Thor Robot Build


Thor Robot Build


Summer 2017 unofficially became the “summer of robot” for both the IoT Design Shop and our parent co, Finger Food. Every time we turned around, it seemed like there was another example of automation, robots in education, and of particular interest, robots in Industry 4.0.

Our minds immediately went to our regular MO, which drives a lot of our thinking:

How can we democratize robot arms and make something for people, businesses, makers, and anyone else interested in robot automation on their own small production line?

Kinova Jaco – Super Awesome, But Not Cheap

So, we started to learn – we checked out ROS and ROS-enabled arms, we checked out Dobot and other commercial offerings, and although there were a lot of cool robots, they were all pretty expensive and/or closed source, meaning that we’d be very limited in terms of our ability to customize and adapt the offering.

This clearly would not suffice, so we began to research what was happening with various makers, educators, and open-source projects.

This was when we first encountered Thor, and we were immediately excited by what we saw.



The Thor Project

AngelLM’s Thor – Ours is not this beautiful (yet)

Thor is by far one of the most comprehensive open-source projects we encountered in our study. The labor of AngelLM, from Madrid is obviously one of love, and the project shows an incredible attention to detail, but also a really high commitment to making something that can actually be assembled by most makers. The parts are accessible, and the 3D printing requirements are basic – parts are nice and chunky, gears designed to be 3D printed, and although there’s a lot of printing to be done, there’s no reason most folks would not succeed at printing the parts needed for a Thor arm.

Schematics and Gerbers for the electronics as well as firmware are provided in the project as well, making the build complete. Multiple end effectors can be attached to the arm via a simple mounting scheme.

The project is supported by three key resources – links below:

First and foremost, before everything else we are about to write in our build article, we would like to give credit to AngelLM for this amazing project and starting point for our efforts. We are standing on the shoulders of giants here with a project like this that has been open-sourced. Thanks to AngelLM and all of the contributors and community around Thor.


Progress Reports

Now – onto the robot madness! This post is going to continue to grow over time, so we intend to check in with some snapshots with progress updates and things we’ve learned. Hopefully, once the build is complete, this will serve as a bit of a journal for someone looking to replicate the project or our work. If nothing else, it will be a great tale of mishaps and recoveries!


August 15, 2017: Printing Complete

We are pretty fortunate at the IoT Design Shop, as we have a small army of 3D printers that we normally use for doing short run production for our projects. We were able to turn this battery of printing domination on the Thor parts.

We utilized:

  • Ultimaker 2 and Ultimaker 3 – For mid sized parts such as the articulation bodies.
  • Taz5 Regular, and Taz 5 + MOARStruder – Regular printed higher detail large parts like the Articulation 2 bodies. We used the MOARStruder to print the covers and other flat parts, because it is an absolute monster with a 1.2mm nozzle. That speeds things up a lot!
  • Form 1+ – For gears and covers. We used Form Tough Resin to create strong, but somewhat pliable gears, which we feel will help compliance and gear mesh (but waiting to prove that out)
  • FlashForge Creator – All the smaller parts, opto shields, etc. went to the FlashForge as we have a number of these in the shop.

The Print Farm at Work

Overall, very few failures occurred during printing. The parts were generally easy to print from PLA, although some support removal looks like it may be a bit challenging (more about that in the build step).

During our print time (about 9 days or so), we took the opportunity to order up the components from the Bill of Materials (BOM) and to get some PCB’s fabricated from the Gerbers provided in the Thor project. We’re still waiting on PCB’s to arrive, but all of the other components are here and we’re ready to go.



Next Steps

Next post, we’re going to get to clearing all of our support material and checking the fit and finish of all the parts…. stay tuned, and we’ll keep adding updates and photos as we go here.



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