Typically, when you’re putting electronics in a robot, you install the various controller PCBs into the robot’s chassis. But what if the PCB itself was the chassis? [Carl Bugeja’s] latest design explores just that idea.
Yes, [Carl] decided to build a tiny robotic rover out of a foldable PCB. This choice was made as using a flexible foldable PCB would allow for the creation of a 3D chassis without the need for bulky connectors joining several boards together.
A key part of the design was allowing the structure to unfold easily for serviceability’s sake. To that end, the structure is held together by the bolts that also act as the axles for the rover’s wheels. Even more brilliantly, the wheels are turned by motors built into the very PCB itself. Control is via a PlayStation controller, connected wirelessly to command the robot.
The little bot is surprisingly capable, especially when juiced up with a twin-cell lithium battery. It’s tiny, with minimal ground clearance, so it’s not the best at driving on rough surfaces. Having all-wheel-drive helps, though.
As you can see, the PCB is tiny and has a lot of small SMD components, lots of 0402 so it is a lot easier to solder using an SMD stencil made out of steel .This stencil will help you apply a very thin layer of solder paste on each pad and then you place the components using tweezers, Using a soldering reflow plate you can solder all small components at the same time. Such a great project, thank you Carl! Also, he specifically credits Altium Designer for making the design possible, thanks to its advanced 3D visualization tools that support foldable PCBs.