Open-source robotics

Open-source robotics (OSR) is where the physical artifacts of the subject are offered by the open design movement. This branch of robotics makes use of open-source hardware and free and open source software providing blueprints, schematics, and source code. The term usually means that information about the hardware is easily discerned so that others can make it from standard commodity components and tools—coupling it closely to the maker movement[1] and open science.

Current systems

Open source gantry robots

Name Description Type
RepRap3D printer robot3D printer
ContraptorCNC plotter.plotter
FarmBotCNC-style horticulturehorticulture

Open source robot arms and hands

Name Description Type
OSRA[2]Oomlout Open-source robotic arm.Robot Arm
Yale Open Hand Project[3]Customizable, 3D-printed, adaptive robotic hand from Yale University.[4] Comprehensive documentation is available but CC-BY-NC license not compatible with the Open-source hardware definition.Robot Hands
Robotarm.orgCommunity of many partially complete robot arm projects.Robot arm
Evil minionCompleted robot arm, CAD files and software available.Robot arm
Open Source EcologyIncludes plans for an industrial robot arm.Robot arm

Open source mobile robots

Name Description Type
e-puck mobile robotAn open-hardware, education oriented, mobile
Ardumower[5]open-source robotic lawn mower based on Arduino Mega-
Arduino RobotThe Arduino Robot is the first official Arduino on wheels[6]Arduino based.
Hexy[7]Open-Source, Low-Cost Hexapod Kit[8]Hexapod
Leaf Project[9]--
OpenROV[10]Open-source underwater roboteducation and exploration
Pulurobotics[11]Open-source autonomous mobile robotEducation, application, able to carry heavy loads, inexpensive, ROS compatible but not using ROS.
Thymio[12]Thymio is an educative robot with two wheels and many sensors programmed with AsebaEducation.
Vorpal The Hexapod[13]Vorpal is a low cost, 3D printed, MIT Scratch programmable Hexapod RobotEducation.
Open-source Micro-robotic ProjectAn open-source space swarm robot project.-
OPSORO An Open Platform for Social Robots Social Robots,


OSCarOpen source car (e.g. for self-driving).Car

Open source aerial robots

Name Description Type
ArduPilot[14]Flying robot frameworks with hardware and software based on Arduino, an Open-source hardware platform.Quadcopter and UAV
OpenPilotFlying robot framework with hardware and software based on STM32 microcontroller
LibrePilot[15]Focuses on research and development of open-source software and hardware to be used in a variety of applications including vehicle control and stabilization.Robotics - Unmanned autonomous vehicles, Multirotor, Fixed wing, Cars
Paparazzi ProjectFlying robot framework with hardware and software based on the Lisa/S chip
SlugsFlying robot framework with hardware and software
PX4 autopilotFlying robot framework with hardware and software based on the STM32F427 Cortex M4 core with FPU

Open source humanoid robots

Name Description Type
iCubBacked by European Union funding and used in many universities.Humanoid
DARwIn-OPUsed in ICRA and RoboCup contestsHumanoid
InMoov[16]An open-hardware and open-source 3D printed life-size humanoid robot. As software MyRobotLab[17] is used. Comprehensive documentation is available but CC-BY-NC license not compatible with the Open-source hardware definition.Humanoid
Poppy-project[18]The Poppy project aims at building an Open-source humanoid platform based on robust, flexible, easy-to-use hardware and software. Excellent documentation[19]Education, Research, Humanoid
DoraBot[20]DORA Open Source Robotic Assistant, opensource general purpose service robot. Project last updated in 2012.[21]General Purpose
NimbRo-OP[22]Similar concept as DARwIn-OP with 20 DoF, but larger (95 cm height), fisheye camera, and faster onboard computer. ROS based open-source software. Used by team NimbRo for RoboCup Humanoid TeenSize soccer competitions.Humanoid robot used for playing soccer and human-robot interaction.
TinguOpen-source humanoid robot project.humanoid
DroidBotAndroid Robot controlled over Bluetooth by App Inventor[23]Arduino components
r-One[24]An Advanced, Low-Cost Robot for Research, Teaching, and OutreachEducation
Salvius[25]Open-source humanoid robot project, made from salvaged junk parts.[26] Started in 2008, last updated May 2016.Humanoid
Vizzy[27]A humanoid on wheels for assistive roboticsHumanoid

Open source assistive robots

Name Description Type
Autobed[28]Web-controlled robotic bed developed by the Healthcare Robotics Lab at Georgia Tech.[29]Robotic bed


Name Description Type
LH001[30]Open Hardware Medical-Research liquid handling robot. Project last updated 2011.[31]Liquid Handling
multiploBuilding system with open-source hardware, electronics, software and documentation for prototyping robots[32]-
OHMM[33]Open-hardware mobile manipulator-
Open Automaton Project[34]--[35]--
Qwerkbot[36]Simple open-source robot from Carnegie Mellon University
Sparki[37]Introductory arduino-powered robot.[38]Education
Sparky Jr.Mobile Telepresence Research Project, Est. 1994[39]-
Open Robot HardwareOpen Robot Hardware is intended to serve as a resource for efforts focusing on Open and Open Source mechanical and electrical hardware, with a particular focus on projects that may be useful in robotics applications, robotics research and education.[40]Open-Source Initiative/Community
BalanduinoArduino-compatible based on Arduino.[41] Licensed under BY-NC-SA, which is not compatible with the Open-source hardware definition. Bluetooth ready. Android app.Self-balancing robot
Orb Swarm[42]Kinetic art: autonomous spherical robots exhibiting complex motion. Project last active May 2013. Open software but no comprehensive list of hardware parts. Not compatible with the Open-source hardware definition.Exhibition-
TOAZ Artistic Robot: The World First Open-Source Carbon Fiber Transformable 4 Legs Robot under CC-BY-SA It is developed base on the Adafruit Feather Development Platform. Open-Source

Open source robotics middleware

Middleware are reusable hardware and software components that can be used in many different robotics projects.

Software components

By far the most common standard software are the interconnected,

Other systems include,

Hardware components

Many open source robots make extensive use of general open-source hardware (such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, RISCV) as well as robotics-specific sensing and control components which include:


  • Long-term availability. Many non-open robots and components, especially at hobbyist level, are designed and sold by tiny startups which can disappear overnight, leaving customers without support. Open-source systems are guaranteed to have their designs available for ever so communities of users can, and do, continue support after the manufacturer has disappeared.
  • Avoiding lock-in. A company relying on any particular non-open component exposes itself to business risk that the supplier could ratchet up prices after they have invested time and technology building on it. Open hardware can be manufacturered by anyone, creating competition or at least the potential for competition, which both remove this risk.
  • Interchangeable software and/or hardware with common interfaces.
  • Ability to modify and fork designs more easily for customisation.
  • Scientific reproducibility - guarantees that other labs can replicate and extend work, leading to increased impact, citations and reputation for the designer.
  • Lower-cost. Costs of a robot can be decreased dramatically when all components and tools are commodities. No component seller can hold a project to ransom by ratcheting the price of a critical component, as competing suppliers can easily be interchanged.


  • For commercial organisations, open-sourcing their own designs obviously means they can no longer make large profits through the traditional engineering business model of acting as the monopoly manufacturer or seller, because the open design can be manufactured and sold by anyone including direct competitors. Profit from engineering can come from three main sources: design, manufacturing, and support. As with other open source business models, commercial designers typically make profit via their association with the brand, which may still be trademarked. A valuable brand allows them to command a premium for their own manufactured products, as it can be associated with high quality and provide a quality guarantee to customers. The same brand is also used to command a premium on associated services, such as providing installation, maintenance, and integration support for the product. Again customers will typically pay more for the knowledge that this support is provided directly by the original designer, who therefore knows the product better than competitors.
  • Some customers associate open source with amateurism, the hacker community, low quality and poor support. Serious companies using this business model may need to work harder to overcome this perception by emphasising their professionalism and brand to differentiate themselves from amateur efforts.


A first sign of the increasing popularity of building robots yourself can be found with the DIY community. What began with small competitions for remote operated vehicles (e.g. Robot combat), soon developed to the building of autonomous telepresence robots as Sparky and then true robots (being able to take decisions themselves) as the Open Automaton Project and Leaf Project. Certain commercial companies now also produce kits for making simple robots.

A recurring problem in the community has been projects, especially on Kickstarter, promising to fully open-source their hardware and then reneging on this promise once funded, in order to profit from being the sole manufacturer and seller.

Popular applications include:

See also


  1. Gibb, Alicia (2015). Building Open Source Hardware: DIY Manufacturing for Hackers and Makers. New York. pp. 253–277.
  2. "Oomlout Open-source Robotic Arm". Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  3. "Yale Open Hand Project – Customizable, 3D-printed, adaptive robotic hand from Yale University". GrabLab, Yale University. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  4. Markus. "Welcome to". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  5. Arduino Robot. Licensing information and source files are not currently stated nor easily found. Not compatible with the Open-source hardware definition.
  6. "Hexy: Open Source DIY Robot Kit (Source Files)". Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  7. "Hexy – Open Source Low Cost Fully Articulating DIY Robot Kit". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  8. "Home Page". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  9. "OPENROV". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  10. "PULUROBOTICS". Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  11. "Thymio Specifications (Source Files)". Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  12. "Vorpal The Hexapod". Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  13. "ArduPilot: Flying robot project (Source Files)". Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  14. "LibrePilot".
  15. "InMoov » open-source 3D printed life-size robot". Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  16. "MyRobotlab website". Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  17. "Poppy Project". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  18. "Poppy Project Documentation (Source Files)". Retrieved 22 June 2016.
  19. "DoraBot: Open Source Robot Assistant (Source Files)". Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  20. "Dorabot - Robots for Everyone". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  21. Schwarz, Max; Pastrana, Julio; Allgeuer, Philipp; Schreiber, Michael; Schüller, Sebastian; Missura, Marcell; Behnke, Sven (2013). "Humanoid TeenSize Open Platform NimbRo-OP". RoboCup 2013: Robot World Cup XVII. 17th RoboCup International Symposium. LNCS 8371. Eindhoven: Springer. pp. 568–575. doi:10.1007/978-3-662-44468-9.
  22. My Droid Robot controlled by App Inventor
  23. "r-one - Multi-Robot Systems Lab - Rice University, Houston TX". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  24. "Salvius: Humanoid Robot Built from Salvage (Source Files)". Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  25. "Salvius the Robot". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  26. "Vizzy: Humanoid Robot".
  27. "Autobed: A Web-Controlled Robotic Bed (Source Files)". Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  28. Autobed
  29. "LH001: High Throughput Liquid Handling Robot (Source Files)". Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  30. "carlcrott/LH001 · GitHub". GitHub. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  31. "Multiplo - Open source robotics building system". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  32. "Open Hardware Mobile Manipulator (OHMM)". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  33. "Open Automaton Project". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  34. "Thecorpora S.L." Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  36. "Sparki: Low Cost Educational Robot (Source Files)". Retrieved 21 June 2016.
  37. "Sparki – The Easy Robot for Everyone". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  38. "Sparky JR - sparky the dog". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  39. "Open Robot Hardware – Open Robot Hardware is intended to serve as a resource for efforts focusing on Open and Open Source mechanical and electrical hardware, with a particular focus on projects that may be useful in robotics applications, robotics research and education". Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  40. "OrbSWARM". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  41. ROS.
  42. "Robots - ROS Wiki". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  43. "Gostai Urbi goes open source". ZDNet. 20 August 2010. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  44. .
  45. BlueBots on Google Play.
  46. Amarino
  47. Android accelerometer/ Bluetooth / Arduino controlled robot.
  48. Julián da Silva Gillig. "Minibloq". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  49. How to control Arduino board using an Android phone.
  50. Magician Chassis
  51. Ardumoto.
  52. Ardumoto- Motor Driver Shield
  53. "DIY commercial vacuum robot". The Red Ferret Journal. Retrieved 13 September 2014.
  54. "DIY Roomba preposition on Arduino motherboard". Retrieved 13 September 2014.
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