The interest in snow plow robots has exploded over the last 5 years, largely thanks to the hobbyists in robotics area. In this inspirational post, I present the most important parts of a snow plow robot to make your work easier and lets you focus on what is more important: building the snow plow robot.
There’s a lot of variety out there in the snow plow robot designs. Some projects keep a very professional approach (like the open-source snow plow robot) while others have a more eccentric design (like this RC rotary snow plow). But what are the best ways to design a snow plow robot? What are the components and parts that make a snow plow more functional for users? Read on to find out.
1. Build A Strong and Modular Platform
The platform’s design is crucial for the success of any snow plow robot. You need to make sure that the mobile robot is able to clean your house’s sidewalk either through a resistant chassis and a traction system that not lose grip and spin around fruitlessly.
A durable structure
Most makers don’t have time, inclination and a dedicated space to weld a metallic chassis. Should be considered everything else that provides rigidity and simple enough to build it with simple tools.
A range of aluminum channels and profile connectors is the best option for building complex rigid structure suitable for a snow plow robot.
The aluminum rails, cubes and brackets, t-nuts and screws, enclosure
and accessories serve to provide a long-lasting platform for outdoor tasks.
Example of aluminum modular components:
Good traction on snow and ice
Your robot should have enough traction on snow and ice to remove the snow from your property. Large wheels are the most easiest and obvious things to use for a snow plow robot. But think about other options. Think about tank tracks.
The large surface area of a track distributes the weight of the robot better than a tire enabling a continuously tracked snow plow platform to traverse the snow without getting stuck in soft snow. In addition, the tank tracks allow superior traction and a better ability to push the snow than wheels.
Fortunately, a snow plow robot doesn’t require high speed to clear the snow. The only disadvantage that remains true for tank tracks is the mechanical complexity which is much higher compared to the wheels.
Examples of molded spliceless tracks and wheel:
Build it with a considerable amount of power
The key point of a snow plow robot is to provide a considerable amount of power. High-torque DC geared motors seem to be the most popular option. To give you an idea, the wheelchair or e-bike geared motors cannot provide high speeds, but these DC motors are capable to generate the high-torque needed to push snow.
Examples of 24V e-bike geared motors:
- 24V250W Electric DC Motor Brushes Motor for Electric Bike
- 24v 250W Electric Bicycles Accessories Kits
- 350W 24 V DC electric motor
2. Make The Control Simple
The whole point of a control system is to make the communication between user and robot. Make sure when you’re planning and building your control system that you keep the low price and simplicity at the forefront of every decision you make.
Use the best motor driver
A motor driver with both manual and automatic controls seems to be the most popular of this kind. Some users may only want to remotely control the robot. Others might want to set up the robot to control it manually or automatically. A motor driver should be capable of starting and stopping the motors, select forward and reverse rotation, select the speed and limit the torque using manual or automatic commands.
In either case, make sure the motor driver is capable of feeding the high-torque DC motors for a long time without heating and burning.
Examples of best motor drivers for heavy-duty robots:
- Sabertooth Dual 25A
- Sabertooth Dual 32A
- Sabertooth Dual 60A
- G2 24v13
- G2 24v21
- 30A DC Motor Driver
Make the control easy
Everything from RC controllers to smartphones to tablets to PC apps are good ways to control the robots. The simplest way to control the robot is to use the equipment able to generate the basic commands needed to control all the functions of a snow plow robot. The easy and simple way is through the help of an RC controller.
The capabilities of an RC controller and receiver are measured in channels. You can control all the features of a snow plow robot with a 6 channel RC controller and a receiver that gives you the option to control all the features of the robot.
Three examples of 9CH transmitters & receivers:
- Radiolink AT9 2.4GHz 9 Channel Transmitter Remote Controller Radio & Receiver TX &RX
- RadioLink Remote Control System AT9 2.4G 9CH Transmitter R9D Receiver
- Eztronics Corp RadioLink AT9 9-Channel 9CH 2.4GHz Transmitter + R9D Receiver
3. Make It Green
Without the power to feed the DC motors and electronics, your robot is just a simple piece of furniture. Using batteries instead small gas engines for hobby makes more sense and your robot more eco-friendly.
Four examples of 12V Sealed Lead Acid (SLA) batteries:
- Interstate 12 Volt 35Ah Sealed Lead Acid Battery (SLA)
- Compatible 12V 35Ah Wheelchair Battery
- UPG UB12350 (Group U1) Battery
- 12V 35AH Wheelchair Scooter Batteries UB12350
4. Be Sure You See Everything
Make your work easier and install headlights and a camera on top of your robot. Of course, you can remove the snow without these two accessories if you stay in the proximity area of your robot. Otherwise, use headlights to see at night and the camera for the live stream on your PC.
Clean the snow in the night
In the winter, the days are short and cold. Make sure to install the best headlights on top of the robot to be able to remove the snow at any time.
Mount a camera to see what happening outside
As an operator with full control over the robot functionalities, you have to locate and see what robot does on the sidewalk. In addition to headlights, you need to set up a video camera for sending real-time images. In this way, you can see what’s happening outside.
5. Build The Snow Cleaner System
Keeping your driveway and walkways clear and safe are the reasons to use a snow plow robot. Making the right snow cleaner system can make a big difference when the robot pushes the snow along the ground.
The most designers approach is to attach to the robot a fixed snow plow blade. This makes it easy for you to build the robot. But, the more degrees of freedom a snow plow blade has, the more possibilities will be to clean the snow.
Make the snow plow blade to move
The best approach to make the snow plow blade move up and down, left and right is to use linear actuators.
Examples of linear actuators:
- 50mm/2inch Electric Linear Actuator 12v
- Heavy Duty Linear Actuator, 12V DC, 2″ Stroke, 770 lb. Max Load
- 12 Inch Linear Actuator 12” Stroke DC 12V Heavy Duty 330 Pounds Lbs Maximum Lift
Choose a metallic snow pusher
There is no perfect size for a snow plow blade. The size depends on your walkways and the power of the robot. The ideal is to use a metallic snow plow for long life use.
An example of a metallic snow plow blade:
Looking for a Flexible Solution?
We recently tested the Yarbo Snowblower / mower robot and it was incredible for it’s versatility and ease of control. Check out our article here.