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iRobot Scooba Exposed: What's Inside This Robotic Maid

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Imagine having your chores drastically reduced with the help of a robot. Seth Fogie details one such robot, iRobot's Scooba, and *literally* shows you the ins and outs of this incredible machine.
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Robots have long fascinated humanity. Movies like "Artificial Intelligence: AI" (2001) and "I, Robot" (2004) portrait possible futures where all your mundane chores are performed by a mechanical life form. Just imagine not ever cleaning the windows, doing the dishes, or washing your car! On average, a family spends 1.8 hours per day doing just such activities. That is 12.6 hours a week, 655 hours a year, or 2,047 days of your life wasted on something that a robot could do.

While technology is several decades away from producing a fully automated cleaning robot, you can get a taste of the robot lifestyle today. In fact, the first robot cleaner was released in 2002 by a company named, ironically, iRobot. The Roomba is a self-contained "smart" vacuuming device that can be set up to automatically vacuum your carpets at a specified time, and then return to the charger after it has completed the job. In the last few years, the company has even opened up their programming interface to "hackers" who have managed to turn this device into their own customized multifunction toy.

The latest release (early 2006) from iRobot was the Scooba, which was created with your kitchen floor in mind. According to its website, the Scooba is "The first floor washing robot for the home that preps, washes, scrubs and dries your floor."

In this article, we are going to see just how this robot works, from the inside out. As you will see, trying to build a computerized robot that uses water is not a simple feat! Be sure to check out the iRobot site for an external shot of the Scooba that you can rotate and zoom.


In this section, we are going to outline the steps needed to take the Scooba apart for those brave enough or adventuresome enough to take "tech support" into their own hands. Please note that if you do this, your warranty will be voided. With that said, I noticed no obvious warranty detection stickers/components.

  1. First, remove all peripherals parts. This includes the scrubbing assembly, filter, battery, water tank, and black suction hose. Figure 1 provides a shot of all these parts removed (arrows point to original location).
    Figure 01

    Figure 1 Scooba’s peripheral parts.

  2. Next, flip over the Scooba (remove the tank first if you haven’t already). Locate eight body screws and one longer screw in the scrubber assembly area. You can also remove the wiper guide screw and front wheel (pull it out gently), but this is not necessary to take the device apart. Figure 2 highlights the screw locations (red).
    Figure 02

    Figure 2 Screw locations.

  3. Remove the two long screws located inside the front bumper, near the edge of the outer bumper. Figure 2 highlights their location (green).
  4. Flip the Scooba back over. Locate and remove the two screws near the center of the device, and the two small Philips screws keeping the rocker arm assemble in place. Finally, remove two located near the edge of the light blue section (they are in deep holes). Figure 3 highlights the screw locations and the details of the front of the Scooba.
    Figure 03

    Figure 3 Scooba front.

  5. Carefully lift off the top of the Scooba, paying special attention to the ribbon connecting the two pieces together. Once the top is free, gently slide the ribbon out of the connector on the top piece. The end of the ribbon is very sensitive and can easily be damaged. Figure 4 shows a shot of the inside of the Scooba with the ribbon still attached.
    Figure 04

    Figure 4 Scooba internals.

  6. If you want to disassemble the top piece, remove the four screws from top piece that keep the light blue section connected. Keep an eye on the arms. They will fall off. Next, remove two screws from the small dark blue moon sliver that is holding circuit strip together, and crack open the piece to see the serial port circuitry (Figure 5).
    Figure 05

    Figure 5 Serial port circuit board.

  7. To remove the bumper, unscrew the two support screws and two guide screws from the bumper assembly. They are located on either end of the bumper. You must remove both the support and guide screw to get the bumper off.
  8. To view the internal circuit board (Figure 6), locate and remove the three screws that hold down the white plastic top. Be sure the surrounding area is dry, and then peel off the white protective cover. It will stick a bit as there is a water seal. You can pull out the circuit ribbon and the main sensor connector to completely remove the white protector piece.
    Figure 06

    Figure 6 Main circuit board.

  9. The rest of the disassembly process is only necessary if you want to take out pieces. To remove the fan, unscrew two small Phillips screws, keeping the fan assembly in place. Then remove three screws with washers/separation guide from the air/fan hose. Lift out the hose (it will take some force as the hose is sealed to the body). Remove two screw/separator screws from brush motor assembly (used to spin the scrubber). Remove the brush motor from the shell. Remove three screw w/washers separator from fan/blower assembly. Figure 7 shows the Scooba with all its main parts removed.
    Figure 07

    Figure 7 The Scooba disassembled.

That’s it! At this point, you will have a Scooba that looks similar to Figure 7.

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