Dec 3, 2015 | By Benedict

An Instructables user named [newtonis] has published a guide for building a cool 3D printed line follower robot. The four-wheeled bot, which measures roughly 12x20cm, is designed for one purpose and one purpose only: following lines. If that narrow goal sounds strange to you, then you might be surprised to learn that a thriving community exists around line follower robots, with competitions regularly held in which contestants pit their stripe disciples against one another in head-to-head races and time trials. Think of it as a programmer-friendly version of Scalextric, without the grooves, and where each vehicle follows the track using visual data instead of a physical connection.

So how do these autonomous line follower robots work? Each machine is programmed to follow a black or white line marked on the ground, using photosensors. This kind of programming is simple enough for experts, but the robots must also be programmed to keep following the natural direction of a line even when it crosses over itself or a separate line. [newtonis] is no stranger to line follower robot competitions, and has decided to publicly share his impressive design. Building a replica of his 3D printed machine involves three key processes: the electronic circuitry; the 3D design and 3D printing; and the programming configurations and adjustments.

The 3D printed line follower robot requires 6V high power motors, but makers can choose a gear ratio which suits their style of racing. A higher gear ratio means lower speed but higher torque, whilst lower gear ratios offer higher speeds but can give the robot difficulties when making sharp turns. Remember, if your robot loses its line, it’s game over. Similar decisions also need to be made when selecting wheels. Wheels of a larger diameter can travel further in a set period of time, but require more power from the motors. The traction of the wheel is also crucial, with grippier tires enabling better handling of curves.

If you’ve been peeking at photos of the 3D printed line follower, the robot’s anteater-like “snout” may have roused your interest. Why does one section of the robot protrude so far from the rest of the machine? The protruding nose of the 3D printed robot is where its sensor lies, and it sticks out far from the wheels for good reason. The sensor is the part of the robot which detects the movement of the line, so the further it lies from the wheels, the more time the robot has to react to curves in the line.

Although a line follower robot can be built in many ways, [newtonis] decided to 3D print his machine for ultimate precision. The 3D model was designed in SketchUp, and printed with a 200x200mm build area 3D printer of an unspecified brand. The maker recommends using Cura to export the STL file, but any respectable slicing software should perform the job just fine. The robot’s complex circuitry and programming is covered in great detail on the project’s Instructables page.

Seeing the 3D printed bot in action (below) has certainly whetted our appetite for line follower robots, and we can’t wait to see what [newtonis] builds next.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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