Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
This is a step by step guide on how to create a programmable robotic arm, either made yourself or one which you have bought.

For this instructable I will show you how to make and program a robotic arm (like this one) using an Arduino or an Arduino clone. I will show how to make this using a Maplin robotic arm with USB PC interface but the same applies in this for all dc motor controlled electronics

Step 1: Equipment

Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm



1. A robotic arm using dc motors (this can be home made e.g: using a 3D printer or the one I am using has been bought from here).
2. An Arduino UNO or an Arduino UNO clone (these can be bought from almost any electronic store, be it online or in a shop).
3. An Arduino UNO Motor Control Shield (this can be bought here or from other stores, make sure you get one with the same layout as this).
4. Jumper wires (solderless) of all types (Male-Male, Male-Female, Female-Female).
5. A 5V (5V0) USB mains plug (these can be bought literally anywhere if you don't already have one [this would be very unlikely])
6. An Arduino USB programming cable.
7. The Arduino IDE (this can be downloaded from here, the current version is 1.0.6 but should work on all future and previous versions of the IDE, (if you are using the Raspberry Pi get the IDE through the LXTerminal and type "sudo apt-get install arduino" then press "y" and it will install)).
8. A PHILIPS flat head screw driver

Step 2: Arm Deconstruction

Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
First thing that we will need to do is take the arm apart in order for us to be able to modify it.

1. Get you arm out and unscrew the yellow plate and black battery compartment from the back of it.
2. Unplug the motor leads.
3. Remove the PCB and all leads and cables attached to it.
4. Remove the batteries and the other components in the back of it
5. On the removed cable mark on positive and negative sides (see image)


Step 3: Setting up the Motor Control Shield

Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
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1. Attach the shield onto your Arduino UNO.
2. Plug the Arduino in and check the green light on the shield turns on (this tells you that it is working), then unplug the UNO.
3. Loosen the screws on M1, M2, M3 and M4. (the middle screws are not needed). (a PHILIPS flat head screwdriver will loosen both the cross and flat screws).
4. Get 8 of your Male to Male Jumper Leads and insert them into the recently unscrewed openings and then tighten them up again.
5. Then get another two leads and place them in the external power port after loosening them. (Try to put a black or blue lead on negative and a red on positive for reference).

Step 4: Uploading The Sketch

Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm

Now we will upload the sketch to control each of the individual motors, but first we need to add the libarys to the IDE as well.

  • Download the Arduino IDE
  • Download the library from Adafruit here
  • Uncompress the ZIP file onto your desktop
  • Rename the uncompressed folder AFMotor
  • Check that inside AFMotor is AFMotor.cpp and AFMotor.h files. If not, check the steps above
  • Place the AFMotor folder into your arduinosketchfolder/libraries folder. For Windows, this will probably be something like MY Documents/Arduino/libraries for Mac it will be something likeDocuments/arduino/libraries. If this is the first time you are installing a library, you'll need to create the libraries folder. Make sure to call it libraries exactly, no caps, no other name.
  • Check that inside the libraries folder there is the AFMotor folder, and inside AFMotorisAFMotor.cpp AFMotor.h and some other files
  • Quit and restart the IDE. You should now have a submenu called File->Examples->AFMotor->MotorPart
  • Connect your UNO to your computer
  • Select "Arduino UNO" from the boards menu under "Tools"
  • Select the port it is plugged into also under "Tools"
  • You can get my sample code from here then upload after making any changes you may need or want.

    Step 5: The Boring (but Quick) Bit

    Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
    Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm

    Now it is almost time to put the arm together but first you need to work out which motors you will attach to what terminals on the shield. As there are only four terminals on the shield and five on the arm unless your tobotic arm uses less lable the motors "M1" to "M4" working your way down the arm (I missed out the wrist motor).

    Step 6: Building Again

    Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
    Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm
    Arduino Programmable Robotic Arm

    Now wire the M1 labled cable to the M1 terminals on the shield and so on. Then attach the old USB cable to the power terminals and connect the USB interface cable to reprogram the arm when you want to. Now feel free to put rhe pieces in the back of the arm whrre the batteries were or place in an enclosure to protect the pieces then plug in the plug to the power USB and test!

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