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Structural Frame Assembly

Structural Frame


Discord forum thread: Structure License: CERN-OHL-S-2.0


All of the Pipettin bots parts are assembled inside the structural frame, such as the baseplate and the carriages. Therefore, building the structural frame is the first step in the assembly process.

Throughout this section you will find general guidelines to build Pipettin bot structural frame, including the machining instructions and some helpful drawings.

Expected result:

imagestruuu.png strufram.jpeg



To ensure safe and secure transportation of the Pipettin Bot's structural frame, please:

  • Grab the shorter profiles: Firmly grip the shorter set of profiles located on the top of the structure when lifting and carrying the frame. These profiles provide optimal stability and control.
  • Avoid long profile manipulation: Refrain from lifting or twisting the longer profiles, as they are more prone to rotation under excessive torque, potentially compromising structural integrity.
  • Prioritize gentle handling: Exercise caution and avoid applying excessive force or sudden movements to prevent any damage or misalignment of components.



If you already have a cartesian 3-axis CNC frame from another machine (and know what you re doing) you can try using it instead 😄. The only requirement is that the Z axis is driven by a lead-screw that can produce significant vertical forces (e.g. not belt-driven).

Expected result:

alt text

Step 1: Gather parts

Parts and materials:

  • 8x M5 x 10 mm screws
  • 4x M5 nuts
  • 4x articulated legs (3D-printed)
  • 4x M5 x 40 mm screws
  • 4x twist lock nut
  • 4x M3 x 6 mm screws
  • 4x M3 nuts
  • 20x20 profiles: Either purchased or DIY, instructions for that can be found below.
  • All of them need to be tapped at their ends.
  • 3x 2020V-600-0HOLES.V1: 600 mm profiles.
  • 2x 2020V-400-0HOLES.V1: 400 mm profiles.
  • 2x 2020V-400-1HOLES.V1: 400 mm profiles with one center hole.
  • 4x 2020V-400-2HOLES.V1: 400 mm profiles with two holes near each end.

Tools for assembly:

  • Allen wrench
  • Spirit Level
  • Soft-faced hammer
  • Square



To make profile joints, we drilled holes and tapped threads into the aluminum profiles. This is sometimes called a "blind joint". See:

If doing this, we recommend finding a profile supplier that will cut the profiles for you. The DIY way with an angle grinder results in rougher edges, and even more delicate tools will not produce square edges. To avoid all of these issues you can buy a few hidden corner connectors (AKA inner steel brackets) o External angle connector, and skip all of that profile surgery.

It is a time vs. funds decision.

Step 2: Aluminum profiles

Parts and materials:

  • Aluminum 20x20 V-slot profiles.
  • M5 screw tap.
  • Cooling lubricant.
  • PLA filament: 100g.
  • Band: 20 x 2362 x 8/12d.
  • File (the tool).

Tools for assembly:

  • Manual drill.
  • Band-Saw or Miter-Saw.
  • Drill Press.
  • 3D printer.


Before starting, remember that are 4 types of profiles, differing in length and location or number of holes and taps:

  • 3x 2020V-600-0HOLES.V1: 600 mm profiles without holes.
  • 2x 2020V-400-0HOLES.V1: 400 mm profiles without holes.
  • 2x 2020V-400-1HOLES.V1: 400 mm profiles with one center hole.
  • 4x 2020V-400-2HOLES.V1: 400 mm profiles with two holes at each end.

You can see all of them by opening their CAD files.


  1. First, cut the profiles to length.
    • Our cuts turned out much better with a miter saw. Have a look at it's knowledgebase entry to learn how we did it.
    • We also tried an automatic band-saw, more information can be found here. We set it to a low speed for cleaner cuts. Use the band-saw with the correct band (there are different bands for each material).

alt text

  1. Drill holes into the corresponding places with a drill press. Use a 6 mm drill bit. The exact position of these holes is not crucial, they are only needed to let a screwdriver through.

  2. Optional: before tapping the threads, countersink the hole with a multiple cutting edges countersink. This process will help you with the screw thread tapping.



If you have drill bits of intermediate sizes around (e.g. 4.2 mm for an M5 thread) using them before may help a lot while threading.

alt text

  1. Introduce the screw tap axially into the pilot hole, and then reverse the rotation direction to complete the process.


Don't forget to add lubricant and/or coolant.


  1. Finally, remove any remaining burr with a file.

Step 3: Assemble the structure


While building the frame, you can use a spirit level and a carpenter's square to make sure that the structure is stable and that all the profiles are aligned.


Insert button-head M5 screws into the tapped threads of the profiles. Only a couple of turns with the screwdriver will do, they must not be completely inserted.


Make sure that the profiles with holes on the sides have their ends free. These will become the "vertical" columns of the structure.

alt text

Gather the profiles for one side, and slide the heads of the M5 screws into the V-slot of the profile it is meant to attach to.

While you are at this, slide the head of one M5 screw into the V-slot of the profile with the center hole (a bottom-side profile), such that it can be tightened in the next step from the other side of the profile.


This last bit is not shown in the images below.

alt text alt text

Use a square to measure squareness of the joints, and make small adjustments until it is just right. This can take some time, so be patient.


Some profiles will not ever make a perfect square when joined, even with perfect cuts. We found that some profiles are bent, that is, they present a small curvature that shows up when assembling the structure.

To mitigate this issue, you can try rotating the profiles about their axes, and then trying again. A flat reference can come in handy to find the direction of the bend.

alt text

Repeat this procedure to build the second side of the structure.

Top and bottom

Grab a profile and attach it to the screws you placed earlier on the bottom-side profiles of the structure's sides.

Proper alignment and centering is not crucial at this moment.

alt text estr.jpg

Add the top-side profiles to the structure, and tighten the screws slightly. At this point, most of the parts are assembled, but they will not be aligned yet.


To align the structure, first loosen a screw on the longer bottom side profile, leaving the other one tightened. You will otherwise probably have a harder time squaring the structure.

Use a square to iteratively align the top-side profiles to both of the sides. You will likely be following this procedure: loosen the screws and tighten them again in the correct position.

  1. Measure angle between two profiles with the square.
  2. Loosen screw that binds them. A slightly tightened screw might be better for small adjustments.
  3. Adjust the position and angle of the threaded profile, using the other one as your reference. Their sides should end up flush.
  4. Tighten the screw again, being very careful not to disturb your adjustment.
  5. Repeat 1-4 until the pair of profiles is square.
  6. Proceed to the next joint, leaving the bottom-side profile for last.


You can also gently tap the profiles with a rubber hammer or other soft-faced hammer (or thing) without loosening them completely. Tap the profiles until they reach the correct position, but be careful not to damage them.


If you have short profiles or other "flat" objects around, use them to also align the sides to total flushness while tightening the screw.

Use a spirit level to check for alignment.

  1. Measure the level of the long bottom-side profile. This should read zero if your table is level too.
  2. Measure the level of the long top-side profiles, and compare with the previous reading.
  3. Make adjustments, and check that the profiles are still square.
  4. Repeat 1-3 until the structure is level, and then check the sides for level too.


Spend some time going mad about this, you'll otherwise be doing it wrong (?).


You will probably never see true level, but you can get close enough. Small deviations can be corrected through software (ref1, ref2) later on.

Step 4: Give it some feet

In this step you will print the articulated legs and the locks and add them to the structure using screws.

Follow the steps in the Articulated Feet page.

Expected result:


Step 5: Bonus stuff

Corner plates

These corner plates can be added to the frame's corners. They make it look a bit nicer. 😄

Models for part 2020-CORNER-PLATE-M3_M4.


3D-printed profile nuts

In most cases the metal nuts for 20x20V profiles can be replaced by 3D printed nuts, with an M3 nut placed inside. This can help cut costs to some extent.

Models for parts 2020-NUTS.


Twist locks

You might notice that the 600 mm profiles can rotate. To avoid this, we came up with the idea of using plastic locks (red piece). The locks have a small tab that fits into a slot on the profiles. This prevents the profiles from rotating. These locks are 3D printed, so they may require a slight amount of pressure to fit, which should not be an issue.

This video will help explain the issue:

lock_freecad_2.png lock_freecad_1.png


Video Walkthrough


The video is outdated, but still useful to understand the instructions below.

Assembly video:


The structural frame is the backbone of Pipettin, holding everything together. It's like the robot's skeleton, supporting key parts like the XY carriages, baseplate, and electronics, so it interacts with most parts of the robot.

The baseplate will be located on the lower part of the structure, and objects will be placed on top.


The XY carriages will be located on the top of the structure.


The structure has the back-panel. It's located at the back, on the external face of the structure, joined by sliding screws and nuts, adding stability to the structure.

alt text

The electronics and the tool-changer motor, are mounted on its external face. The tool-parking posts and the tip-ejector post are mounted on the internal face.

alt text


Use a clean napkin or rag to remove dust or dirt from the structure, for the proper functioning of the moving parts. You should also check, with a spirit level and a square, that the structure alignment is correct.

The screws for the blind joints may loosen up over time. Use a screwdriver or allen wrench to check, make adjustments, and verify alignment.


When you are sure that everything is in place, you can try using "loctite" glue to, well, permanently lock the screws in place tightly.

The plastic locks on the upper profiles may start to have a limited motion range depending on the frequency and intensity of the robot's usage. This is because the locks may wear out over time or they may be damaged if the robot is used too roughly. If the locks do start to have a limited motion range, you can print new ones and replace the worn-out locks. This also applies to the articulated legs.


We decided to use 20x20 V-slot aluminum profiles to do the structural frame because they are easy to machine and cheaper than other alternatives (i.e. rods), are lightweight, and available in most parts of thw world. Suitable structures can also be made out of pipes and 3D-printed parts (e.g. like the MPCNC).

We used M5 button screws to assemble the profiles, as explained in Assembly Steps, and created our own accessories such as lockers and articulated legs since it was cheaper than using profiles accessories, like hammer, nuts and squares.


The latest versions of all files are available here

  • Profiles: custom part
  • Material: Aluminum 20x20 V-Slot
  • CAD and Drawings: PROF-2020V-V1
  • Part numbers:
    • 2020V-600-0HOLES
    • 2020V-400-0HOLES
    • 2020V-400-1HOLES
    • 2020V-400-2HOLES
  • Lock: custom part
  • Material: PLA, an M3 screw and an M3 nut
  • CAD and Drawings: 2020_TWIST_LOCK_NUT
  • Part number: 2020_TWIST_LOCK_NUT
  • Articulated Leg: custom part
  • Material: PLA, an M5 screw and an M5 nut
  • FreeCAD file: M5-ART-LEG-SCREW
  • Part number: M5-ART-LEG-SCREW
  • M5 Screws and nuts: off-the-shelf parts.
  • M3 Screws and nuts: off-the-shelf parts.


These 3D-printed parts were designed in FreeCAD 2.1 and 2.0, then exported in the FCStd. format for slicing. They were printed on an Original Prusa i3 MK3 using STL files.

If you want to dive into file formats visit here.