24 January 2023

The essential skills for a robotics project

How to start a project to design an autonomous mobile robot? What skills are needed and how do they fit together? What are the constraints and points to watch out for?  Like any product development, a robotics project requires a

How to start a project to design an autonomous mobile robot? What skills are needed and how do they fit together? What are the constraints and points to watch out for? 

Like any product development, a robotics project requires a great deal of precision and expertise to successfully complete its development. 

In this article, we have put together our knowledge and experience feedback to optimise a project requiring a certain number of skills. 

Intended to operate as close as possible to humans, autonomous mobile robots are equipped with advanced technologies that allow them to move in total autonomy, avoid obstacles and interact with their environment. 

Thanks to their flexibility, they can be adopted for various purposes: welcoming, accompanying, serving, increasing productivity, improving logistics, etc. 


To be successfully integrated and to save time and efficiency, your mobile robot must be reliable and secure.


So, where to start when undertaking a robotics project?

The design of a mobile robot is based on 4 key pillars:


designing a robotics project


A project involving many skills can be complex. To make the most of them, our key advice is to create links between them


Indeed, they are intimately linked to guarantee the viability of your robot, but not only… Creating a real dynamic between them will enable you to ensure the smooth running of your project, limit design times and control your budget. 

To facilitate this co-construction work, there is a step that should not be neglected. The definition of the functions that your robot must fulfil. 

This step, which we call Think, will allow you to have a global vision of your project and will facilitate your decision-making regarding the choice of technical elements. We invite you to discover our approach in this article.


Finally, let’s assume that your project is clear, well-defined and that you are ready to start developing your solution.

From there, you can carry out a functional analysis and then identify the areas in which the various players in your project can work.

Before starting the design stage and to accompany you throughout, our robotics experts have put together a special checklist for you: 


Our top tips for a successful robotics project ✅


Co-construct your robot. Each of the trades that are going to intervene must learn from the context of the other in order to merge all your skills and make the most of them. In concrete terms, build the development phases by planning synchronization times between the different business teams and plan for a project leader who is concerned about making the link between the different business lines.


Be aware of your weaknesses. Running a robotics project requires a certain level of skills, knowledge and equipment. For each element of your project, make sure you have the necessary resources. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses beforehand will prevent any weaknesses from having a negative impact on your project. Don’t hesitate to surround yourself with outside eyes if necessary. 


Use the Kiss -> Keep it simple, stupid method. Encourage simplicity throughout your design work to avoid non-essential complexities that may lead to errors, difficulties in use, costs and maintenance. For example, in the case of functionality, there is a tendency to believe that the more features our product has, the more it will be adopted by users. However this will actually make it difficult to use. If the basic concept of your product is not working, rework it rather than adding new features. 


Consider its environment. To ensure that your autonomous mobile robot is effective and safe, throughout the project you will need to orient your choices to the environment in which it will operate. Before you start designing, map out the various constraints you will have to meet (standards, safety, use, ergonomics, etc.). For example, if your robot is to be used in a medical environment, it will have to comply with strict regulatory and clinical standards, meet major safety issues and not interfere with the signals of other equipment present. 


It must also not interfere with signals from other equipment in the environment. It must also not represent a danger to patients and medical staff. 


Now… Let’s move on to the step you’ve been waiting for and discover the key skills to design your mobile robot as well as some inspiring examples of innovative mobile robots!



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1. The mechanics 

How will your idea materialize in physical form? What will your robot look like and how will it perform its functions? It is the role of mechanics to answer these questions. 

Based on the identified needs, we must define the solutions and technological bricks necessary to build your prototype. 

Once the architecture has been created, it is time to model your autonomous mobile robot. 

The mechanical design includes several elements such as the structure of your robot, the actuators, the sensors, the HMI (Human-Machine Interfaces) or the aesthetic plastic shells

These elements must be carefully defined for the proper functioning of your product.


How to choose the technical elements of your robot?


As the real skeleton of your robot, the architecture must be reliable to allow the robot to stand upright, move correctly and perform the functions required of it. 

Moreover, your robot is intended to operate in an industrial or human environment. It must therefore adapt as well as possible to its environment and not represent any safety risks. 


The choice of the technical elements of your robot is therefore based on several criteria: 

  • Its functionalities: What functions should my robot perform? How will it fulfil its main function while taking into account its environment?
  • Its environment: In what conditions will it evolve (wet environment, close to a heat source, terrain with obstacles…) 
  • Its dimensions: What are the dimensions that I must respect and that will allow it to be stabilized? 
  • Its weight: What impact does its weight have on its stability and the way it moves? 
  • Its performances: What speed should it reach? What load can it carry? What will be its autonomy? 
  • Safety: How can I use my robot safely? What are the safety constraints that I must respect? 


designing a robotics project


Throughout your choices, keep in mind the global cost of your project. 


In order to arrive at a competitive price, a price study is necessary. 


This study can take into account different factors such as the processes used, the choice of suppliers, the choice of materials and their quantity, the cost of tools etc… 


The study of these costs will guide you in your choices and in the selection of the technical elements which will constitute your robot.

💡Inspiring focus: Balyo’s intelligent handling robots


The French company Balyo specializes in the robotization of standard industrial trucks. Equipped with perception sensors and robotised via a localization algorithm, the company transforms these carts into autonomous robots capable of moving around logistics centers in complete safety.

2. The electronics

The hardware part of your robotics project is divided into two parts: the assembly of the electronic components and the design of the electronic board from these different components.


This is a meticulous stage in the design process and involves several challenges: 

  • Energy management: Your robot must have sufficient autonomy to power the motors and sensors necessary for the functionality of your robot. 
  • The communication system: Your robot must be able to communicate remotely. To do this, you must define the communication system that you will use to ensure its autonomy. 
  • The integrity of the signal: You have to make sure that the signals that your robot will receive are not disturbed. Everything must work together and at the same time. And this is even more important if your robot is to be used in an industrial environment.  


During the design of your robot, the choice of the power supply of your robot is not to be taken lightly. Indeed, the power supply is the heart of your robot, without it it will not work.

To define the power source, identify if your mobile robot is intended to be autonomous or on the mains and how it will recharge. 

To choose the battery, you must take into account: capacity, voltage, intensity, volume, power, etc. The remaining space and the imposed dimensions will also be determining for the choice of the type of battery to adopt.


Some questions to ask yourself to select the best components: 

  • How will the components communicate with each other? 
  • Is the voltage level good? 
  • Are the means of communication compatible?


💡Inspiring Zoom: Autonomous agricultural vehicles from Exxact Robotics

designing a robotics project


Exxact Robotics, a subsidiary of Exel Industries, aims to address the specific issues of viticulture as well as field crop activities with its autonomous agricultural vehicles. Driven by a control box coupled to a smartphone, the straddle carriers move autonomously and are able to perform soil work and spraying, in particular, on difficult-to-access areas such as narrow vineyards



3. Software 

The embedded system of your robot is the factor that will animate your robot. We can call it the brain of your product. It allows your robot to function and especially to evolve infinitely. 


Indeed, your embedded software must meet several objectives: 

  • Ensure that your robot performs the required functions 
  • Be compliant with cybersecurity issues and standards
  • Allow remote updates and evolution 
  • Record and collect data 
  • Identify the peripherals that will connect to your robot and enable their communication
  • Process information with users (pressing a button, turning on a light etc…) 


In order to determine the global structure of your software, you must start with the users’ needs while taking into account the hardware components selected beforehand. 

To succeed in the design of your embedded system, you must keep in mind the architecture of your mobile robot as well as the functionalities that are expected. 

Before launching into complex frameworks, your software must be able to drive your robot as well as the information from the sensors.


Here are some questions to ask yourself to guide you in the choice of firmware elements: 


  • What functionalities should my robot meet? 
  • What is the power source of my robot? Is it autonomous or mains powered?
  • How do I want to centralise the data collected
  • Do I want to use artificial intelligence? Or image or video processing?
  • What internal skills do I have (language, OS / technical stack…) to maintain my embedded system and make it evolve in the future?


We invite you to read this article to help you choose the solutions that will build your embedded software.


💡Inspiring focus: Skypods, the climbing robots from Exotec

robot skypod exotec entrepot


1st French industrial unicorn, Exotec has achieved technological success with Skypods robots. They allow 3D movement in warehouses thanks to their Astar management software which guides them in their movement and prioritization of orders in real-time



4. Mathematics 


Mathematical models feed the code used to program your robot and thus provide it with the instructions it needs to perform the tasks it is asked to do. 

Beyond the development, mathematics will allow the design of algorithms and automaton rules necessary for its proper functioning, for example: 

  • How does the robot identify the environment around it and make decisions? 
  • How will it finely control its actuators to perform exactly the desired movements while taking into account the inaccuracies of its sensors, the randomness of its environment or various disturbances? 


There are different programming languages that are used to feed the code: JavaScript, Python, C and C++ and Matlab


💡Inspiring Zoom: Buddy, the intelligent personal robot from Blue Frog Robotics


One of the major players in social robotics in Europe, Blue Frog Robotics has designed Buddy, the Emotional Companion robot. Designed to interact with humans, its open and scalable platform. Thanks to its development tools, Buddy can be used for many purposes. A true daily companion, he is able to assist, welcome, educate or even entertain those around him


Is your robot viable?

Your goal #1: Ensure the viability of your robot.


Now that you know the importance of the 4 skills necessary for the viability of your robot, ensure that they communicate well with each other and create a real fusion. 

For your robot to be efficient and evolve optimally in its environment, the choice of its technical elements. The way they communicate should not be chosen randomly. At the risk of having real impacts on safety and efficiency. 

It is also necessary to integrate into your design phase the consideration of the standards to be respected those will apply according to the environment in which it will evolve as well as the people with whom it will be brought to interact.

Throughout the project, carry out tests. They will secure your project, refine your choices, and guide you in the right direction. Testing is the key! 


Then, as we have seen, a robotics project requires many different skills. So don’t hesitate to add to your skills and get support.


We invite you to discover our article: How to secure the outsourcing of an innovative project?

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