Robotics Workspace Floorplan

Team 321 is looking to move into a new workspace after next year and are looking for some guidance. We are renovating a large storage area big enough to have a sizable shop, storage, and half a field. The problem is I don’t know where to turn for guidelines about creating a good shop. If anyone has resources they could point me to or if you have blueprints to your own shop, I would greatly appreciate it.


Hey Dan,

Check in with 1640. 987 also has fantastic pictures of their workshop posted up on facebook.

Hope 321 has fun with a new build space!

Congrats on getting a new shop space!

For the Break Away season, we moved into a new shop space (A loft in downtown St. Paul) that had been completely renovated for us. We kept the layout big and open for the shop area, but had a section area for programming, PR, and meals walled off with windows into the shop area (the windows help the team feel like a whole team, instead of breaking off into subgroups that never see each other). There was a dedicated space for storage (We found some Home Depot-style shelving real cheap on Craig’s List). We kept the machining tools in one area, with final assembly in another, 5 or so feet away - you want to be able to provide supervision over the tool usage easily.

After the season was over this year, we got to move into our brand new build space in the school. This we literally got to design from scratch - it was an addition to the school, not a remodel.

In designing this space, there was a lot we wanted to consider:

  1. Noise: The machine tools can be loud. We wanted the “Machine Shop” separated from the assembly area, so we could close the doors to keep noise down.
  2. Power: We wanted to make sure we had sufficient power for our needs, while maintaining safety. This resulted in a master safety switch in the shop that, when pressed, cuts power to every machine in the room. This way we don’t have to run past people or dart in near a machine if we see something unsafe happening. We also made sure we had outlets spaced/located where we wanted them, according to our floor plan. If that wasn’t enough, we have power drops in the ceiling as well - they’re dangling from spring-loaded lockable reels, so the outlet can be stored above head height, but when pulled out can reach all the way to the floor
  3. dust collection: When using machine tools, a lot of dust is generated. In the end, we ended up without a built-in dust collection system due to complexity and the need to support both wood and metal. Instead, we’re still using the shop-vac for dust collection.
  4. compressed air: We designed in an exterior compressor that has a line running into the build space. This way we have the benefits of compressed air, without the loud compressor in the room
  5. Tall ceilings: Our old build space had 11 foot ceilings, which isn’t really quite tall enough. The new one has massive ceilings that I hope we’ll never have a need to hit :slight_smile:
  6. Loading bay: We have an insulated garage door in the assembly room. This lets us back the trailer fully into the room for loading/unloading, which is really great in Feb/Mar! It also gives us as much room as we need to load stuff in and out of the area.
  7. Carpet on the practice area! Our practice area is a little bigger than a half-field sized room, carpeted, which doubles as a classroom. All of the desks/chairs are on wheels, which makes it pretty quick to clear out the room for driver practice
  8. Extra rooms: We have a dedicated conference room with a table, seats for 12, 3 white boards, and a large screen TV we can hook the laptops up to. We also have a dedicated Lego League room with adjustable height tables and room for several groups to work.

For spacing on equipment, use common sense or look for guidance from the manufacturer. Space things out far enough that you won’t be bumping elbows, and so your parts can fit (for example, you’ll often use a band saw to cut through 12 foot long square tubing) without too much hassle. Leave room to walk, so people can walk behind others that are using the tools.

We have run out past three build seasons in three different warehouses. This has worked out very well for us, and we’ve had the opportunity to learn a bit about shop organization in the process.

Space division - we organize our space around function, with some flexibility and reallocation as build season progresses. The key space / function allocations are:

  1. “Quiet” space for programmers, CAD, classes - “Quiet” can be a relative term, but we always have sitting-down, table and chair work space for these groups (and others). Usually some distance from the band saws (if not in a separate room). CAD folks generally don’t want to be too far from the action.
  2. Storage space - There are really three different kinds: a) organized semi-permanent storage for generic parts, documents, etc; b) a little less organized maybe for aluminum, polymer and wood stocks; and c) dynamic storage for subassemblies and parts for ongoing robot construction or testing. We use shelves with labeled plastic totes (of varying size) for a; racks & buckets for b; and rolling steel wire carts for c.
  3. Machine space - for mills, lathe and other precision fabrication
  4. Welding space - needs some isolation from the rest of the shop to protect bystander eyes and keep flammable materials away. Also a good space for laying up composite materials, but only if there is no welding in progress.
  5. General workshop & Assembly - Band-saws and drill presses are here, along with work benches, arbor presses, vises, most tools, etc. Also used for laying up composite materials (or welding areas used for this if welding is not in progress). Most of the mechanical students will spend most of their time here.
  6. Practice Field - tends to grow as the season progresses. Needs a realistic surface (generally carpet which you can damage without serious consequence if it comes to this). A permanent practice field is a great tool for driver training & tactics development.
  7. Restroom(s) (need I say more?)
  8. Kitchen (very nice to have)

Actual location and size of these areas depend upon your space and your fabrication suite.

Our mill and MIG welder require 220 VAC (3 & 1 phase, respectively). Since it is expensive to run this service long distances, Our Machining and Welding spaces tend to be located close to the source and therefore also close to each other. These power services require professional installation.

Everything else runs off 110 VAC. In large, open area, these services tend to be located along walls. Try to organize users as well as possible to avoid excessive use of long extension cords (and then tell me how you managed to do this).

As a Pennsylvanian, I come down firmly pro-heat, especially during January/February build season. But heating a large open commercial space can be very expensive and we’ve had to pay for building utilities during our last two years. So our heat is definitely been minimalistic during this period. No problem if someone else is paying, but if you are, then I’d have folks bundle up for robotics.

During build season, having 24/7 access to your workshop is just golden. Important to decide who has access (who can open the building). Beyond this, a drive-in door and/or a loading dock are very, very useful.

Internet Access:
Essential. We’ve been using MiFi, but this is limited.

I’ll post some links to shop photos in a follow-up message.

Programming area (a-storage in background):

Isolated welding area:

Practice field:


One thing I might add is to also set up a dedicated electronics bench (soldering station, power supply, etc). You want to keep electronics away from the machining areas so that you don’t get dust and other junk between the pins (thus shorting out your entire system), and there’s really not much overlap in terms of tools for the electronics guys and the mechanical guys. The electronics bench can also double as a test bench, where you can basically have a clear area to test systems in, with access to the tools you’ll most likely need to do quick fixes during testing (you generally don’t need a machine to quickly fix something during testing - if you need that, it’s not a “quick fix” anymore).

Consider a “lounge” area where students can do homework without getting in the way of other team members, and an “office” area where mentors can gather to discuss things that students shouldn’t have to worry about. Don’t forget to plan for a trophy case and/or a place to hang banners. A prominent bulletin board and place for a calendar would probably be a good idea.

Will you have a shop telephone? If so, make sure you can put it somewhere that won’t be too noisy.

These are great recommendations everyone! Thank you. I might even collect all these into a document for future use. Please keep them coming.

Does anyone have knowledge of a shop design guide or a description of machine envelopes?


One of the mentors and hard working students’ pet peaves is other students coming to robotics to do their homework. Homework is meant for working on at home, not while the mentors are staying late at robotics to help build the robot. The mentors are there to work on the robot, not to be baby sitters for students.

I wish our government had this much money like yours, to spend on schools like this for your great education systems. Oh wait…

I definitely like having designated areas for assembly, machining, electrical wiring, programming, practice and other stuff. These suggestions are great and i wish my team had that oppurtunity to customize shops like that.

We’ve got machine envelopes, but these turn out to be pretty machine specific. It’s best to develop these based on your own team’s machines.

The machine envelope is, in practice, the area that the machine operator needs to run the machine. That includes any area that the machine can extend parts into (like the table on a mill or the handles on a lathe, or the operator panel on a CNC) as well as enough room for the operator and a tool area if needed.

If you can, mark the floor around each machine with its envelope–if you’re in the marked envelope, and you’re NOT the operator or mentoring/assisting the operator, you should probably find another place to be!

The homework area suggestion is actually a good one, and here’s why: If the students have some things that can be done at home, but won’t take a lot of time, or if there’s time before the start of the meeting, crash there for a few minutes and do the homework, then jump right into the build. (Also great as a quick break.) If done right, with tables and chairs, you also get a food area for those late-night or all-day build sessions.

We use extruded aluminium (8020?) walls and doors to surround machines that aren’t in are machine shop.

The doors have safety interlocks on them to prevent the machines being turned on without the proper procedures being completed. (I apologize for the obnoxious picture. It is the only one I could find)

I’m pretty sure that’s just safety guarding fences (don’t know the real name). Most, if not all, companies that make robots have to have those around them so no humans can get inside the area. Yours might just be normal extrusion painted yellow though.

and those look like normal robots used for assembly lines or welding, they don’t look like normal machines, are they?

The extrusion has a T-slot profile very similar to 80-20. They were installed with the arms so they are likely sold by a safety guarding company. You could probably do the same thing with any T-slot extrusion.

They are Motoman HP6 robotic arms equipped with a resistance spot welder. The arm’s head position is programmed using normal Cartesian coordinates (X,Y,Z) just like any other CNC machine. We also have the cage installed around our plasma cutter.

What would the robotic arms be used for in a highschool robotics room? Or is this a class for the hogh school programming classes?

American high schools have so much more then here in Canada. Im jealous, but at the same time wondering why you need to have all the extras, especially when your government has no money… But I don’t know

Most public high schools in the US have nothing or almost nothing when it comes to shop facilities, at least on the west coast.

They are used in our 11 and 12 robotics class. They spend most of there time sword fighting and playing checkers. Unfortunately they are highly proprietary making them a pain to program and we cannot afford to break anything.

We are a public school in Toronto, Canada. The arms were graciously donated to us (there’s a rumour that it was in someone’s will). We are the main robotics school in the district so we get a fairly large amount of funding but not every robotics program in are district gets adequate funding (cough…1310). We will be running them during a open shop day next year if you want to check them out.

We get zero funding from public sources and we are a public school. All of our funding has come from extreme efforts by our students, parents, and community. In a big fundraising push last year before worlds, we raised $39k in 7 days. Our goal for this new shop is $200k.

Referring back to another post that Daisy made a couple months ago, we used to be a team that cried about our lack of funding, until we decided to get proactive. There are definitely teams that are handed the money without much effort, but if we can make it happen in a city that is facing major budget problems, anyone can.

But still, we probably won’t go with robotic arms. I really am just looking for recommendations for machines, storage, tools, space layout, safety, etc.

Start by figuring out what you have and are taking with you rather than getting rid of, and how you’re going to fit that in with room to access and work around it. Then add in your half-field, and other areas you want to have.

I would HIGHLY suggest getting a “paper scale” model put together. What I mean by that is, you take a piece of paper and turn it into a scale drawing of the room, maybe something on the order of 1" on paper = 1’ in real life. Then you make cutouts of your toolboxes, large tools, old robots, and probably a couple of “humans” at the same scale. Arrange the cutouts on the drawing to see how stuff fits in, “lock” the plan when you find one that works, and you’re ready to move.