Inspired to teach future generations of engineers

My passion is not just to create, it’s to educate

Becoming an engineer or inventor is more than just a career choice – for influential hobbyist Norbert Heinz, it was his childhood ambition.

Norbert, from Germany, has been experimenting with motion control applications for many years, providing inspiration for his 50,000 global followers on his popular YouTube channel.

And as he develops his work, his passion is not just to create, it’s to educate. His wish is to help teach the next generation of engineers so they can make an impact on the future.


“I was inspired at a young age to understand how things work”


Reflecting on his pursuit to become an inventor, he explains: “I believe that becoming a creator of robots is a calling. It starts very early on in life.”

“For me, it was my parents' mechanical alarm clock which first sparked my interest, so I took it apart to figure out how it ticked. I was inspired at a young age to understand how things work and what I could learn.”

In his adult life, one of Norbert’s recent high-profile projects – WinchBot 2.0 – has been sponsored by RS, after being supplied with various off-the-shelf components, such as motors and drives and development boards, including Raspberry Pi and Arduino.

The WinchBot 2.0 is a robot concept that anyone can make, with the plans, build instructions, bill of materials and RS parts list available here.

It takes the form of a suspended equilateral triangular frame, which uses three motor-controlled winches at each of the vertices to shorten or lengthen cables which, in turn, move a slider on a central pivoting square rod (held in position by a centrally mounted bearing).

This motor/cable combination moves the robot’s gripper module (positioned at the lower end of the square rod), allowing it to be positioned within a working envelope below the triangular frame.

The WinchBot 2.0 was developed from Norbert’s original creation, WinchBot, and delivers smoother and more precise control than its predecessor, thanks to the use of higher-specification stepper motors.

The primary motive which Norbert had in mind when creating the WinchBot was to help promote education.


“I hope that my design can inspire others to develop amazing things.”


“I very much hope that one day there will be a WinchBot 3.0, but not necessarily one that I have created,” he continues. “I hope that my design can inspire others to develop amazing things.”

“I do not need to give advice to people who seriously want to get into robotics, but it’s helpful to know that it does require some basic education. With me it was mathematically oriented – for my A levels, I studied mathematics and chemistry. The natural sciences really interest me in general.”

To further inspire curious engineers and students, RS and Norbert gave people the opportunity to program and operate WinchBot 2.0 at the SPS IPC Drives tradeshow in November 2017, which took place in Nuremberg, Germany.

WinchBot 2.0 was shown in action at the RS booth and visitors were given a chance to speak to Norbert and ask questions.

The WinchBot 2.0 is especially interesting considering its deployment of remote access and programming and the way it highlights the capabilities of the IoT in an incredibly simple but effective manner.

Even though the application may look small compared to typical industrial robots, the principles behind it can be adopted for various professional solutions. An advantage of the design is that it can be scaled up easily by simply using longer cables. Another benefit is that it hangs on the ceiling, meaning no components are on the ground, as though a sort of 'sky' crane.


“Each day always brings something new to work on.”


The popularity of Norbert’s projects, and the huge number of video views he’s received, form a clear indicator that there is a real appetite out there for projects like these.

Talking more about his experience, Norbert says: “There is no ‘typical day’ – each day always brings something new to work on and fresh projects. The projects themselves often never run as expected. The WinchBot was actually planned as more of a conventional robot.”

Norbert’s guidance for aspiring engineers is to follow a similar path to the one which led him to his own success. He explains: “Programming is not clicking around on colourful buttons, it’s ultimately mathematics, and a very fundamental education is needed to move forward in the field of robotics.”

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