to construct their own robot army for world domination.