The Story of a Little Robot

Now I know I am overdue my review of Animae Caribe…yes, I know that was months ago…yes…I know I am procrastinating….SHUSH! This post has robots in it so I am doing this first! (priorities, right?)

One morning, I woke up with a brilliant idea. I will design and 3D print a robot and wire it up to have lights in the eyes and chest. I will require a few LEDs, a small switch and a design to hold it all together.

Me…with an idea…yes, this is what I look like in the morning. Woah boys, don’t rush me all at once.

Not that I want to stop making 3D Printed jewelry, but I did want to take the knowledge I had gained from successfully printing jewelry, and apply it to something else I also liked….robots.

I Like Big Bots and I cannot Lie >:3
I Like Big Bots and I cannot Lie >:3

I have a collection of transformers populating my desk (15 to be exact….mmm…Optimus Prime), along with a few bionicle toys that I grabbed here and there. It has been my rebellion phase of doing something I was barred from doing as a little girl because of my gender. When I was growing up, I was inundated with Barbie-dolls, and for the most part, I thought they were… ok. (I did just get a Lammily doll though…Three cheers for well-proportioned dolls! :3)

However, as a little girl, I always thought my brother’s toys were way cooler. They moved, flew, whirred and fired plastic missiles. My girly toys sat and stared at me blankly, judging me for daring to think about escaping pink Barbie hell.


It’s no secret that I have always wanted to make my own robot figures, but I have always been too scared to try, or too worried that I might chase boys away if I appeared to have a brain or that I like “boy things”…nor did the technology exist….until now…and I wanted to take it one step further by involving electrical components. Not that I know much about wiring things together, but I will learn dammit!

Even if THIS happens.

I did have a rough idea of how I wanted the little robot to look, however I needed to have the components beforehand in order to get the correct measurements to fit them into the design. I scoured Ebay and found some 5mm top-hat LEDs. It was also important to pay attention to the voltage required to power the LEDs. I opted for 3v LEDs seeing that I would be using small button-cell batteries to power them.

Now the switch was a bit trickier. It took me some time to search for a switch that was small enough for the intended design, yet, with a low enough profile to not stand out too much. I eventually found a pack of 5 Mini 8x13mm Power Rocker Switches.

With these components in hand, I set about designing my robot. I wanted the legs and arms printed so that the joints would be articulated. The jaw for the robot would be movable, the head would turn and so would the torso. The chest was made of two separate pieces that would house the bulk of the components, and there would be a panel in the back of the head to allow the LEDs for the eyes to be put in place. All this would be printed in Frosted Ultra Detail (FUD) with Shapeways. It is a more expensive material, but I liked the finish of it.

It took me a few days to complete the model and perfect the design, and maybe another week of uploading and checking for errors and any places where there was not enough clearance. I uploaded quite a few iterations before finally going ahead and printing.

Screenshot 2014-10-18 12.44

I was slated to make a presentation at the Animae Caribe Animation Festival in Trinidad on 3D printing, and figured the little robot would make a nice addition to bring along. (Hey, kids love robots). I made the order so I would receive it while I was in New York visiting family.

Well…I did get the order as I had planned…except, that somehow, instead of getting 8 pieces, I got 16 pieces. All the bits that were supposed to be “trapped” and printed as one articulated unit, somehow got separated. I was crushed. It was the first time that I had ever had anything misprint with Shapeways.

Sadface :(
Sadface 😦

I contacted customer service and they promptly offered to do a reprint for me. During this time, I did manage to catch the Shapeways small business bootcamp in New York. It was here that I saw Christian Brock of WuLong toys. He made robots. Lots of them. He too was inspired by the old-school transformers, and it was clear that the inspiration seeped into his robot designs. I got to prod and poke at a few of the designs. All his designs used snap-fit ball and socket joints…in white strong and flexible. I had no idea that white strong and flexible could make such neat little pieces. Suddenly I was inspired. Now I knew what I was going to do with my next robot.

While I waited for my reprint, I headed back to Jamaica on a Saturday, to leave the following day for Trinidad. I stayed the week, made my presentations (All four of them) and came back. Finally, the reprint arrived…and it was perfect. All the pieces printed exactly as I had planned.

I got my brother to help with the soldering and wiring. Left to me, the inside would have been a mess of wires and bits. I got a lesson on wiring in series and in parallel. It was a tight fit to finally cram the little button cell batteries in with the wires and LEDs. But finally, It was finished.

All the parts I needed


Batteries in the top right


Inserting the LEDs for the eyes


Arc-react….er *cough*..LED for the chest :3


Switch in the back piece and the batteries


Had to do some shaving to get the switch in…I made a miscalculation for the hole size. Oopsies :3


Just gotta shove that switch in there and we are good to go.


My brother Soldered and wired everything together. I must learn to do this!


Wired up and set into the head. Wires strung through the hollow neck.


On into the chest for wiring to the Chest LED and the switch.



I was pleased, but I also learned quite a bit. As much as I like the look of FUD, it does have a few quirks. It’s a bit brittle, so not made for pieces that will take a lot of a beating, or require any flexing. Also, because of clearances, I could not make the joints tight enough to make the robot posable…so the arms and legs do flop about quite a bit.

I opted not to paint it,, because of the joints and the possibility of the paints gunking some of the pieces up. I did, however, learn about the tolerances and the clearances and will take that information into future builds. The posts that hold the front and back chest pieces together were prefect; just enough to make a nice tight fit and hold everything together. I will be adjusting his design to work in White Strong and Flexible. Most definitely on my list of things to do for 2015.

Overall I am super-happy with how he turned out. Now I have a nice little robot friend to light the darkness as he sits happily on my desk. More pics below:




He's got a "hair" accessory too :p
He’s got a “hair” accessory too :p
So he can chill with me at my desk and look cool while doing it.
So he can chill with me at my desk and look cool while doing it.

5 thoughts on “The Story of a Little Robot

    1. Thanks 😀 I have my reworked model with the ball joints coming down the pipe…I took advantage of the 20% off your own designs thing on SW. So I am nervously awaiting that one as well. I am sure there will be adjustments to be made…but at least I’ll have gotten the ball rolling. Thanks for the inspiration! 😀

      1. My pleasure ^__^

        I’ll warn you though, expect lots of revisions and testing of joint connections until you get it right :/

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