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The Frame

Everybody needs a body, a skeletal structure upon which to attach all of the other stuff. In a human, this is obviously made of bone. In robots, it’s made of just about everything but bone. Robot builders are constantly trying out new materials. Which materials are used has a lot to do with the robot’s application. Obviously, strength is almost always important, but as we’ll see throughout this book, there is a constant conflict in robot building between strength/durability versus power requirements.

Most robots run on battery power and battery life is still preciously short. The stronger and heartier the building materials, the more the robot weighs. The more weight, the more battery power required to move it. More batteries mean more weight, which requires more power to move, and so the vicious cycle goes. Recent materials innovations, such as titanium and carbon composites, are shifting this equation somewhat, but such materials are still very expensive. Let’s run down some of the commonly used structural materials and their trade-offs:


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