Storage Systemsone of the most awkward areas of hobbyist robot building. Where to put everything…

I cannot just leave things strewn across a living room - as my wife would probably have kittens, and between vast collections of Lego, other components, half built, built robots, junk to take apart, scrap plastic/metal, I have been really up against the wall in terms of storage.

I have heard of typesetters drawers being recommended - but these are very heavy, very rare and prohibitively expensive. They also lack one essential property - extendability. It is worth bearing in mind that your hobby may grow, and so the storage space, and type will grow with it. A non-expandable storage system would become a burden later.

First - I would advise anyone to go to IKEA, and get some adaptable shelving - IVAR is probably your best bet. Make sure that you plan what space you have. Try to make sure you have a display shelf, some shelves for semi-finished jobs (doubling up as a movable project board as IVAR panels are fairly easily moved), and then plenty of space underneath.

You then fill each of the spaces with one of the following:

  • Plastic Storage bins - preferably transparent - these are to hold larger items, including big motors, the Lego RCX and larger Lego blocks. Label them up and slide them in. Stackable ones are great - but you may not need them if you think through your IVAR design.
  • Component/Fishing Tackle sorter trays - I used these for a long time, and then you can compartmentalise your parts, and see wat you are looking for at a glance. This works as long as you do not have too many classifications to file in your storage.
  • Component drawer racks - you know them - they line the backroom of any Maplin - blocks with 64 or so mini-drawers, each subdivided - these are rather awkward as they use vertical space more than the depth, and can not be easily moved (picture drawers dropping out when trying to lift the rack).
  • Sealy/ZipLock bags are great- you can easily label them with a permanent marker. You can then store them in trays - and place the trays on the shelves. I have gone with a system which is alphabetically sorted, then sorted further by component parameters. As these come in multiple sizes - you could even store different sized components in a set of trays. It is a good idea to get trays with roughly the same height of the bags, relatively long, and as wide as three of four bags with a little room to spare, then take some cardboard - and divide them lengthwise for three/four columns of bags. You can make this easier by making tab cards with letters on them, and even dividing major categories. This will mean you can rifle through very quickly -much like a well organised music store. So far- this has proved the best for small components.

Where next?

I am planning and designing a robotic storage system. I will give details when they are ready - and may actually sell them from the site. Watch this space.