Sawppy Cost and Complexity

Sawppy is just like every other project in that there’s a long list of ideas of things to do. I’ve been blabbing here for a while about problems and ideas to fix them, most recently about how hard it is to carry Sawppy around. But all those ideas have to balance the benefit against cost. Not just in terms of money, but also in terms of construction complexity.

I designed and built Sawppy as a lower-cost alternative to the JPL Open Source Rover, giving up on capabilities in exchange for a lower monetary barrier to entry. Using serial bus servos allowed a much simpler electrical system, though they contributed problems of their own. Mechanically, the construction complexity of both rovers are not very far apart in no small part to the large number of fasteners in both designs.

This was because my primary audience for Sawppy was myself, and I aimed at my own strengths and avoided my weaknesses like wiring. This was fine for the rover builders out there who have similar or superior skills, but it left out people who want a rover but didn’t have the same background. I know of rover builders who were stuck on the software, or on the electrical, or 3D-printed all the parts but never found the time to go through the time-consuming process of putting everything together.

Some people who didn’t have the same skills and background as I did found my Sawppy documentation lacking. Most were apologetic as they asked for help, others were… less polite. One notable person was unhappy that I didn’t provide detailed electrical wiring schematics and blasted the project for it. Dude… I give Sawppy out for free, if you’re unhappy I’ll refund your $0. Piss off.

Rude self-entitled people aside, there is clearly an unmet need. Sawppy was designed for people who are likely to tinker and modify my design, so many things were left loose and open to interpretation and customization. The freedom of choice can be disorienting for some, so there are people who would appreciate a rover that is not only cheaper and simpler to build, but also a corresponding set of prescriptive step-by-step directions to get there.

This starts to sound like what people expect in a commercial product. And there are a few already out there. So what ground have already been covered, and what can I do that’ll be different? It’s time to window shop a few products, starting with the littleBits Space Rover.

[Headline image: Sawppy at MatterHackers Modern Creators event. Behind Sawppy is Tamara @tlynnr85 promoting her Seekers of Science project.]

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