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Chasing a dream: How to become Adventure Builder and make giant spider robot with your own hands

Level of difficulty Easy
Reading time 12 min
Views 286

Have you ever wondered how difficult it is to turn something you have in mind into a real product? For example, would you be surprised to see someone controlling a huge iron robot spider that can turn on the spot and walk obediently to his pilot's directions?

To realize his idea, this persistent designer overcame many obstacles: he invented the mechanism himself, mastered the skills of aluminum welding, laser cutting, 3D printing, created a reduced prototype and built one. His project stands out even among the most interesting self-made devices you've read about.

Please sit back and relax while reading this rather lengthy article. During the scrolling through, you will learn about some remarkable inventor and his resourcefulness, irrepressible life energy and practical advice to help you realize your dreams, and someone, perhaps, will be pushed to tell about his own project.

First steps

A long time ago in a far, far away 2007, an American inventor decided to realize a long-standing idea: to build a huge walker, on which you can ride and from which you could shoot at enemies in different directions.

Even earlier, in the early 2000s, an American named Jaimie Mantzel invented movement mechanisms for small animal models. One by one, prototypes, still made of wire and other simple materials, came out from under his soldering iron. Their number gradually grew. As they were tested, one by one, they walked briskly around his apartment.

When Jaimie had a few movement patterns ready, he decided to finalize one of them. The choice fell on a robot spider. The video shows the first prototype of the robot in a body printed on one of the first 3D printers. The model could walk perfectly on six legs, turn and step over uneven ground.

The idea of the project was to make one of these, but of such a size that it would be capable of carrying a person. The body of the machine was planned to be made of aluminum for lightweight construction.

The plan, start of construction and first success

Since such a project could require a lot of money, the craftsman decided to use as many materials as possible. His father had a small workshop and there was a junkyard nearby where he could find some blanks for parts.

As you can see, the driver's cabin was to be located at the top, in the "head" of the spider, from where he would control the tank with levers.

Jaimie prepared for the start of construction thoroughly. First, the inventor showed the entire set of materials he had collected for the construction. Most of them, as it would be easy to guess, were aluminum pipes found at the dump. The parts had to be welded with something, and the first monetary expense was a welding machine, on which he had to learn how to weld aluminum. It costs him $1,000.

Jaimie started by bending aluminum tubing himself and joining it into two rings. He put them on rollers, and the result was a movable hinge to rotate the turret. The turret rotation is arranged approximately the same way as in real tanks.

Then it was time for the next details. The inventor carefully filmed the entire building process, and showed how he worked the metal, how he cut his fingers countless times and bruised various limbs. In the end, he showed that he had managed to assemble a hinge of his own design, which was the key to walking.

One of the main features of such a device is a very high number of degrees of freedom of some parts. Their mobility had to be achieved with the help of an incredible number of bearings, which also took a lot of money. When they arrived, the craftsman was very happy that they fit.

The designer started building a scaled-up model of his invention only two years after the creation of YouTube itself, and it took six years to build the machine. Since the designer's camera at that time, although it was digital, but shot in 240p quality, the images from it had to be run through a neural network to illustrate the article.

Walker's work principle and uniqueness of new walking mechanisms

What helped him decide to build such a complex device? Let's take a close look at the scheme of movement, invented by our inventor.

Jaimie, during his work, made not one, but several inventions. Among the mechanisms he invented for moving animal models were a dog, two kinds of spiders, a gecko, a turtle, a caterpillar, and even a fish. I was unable to find a video of the fish, but there is a photo of it somewhere in the bowels of his website.

The videos are still shot on what appears to be an even older, analog, camera. These were the kind that recorded video on videotape with magnetic tape.

At the time, Sony was selling the Aibo robot dog, and hobbyists were already busy building their own six-legged servo-motor-powered robots. Let's do the math on how complex these models are. The Sony Aibo robot dog uses 22 servo motors. Its first models had 18 servo motors. Spider robots like this also have about 18 motors.

Jaimie's walking principle has an undeniable advantage over the others. How many motors do you think it takes to propel this spider model of his? As they say, stop the video at this point and write your guess in the comments.

So, how many? Your guess is wrong. Thanks to a new design invented by this inventor, it uses only 2 motors!

Actually, you can do with one, it moves the machine forward and backward. The second one is in the turret and controls only the direction of its movement. Most likely his other animal models also have only 1 or 2 motors, not "servos". The dog in the video above probably only has 2 motors too, but regardless, in the video above, look how natural her gait and turns look!

For walking machines with multiple legs, such a simple mechanism has never been used anywhere before.

Arranging his own circuitry with a hinge and walking mechanism
Arranging his own circuitry with a hinge and walking mechanism

Walking using only two motors was made possible by the mechanics and hinge invented by the designer. His findings made it easier to manufacture than most existing walking devices. Deciding to build a large robot was helped by the fact that the design was unlike any previous walking mechanism, and it was the simplicity and uniqueness of the design that made Jaimie realize that a full-size replica of a tank would work as well.

Barriers and unusual ways to overcome them

The outline of the full-size robot began to emerge. The design had already received the basic elements of the hull, the turret mount, and the joints that would allow the legs to move.

And that's when the first obstacle appeared. It was Jaimie's girlfriend. When she saw that the house was rapidly filling up with iron from the junkyard, she protested. Her claims were well-founded, and to avoid arguing with them, a solution as original as his whole idea was found.

Manufacturing on a large scale

It seemed that the robot could not be built simply by using the existing production facilities, and it was necessary to expand. The inventor decided not to be discouraged, but instead to tackle the problem with even more energy: to build a second workshop next to his house. He started the construction of the workshop by building a sawmill. The sawmill was also of his own design.

It was built from free aluminum sections and pipes. Investments amounted to another $100: a 2 horse power motor for $80, bearings and a belt to transfer power from the motor to the saw mechanism.

For awesomeness!

The girlfriend's questions were joined by the neighbors' misunderstanding. People are afraid of incomprehensible things: when you create something with a silhouette that resembles something from a cyberpunk anime.

Have you ever wanted to build something on your own? Do you have a project on your mind that you've been thinking about for a long time and never decided to create it? Have you wanted to share the process of creation by writing your own article about it, but still can't get your hands on it? Have you already started to do something, but then abandoned it without telling anyone, so no one will ever know about it?

Probably everyone thinks to themselves, why should I waste my time, what if it doesn't work out, what if no one appreciates my efforts? How am I going to spend money that no one will reimburse me later, strength that I could have spent on a walk or a trip to a cafe? Our hero Jaimie faced the same problems.

When neighbors passed by his house, they saw a large and incomprehensible metal structure in the workshop.

"Why?", "What is he doing" - he was hounded with questions.

At the end of the next clip, the guy depicts their reaction after he informs them that he is building a huge robot.

What could be the motivation to spend so much time and effort on a new project that no one understands?

When Jaimie asks himself, as some of you may have asked about his unbegun project in this video, "Why am I building it?", he answers the question himself. Doing something you've conceived of should be done because it's just mind blowing. No one's ever done anything like this before! "When you do something that others don't do, the most important thing is that you need it. The result that you will get when you finish and that others will share with you is awesomeness!"

Lack of workspace

Jaimie devoted himself completely to his work, and it took up all of his time. But he had to live on something. It seemed that his father had already asked him to vacate the workshop, and the neighbors' misunderstanding had also come into play.

The designer had his own plot of land in the middle of the forest, but it was in another state. There he also got orders for part-time work, which he used to earn a living. However, in the new place, in Vermont, there was no house or workshop. A couple of years ago he started building a house there, which was called Dome because it was round in shape. However, he hadn't even finished it yet. Despite this, he decided not to be afraid of unsolvable difficulties and moved into the unfinished house in the middle of the woods.

First, he brought an old airplane hangar to the forest, which was given to him for simply moving it off the property. In the hangar he made the first workshop. In parallel with the robot, he decided to work on building's completion while living in the unfinished structure.

Subscribers support and Adventure Builder's Club

The inventor subscribers number grew on his YouTube channel. People got involved in the construction of both the house and the spider tank. They helped in any way they could: they donated unwanted metal parts, tools and building materials.

To further stimulate interest in building the robot, Jaimie created an "Adventure Builder's Club". He also started selling T-shirts with the logo of his project. In videos for the club, he began to explain how to build this or that part, how to connect it, and showed some unusual solutions in construction and prototyping. Somewhere in the middle of building a robot, Jaimie made a solar-powered boat and entertained his viewers by posting videos of its construction and riding it.

Now, perhaps, such a project could be put on Kickstarter and come up with marketing models to promote the video blog, but then there was no such technology, and Jaimie had to do everything himself. At that time they were not making money on YouTube yet, and selling T-shirts was some kind of help.

Prototyping and attempting to promote a new invention

In addition to donations, the inventor was actively hired to help with construction and repair of buildings and other construction work. In addition, the master thought about how to earn money from his invention.

The designer tried to negotiate with toy companies so that they began to produce his spider. Why not? The design is easy to manufacture, it contains a minimum of parts, the number of which does not go in any comparison with its functionality. The radio channel for radio control, which most often makes toys more expensive, requires not even two, but only one and a half: half of the channel is the forward movement, and another one - turning the tower to the right and left.

Just think about it: one and a half radio channels, only simple two motors: it would be not only a great toy, but also very cheap to produce!

The idea looked like a tidbit for a toy manufacturer, so the inventor first went to China. He visited toy exhibitions, talked to potential partners, major manufacturers and retailers.

Dragon country embrace

Initially, Chinese manufacturers eyes lit up, but no one was in a hurry to agree to manufacture the robot. The manufacturers complained that they prefer to produce something according to already proven schemes that bring profit. Would there be a profit from the new design? Chinese guys turned out not to know.

It was not possible to reach an agreement with anyone, and the designer left without bread. It is not hard to guess what happened next. After a while, Jaimie was surprised to find that the market began to fill up with crookedly copied and produced toys with his mechanism.

What a surprise! Having made good sales, Chinese companies refused to admit that they had stolen the device. The robot cost only five dollars and sold well. Of course, no one was going to share the profits. Attempts to attract lawyers did not help: no one stopped the production and sale of toys.

Was it a success or, on the contrary, a failure? On the one hand, the Chinese toy seemed to be an obvious fake, it did not have such smooth running. No one thought to respect copyrights. On the other hand, despite this, it became clear that the invention is quite successful. It entertains people and is already making a profit.

European companies

Jaimie also sent his video with an offer to European and American companies. This time someone responded. He was invited to England for a meeting with the management of a toy manufacturer. On the way, he stopped by a toy show.

And, this time, it worked out. One of the English companies took on the sales, marketing and production of a new spider robot.

Mini battle spider robot

Jaimie started making different versions of prototypes for production. For this purpose he bought and mastered a laser cutting machine for plywood. This machine he put in the same, but already decently finished dome house.

At that time, portable 3D printers were starting to become available, and the designer was thinking of switching from laser cutting plywood to 3D printing.

By that time, his house had grown quite well and had acquired upper floors. On the third floor, instead of a floor, Jaimie, not being in the habit, as we know, of trifling, stretched a trampoline and made a room for entertainment.

With the English company's encouragement, it was decided to further develop the idea of the spider as a combat robot. After a few variations of the initial proposals, Jaimie came up with the idea of adding breakable armor to the legs of the tank, and placing a real cannon on the turret, firing plastic ammunition, the Nerf Gun. The firm sent samples by regular mail, and he and the inventor exchanged ideas over the Internet.

The kids were supposed to love it. Jaimie with the company managed to get a surprisingly smooth gait, which is a long way from the Chinese fakes. The force of the shot can be adjusted by changing the time of tensioning the spring that ejects the projectile.

Having tried several successful prototypes, the company chose the most successful one and started production of spiders of different colors and with different sets of ammunition: balls, plastic bullets and disks. If you buy a few cars, gather a company and give the remote control, you will get a big battle. You can gather teams by colors, and also attack people, who, shooting back, must the same cool Nerf Guns to knock the "armor" off the legs of the battle spider.

The toy has gone on sale. The manufacturer came up with a name for the walking six-legged tanks: Combat Creatures Attacknids. First it could be ordered in England, then in Australia, and in a couple of years toy stores sold Jaimie's robots all over the world. Now the profits were flowing in the right direction. Isn't that the inventor's idea done in miniature!

Overcoming other barriers

The project required constantly increasing amount of effort. The full-size robot required several phases of redesign and reinforcement to complete. The designer had to buy various parts again and again, increasing the construction budget. After a tree fell on the workshop, the hangar had to be rebuilt and almost half of the robot had to be fabricated again. In the process of all the work Jaimie often injured his hands, to which he dedicated a separate page on his website: https://jamius.com/Injury.html.

The inventor persevered and did not give in to seemingly insurmountable obstacles. He found the strength to continue working, and the first results were already visible in his subsequent videos.

The machine came to life, moving its limbs, making motor and hinge noises. At the end of the process, when the giant walker was already taking its calculated shape, it became clear that there had been some miscalculations. The structure could walk, but could not support the weight of a person as planned. Therefore, the control had to be done by radio.

The tank also drastically lacked engine power, which someone gave away for free and there was no other.

Let's have a look at its performance. The video already shows the final version and a demonstration run on the forest runway.

The robot does not step immediately, but it steps quite confidently. You can see that, although the power is not enough, the walker is moving.

Because to add power and additional strength to the design, the whole job would have to be redone, stretching the budget even further, and in this case it would be easier to build a new machine. To avoid having to redesign anything, Jaimie decided that the best solution was to sell the robot. In the video, he has already taken it to sell. You can follow the whole process in the playlist and here.


We can estimate that his own funds spent on the construction amounted to a couple of thousand dollars, but when calculating the cost, it should be taken into account that the designer used all the purchased equipment in the construction of sawmills, buildings and other useful things for his life. Subscribers helped to reduce costs by providing missing materials and their old tools for free. As it turns out, a community with similar interests can be a great help: a few heads are always better than one. One can look at the creation of a large combat robot from a different perspective. If you suppose that Jaimie started the whole project to promote his design and drum up interest in producing the toy, then his idea worked. Whether that's the case or not, is hard to speculate, but what would you say about it?

By now, the inventor was even more immersed in developing the life path he wanted for himself. He moved to Panama where he bought his own island, again building his own house, a boat, and an electric car for his kids. He grows his own food for his family and lives the life his desires tell him to live. Jaimie liked the process of creating the tank and promised to build another big robot with the collected experience of overcoming obstacles. On his island, the designer creates new mechanisms with a non-standard device and continues to improve the design of his robot.

In the Adventure Buider's Club, Jaimie motivates his subscribers by example not to be afraid to challenge the ordinary and not to give up at the first hurdle. Would you like to join his Club? Would you like to describe on the Internet the process of creating your idea and find followers who will give advice, share ideas, and someday offer help?

How do you decide whether your idea is worth it?

"Can I do that?"

"I'll have to spend so much effort, money and overcome so many problems!", "What will people say?".

"I started doing my project, I got stuck, I don't know how to get any further so I gave up."

"Oh, I can do it for sure, I can do the project and the article about it, and publish it, I'm just lazy!"

"What if it doesn't work out?"

While some of us are wondering if we should start building something we've wanted to build for a long time, or if it's worth writing about, take a look at how much fun the inventor had while building this robot. That in the process he gained lots of friends and subscribers, found solutions to overcoming difficult challenges, and learned a bunch of useful skills along the way.

Now, at the end of construction, he has a patent, profits from a toy manufacturing company, a computer game, a sawmill, two hand-built houses, several boats, two workshops and an own island.

And someone now has his own huge radio-controlled battle robot obediently executing the commands of its pilot.

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