Tools for Robotics

Chuck McManis

April 2004


On the Importance of Tools

You can't build robots without tools. It is both a blessing and a curse that there are so many tools to choose from. As one of the benefits of robot clubs and groups is a sharing of experiences with existing tools, I thought I would write down the tools I use and why I like them. And where appropriate to write down why I don't like them. Sometimes the latter is more important than the former.

Software (CAD) Tools

CAD stands for Computer Aided Design. Generally these are programs that help you create something by aiding the design process. Unfortunately, for roboticists there are three areas of design that must be considered; mechanical design, electrical design, and software design. To some extent documentation development tools such as Microsoft Word are also CAD tools for text.

Drawing Tools

My favorite drawing tool is Corel Draw. This is published by the Corel Corporation and is up to version 12 as I write this. I like it because it has a wonderful user interface, it is easy to quickly develop drawings from sketches, and it can generate a wide number of export formats for use in other documents.

For "precision" drawing, primarily of the 3D modelling kind, I've been using TurboCAD (now up to version 10). I'm still on version 9.5. It took me a long time to get comfortable with TurboCAD's user interface (I've owned it since Version 4 and only recently felt like I could pop it open and do something "quickly." I still run into situations that I've got no clue how to get out of, and things I would like to do but haven't read the documentation on. [Like 3D cut-away views, wouldn't those be cool? --Chuck]

For drawing schematics I used to use OrCAD, however now I'm trying Proteus.

Hardware Tools

Software tools are primarily for creating designs, hardware tools are for realizing those designs into actual robots.

Return to the Projects Page

Return to the Notebook