by Danny Staple

When building robots with many sensors and actuators, it’s not hard for the wiring to start to get out of hand and resemble a rats nest. This causes a number of problems:

  • The wires are hard to trace - making debugging hard.
  • The wires snag easily - leading to broken connections, especially in moving area like limbs and servo driven mechanisms.
  • It looks really untidy.
  • A wiry mess makes it more likely to make a wiring mistake.

So there are a number of ways to control this mess. This article has paid links.

Cable Ties

You can cable tie wires in bunches with these. These are extremely cheap and convenient, and are the quickest way to get a little control of cables. They are the kind of item most electronics or robot building enthusiasts should have around. However, they may mean needing to clip the cable ties back off if you want to make changes. It can still bunch though.

Adhesive clips

These are good for keeping the wires from flapping around. These let you clip the wires to the sides of a robot chassis or arm parts. They still let cables dangle between attaching points.

Spiral Wire Wrap

I first came across this when building Spiderbot, the system had 3 servo motors per leg, adding up to 18 servo motors. As you can imagine, the wiring for this became quite horrendous. However, in the package for the kit was some lengths of this wrap.

These are long tubes of PVC, which have a spiral cut all the way down (helical). You can then wind this around bunches of cables to neatly wrap them into bundles, with cables able to exit through the windings anywhere. THey are easy to take back off, although it takes a little time, and can be reused.

This wrap is very inexpensive. It is useful in robot arms, Hexapods and in the Learn Robotics 2nd Edition robot for keeping sensor wires under control.

Combining techniques

Using wrap between adhesive clips leaves wires nicely clipped into place with the wrap stopping things dangling between clips. It gives a very tidy feel, but is easy to change. Both these systems are inexpensive to use.