Archive for the 'Test Bot 4.5 SP1' Category


All Good (And Poorly-Maintained) Things Must Come To An End: The Great Project Purge of 2012

Jun 26, 2012 in Chuckranoplan, Cold Arbor, Nuclear Kitten 5, Project Build Reports, RazEr rEVolution, Test Bot 4.5 SP1

i swear to god i will fix this later

At some point, I need to stop telling myself that. It’s well known that my stuff isn’t exactly world-class in terms of reliability and Six Sigma class in quality, but even I can get sick enough of it to declare it a loss and start over. Over the past few months (and years) of neglect, quite a few of the robots and silly vehicles have become damaged and non-operational. I kept Swearing That I’ll Fix It Soon, Guys, but my shelf of stuff is long past overflowing with parts and project detritus and some of them contain good parts that I don’t want to keep buying. With my general shift of operations towards the newly opened IDC space just up the Z-axis from MITERS, tearing down some of the old derelicts and returning their parts to the Earth (/my storage bins) became more appealing – especially as I started collecting more stuff, most of it landing on my fresh new corner desk.

So it is with great sadness (and hidden catharsis) that I must announce the decomissioning of…

Cold Arbor

Cold Arbor never really worked – the frame was too flexible to accommodate the huge teeth of the saw. After Motorama 2010 and Dragon*Con’s Robot Battles ’10, CA pretty much only ventured off my shelf for the occasional demo – it illustrated, visually, what a “combat robot” was very well. Pretty much everyone’s first reaction at the word “Battlebot” is “You should put a saw on it to cut through the other robot!”, and CA is…. well, pretty much a saw. It never really stopped driving, but then the saw actuator broke so it couldn’t do the extending thing any more. Arbor, being the biggest lead weight I had on my shelf, was therefore the first to go.

But before I tore it totally down, I decided to use it still-functional and very smooth drive base as a test dummy.

Last year in the Austrailian robot fighting circle (did you know that Australia has a very active robot combat scene too?), one of the builders began to modify Hobbyking brushless controllers to act as H-bridges for DC drive motors, utilizing 2 of the 3 half-bridges available on the average BLDC controller. I’ve been advocating something like this for a while – use the cheap hardware base that is Chinese brushless motor controllers instead of custom-developing an expensive niche robot controller solution. The choices in robot controllers these days are either said niche and expensive but generally reliable controllers, or these one-tiny-FET-per-leg overfeatured doodads that I’ve literally had zero success rate with. Or you straight build your own and have them work, but I’ve also not successfully managed that yet. There’s nothing on the market right now which is just a bucket of large FETs like the old Victor 883s (which you can still buy, but they’re now a design so old it can almost drive).

That aside, I have also never bothered to schematic-trace the brushless ESC boards or learn & put up with enough raw Atmel C to reflash the microcontrollers (though I suppose I could have flashed Arduino onto them…). So, a ton of hot air rage on my end, but lots of action in the 40+page thread over on the Robowars forum, which has seen all of the cheap common ESCs reverse engineered and firmware implemented for – up to and including its own confusing beepy configuration menu.

They’ve now started selling them (when I say ‘they’, I really mean like one dude), and I took the chance to get some modified “85A” units based off this Hobbyking ESC.

First, I had to remove most of Arbor’s existing electronics. Okay, so my success rate with the Sabertooth controllers isn’t zero – Arbor runs two of the closely related SyRen controllers, but $75 for 25 amps is stupid these days, and I’m also royally undersizing their loads – one is running a little Speed 400 class motor and the other is running a drill type 550 motor which sees about a 10% duty cycle on raising and lowering the saw.

Way cleaner wiring and layout with the ESCheap85 in – I could easily see a robot with a whole rack of these next to eachother. The massive spam of SMT FETs technique used to great success by cheap Chinese controllers is an acceptable compromise, in  my opinion, between one-tiny-SMT-FET per leg used by the Sabertooth and Roboclaw and other most-likely-designed-by-newly-graduated-college-students controllers, and the one-huge-nice-FET approach I usually take. It keeps the board size down, too.

After hooking this up, Arbor was taken on several somewhat strenuous (and absurd) test drives.

None of it was very scientific, nor was there really enough space to seriously stress the bot out. I’m going to have to use these in battle myself before I’m fully sold on the idea, but based on the reports of the substantial number of Australian users, they’re pretty bulletproof, and a few American users have already run 18v DeWalt drills in drivetrains using them (the same motors that Clocker uses). The 85A type has been praised as a “Victor replacement”, but its more limited voltage range (30V fets and 35v capacitors) doesn’t quite convince me it can be swapped directly into a native 24v (up to 28v fully charged and more during dynamic braking) system. I fully agree with the concept, though, and for about $1 per amp I don’t have any complaints past my own reservations.

That doesn’t mean I’m no longer going to attempt my own controllers – I have yet to successfully execute a small current-controlled vehicle H-bridge, of which robot controller is a simpler subset. But that’s for another post.

At the end of it all, here’s Arbor mid-scrapping:

Scrapping is such a negative word. It took me a while to crack open that weapon drive gearbox, since I sealed it up so well at the start – and some of the bolts were bent.

Here’s everything I ended up keeping from Arbor. All of the motors, pretty much all of the drive mechanics (especially those delicious custom gearboxes, which were one of my first good ones), and of course the saw and worm drive in case I rebuild it all. The VictorHVs and Sabertooth controllers were also kept and filed in my robot controllers bin.

prospect for rebuilding: slim

Arbor was a very complicated robot with lots of moving parts – it’s something which is more difficult to get right, and it’s usually more disappointing (to watch as well as to operate) when it doesn’t work. Arbor’s build was rather rushed and many details weren’t completely thought out. I’m more likely to build a 30lb bot that is either more plainly functional or spend alot more time to build a complex but well-designed and tested robot before trying to compete with it.

Going down the line, next I pulled out…

nuclear kitten 5

NK5 was heavily damaged last Robot Battles, and ever since then has been sitting on the shelf. However, the disc motor still works great – and I can make spare discs, so that’s definitely being reused on something. The controllers and motors were also potential salvage items.

NK5 was the last robot I built before I converted fully over to “T-nut” style construction, visible in pretty much all my stuff from 2009 onwards. The design actually dates from late 2008 – my first major t-nutted endeavor was the ill-fated 2.007 robot. The frame has these wonderful corner bars that I machined for this application, but it seems like now you can buy everywhere. I really liked these, so I went ahead and saved them. Tapping into real metal is way better than t-nuts at any rate.

Here’s NK’s remnants pile. The frame materials were just not worth keeping, but I kept the motors – the gearboxes are not stripped, but one of the pinions fell off (but is intact). They might become donor parts for future gearboxes. I am a fan of these little 25mm metal gearboxen: while they are not planetary, they’re big and chunky inside to make up for it, and fairly cheap at $10-15 each.

prospect for rebuilding: hell yeah

I can’t guarantee when, but D*C 2012 is likely because I pretty much have everything-minus-frame. The disc is up for some revision, though. Big tall vertical disc spinners are no longer in vogue, being replaced by small, low bricky drum things with built-in motors (of which there are now like 50).

Next up is my pride and joy,

test bot 4.5 MCE

Really? The bot that made it to real-deal-Battlebots-IQ, then Motorama 2008 and back? The first thing I ever worked on at MITERS? Yep, since its default parking spot since Moto 2008 has been in Clocker’s lifter when it’s not doing other things.

TB certainly has the most grime of any of the bots, and the lifter was pretty much utterly trashed – it took a direct from the vertical disc bot Igoo at Motorama 2008 (that video is slightly painful to watch).

This is one of my first drill motor hacks. I did a few in 2006 for the original TB version 4, but they were either terrible or dismantled very quickly. This thing predates my entire website, pretty much. The extension shaft with the pinion was added when I redesigned the lifter for Moto 2008. It had an additional outboard support, but since it was made of UHMW, the whole gearbox still flexed too much to keep the gears in mesh, and so the pinion stripped very quickly in battle.

After I took the damaged arm parts off, I realized that TB’s drive base was actually in very good mechanical shape. I still love those gearboxes, too: they are super special 12:1 drill box hacks that I made with mating the salvaged 18 tooth planet gear and 9 tooth pinion gear of the first stage of a drill motor with an intact output stage. Coupled with the extremely overvolted 9.6v drill motors, this made the bot have a rather zippy top speed of 14mph. The first version of this gearbox predates the website (again) – this version at least had the luck of being milled, so things actually lined up!

I briefly entertained throwing the BotBitz ESCs in the frame just to drive it around again, but decided against it for the time being. It’s sure been a long time since I’ve had a 4WD drill-powered box.

So I closed it right back up again. Only the damaged arm and wedge parts were scrapped – otherwise, I think I can put something interesting in this bot again, or at least give it a better sendoff at a serious combat event later on, as the most honorable fate for a combat bot is still, in my opinion, being thoroughly vaporized into a cloud of small particles.

prospect for rebuilding: not for Robot Battles

TB4′s design was optimized for “arena” combat which has more guaranteed smooth floors and a more pressing need for huge, thick angled armor. The RB stage is purposefully left fallow to discourage pure wedges – a passive aggressive attempt at encouraging more robot creativity, which I contend has been successful in the past few years even though it kind of locks me out from competing in 12lbers again there with this design. Maybe Motorama 2013….

Finally, a project that I hate to see get tossed so early, but…

razer revolution

It’s lived a decadent life of being a demo attention whore as well as occasionally coming in handy when Melonscooter was on blocks, and has seen 4 different motor controllers (Double DEC’er, Melontroller, Tinytroller, and Jasontroller!), but recently RazEr Rev has become kind of a wreck.

I donated the front end to another MITERS scooter effort after the new battery got 2 dead cells after only a few weeks – definitely a case of bad initial conditions. Since then, it’s been sort of chilling in a corner, slowly being eroded away by the tides of cruft and dead power supplies that ebbs and floes around the shop.

The Jasontroller works great, the battery can be surgically corrected (I’m literally going to scalpel/X-acto knife the dead cells out and make it into a 10S pack), and the Dual Non-Interleaved Razermotor is a little rattly in the bearings but otherwise functional.

So that’s pretty much all I kept. Oh, and the extra heavy duty generation 2 Razor handlebar, after they moved away from welded-to-frame folding joint but before cost cutting made the joint like 24 gauge steel. This front hinge is massive – the steel is something like 0.13″ thick.

The reason I decided to scrap RREV now is because I’ve become dissatisfied with the frame design. It uses a design which I now consider inferior to other similar scooters in the way it’s put together. Starting over with the frame will be a great way to optimize the design towards less material use (like giant plates of 1/4″ aluminum) and make it simpler to assemble in addition to making dedicated space for the battery and Jasontroller, both of which were “aftermarket” additions. It should end up lighter for the same performance, but I don’t see it getting any smaller. Sorry Jamo, but Razor Wind is a little on the small side for my tastes now.

All this talk of what I’m gonna do means the

prospect for rebuilding: immediate

I already ordered some more giant aluminum plates (…sigh) and will probably be redesigning the frame this week. I’ve already got the changes planned out – they’ll just need execution. Like NK5, it will just be a matter of moving old parts over to a new chassis – there’s otherwise not much about RREV that I’m unhappy about. It’s definitely going to get a stock fender.

other stuff

I didn’t take any pictures, but all the Chuckranoplans have been parted out and recycled too. I’m probably not going to be touching this for a while until I stop being afraid of foam so I can build meaningful scale models. 3D printer models were fun for design practice, but are too heavy to work.

Alright, now that I’ve eaten half my offspring, I can start considering rebirthing them again!

Motorama pseudoreport

Mar 08, 2008 in Bots, Events, Project Build Reports, Test Bot 4.5 SP1

Since it looks like I’m never going to work up enough motivation to actually write an event report, I’ll just link you guys to…

My Moto ’08 album on Facespace

and Youtube page for videos.

Test Bot vs. Redwood

Test Bot vs. Torrent

Test Bot vs. Apex

Test Bot vs. Hax0r 

Test Bot vs.  Igoo

Overall: The arm gears proved to be as much trouble as I expected. The drivetrain, however, is fully dialed in. I never had any issues at the event with the drivetrain, except one loose pinion which was my fault for not coating it in Loctite to begin with.

The arm beam itself completely failed on a particualrly good punt (visible in the Igoo video), but that wasn’t surprising either.

In the end: no more rush builds for events, especially now. I paid for it dearly with a week’s worth of missed work that I had to make up, so the week after was double-time busy.

I’ll repair the arm and tidy up the rest of the bot for whichever event comes next. Oh, and rebuild the gear mechanism, since it sucks.

Motorama 2008: Saturday and Sunday

Feb 18, 2008 in Bots, Events, Project Build Reports, Test Bot 4.5 SP1

That was an insane weekend. Currently, though, I need to attend to a week’s worth of classwork that I need to make up, so won’t be writing a full event report yet.

Watch this space.

Motorama 2008: Friday

Feb 16, 2008 in Bots, Events, Project Build Reports, Test Bot 4.5 SP1

So, I wrote the last build report Thursday night in a hotel room in Harrisburg. Friday was 150g and antweights day, as well as early safety/checkin for anyone who wishes. There were plenty of larger bots being built in the pits.

Of all the things I forgot to bring, it was my camera’s (sucky proprietary) cable, so no pictures for now. I wasn’t able to secure an arm controller, but did get the following done…

  1. Make a arm restraint/guard to follow the rules
  2. Make an LED power light. It mights up the back end of the robot as in every version of TB since 4.0
  3. Make the charging plug, which worked fine.
  4. Install all the hardware. I only put on a bit of hardwareduring the build so each test didn’t involve putting in 30 screws. The bot’s fully loaded.
  5. Dropped a 3200uF capacitor on the 5v line. Spektrum receivers apparently have a bad issue with voltage transients and draw an unusually high current. Spikes or dips on the 5v line from regulators not responding quickly enough to robot conditions can cause them to reset, which causes the bot to stop for a few seconds. I noticed this behavior in TB alot, so decided to try it. I approve. It was better that it did this in testing and on the Media Lab floor than in a match against something big and pointy.

At weigh-in, TB came in at 12.0 pounds even. However, the scale measures in half-pound increments, and I haven’t actually put it on a ounce or gram scale yet. So it could be anywhere from 12.00 to 12.24 pounds, which is over. Why the hell is my UHMW box so heavy?

The bot handled great during a quick test drive. I was able to do a fair share of drifting around the test box, and it’s zippy even on 11.1 volts.  Due to the Spektrum capacitor hack, it did not drop out at all.

Anyways, the tournament starts tomorrow. Reports later!

TB4.5MCESP1 Update 17: Last build report!

Feb 15, 2008 in Bots, Project Build Reports, Test Bot 4.5 SP1

After a 14 hour nonstop work session at the Media Lab, SP1 is finally in some form of running order, sans arm ESC of course. I think I was in the building from 5 in the afternoon, through the night, to around 7AM when I decided to stop and take care of the little details at the event.

Usually, in the mad rush to finish, I don’t get around to taking pictures, but I did this time.

Poseur-finish picture with bent wedges. I wandered over to Central Machine Shop and got these made on a shitnormously huge metal brake. Best part? It was gratis. So, big thanks to the guys at CMS, because otherwise I would have to run non-curvy wedges.

One of the fixes I came up with to deter arm jamming was this additional half-bearing/chassis extension which cradles the motor shaft. It actually took three tries to get this right because it was about 3AM and I kept missing at least one small detail which made things not fit.

In the end, it doesn’t prevent the jamming as well as I’d like, because the motor still exerts enough brute force to bend the UHMW. If this piece were aluminum, it would work significantly better.

The last ditch solution is to glue the bottom of the motor to the baseplate such that it cannot flex, at least as much. I might also take the hard stop pins out to give me some more reaction time.

Unfortunately, the loss of that extra flex may have other consequences. I managed to explode a tooth off the pinion during testing. I’m beginning to have a feeling that the lifter is going to be less reliable than I expected.  And I didn’t expect much to begin with.

To fix the offset hinge holes, I popped them on the Media Lab mill and slotted the holes with a 3/16″ endmill. This not only lets me line the wedges back up, but also allows them to be mildly adjustable so I can trim them to the floor.

Speaking of trimming the wedges, here’s one of them in an angle vise. This was just one of about 4 different setups I tried for milling down the wedges, so some of the surfaces are a bit inconsistent. However, since they’re just going to get banged up anyway, it doesn’t really matter.

One finished wedge, with a partially finished one behind it. The mill’s Y-axis travel is too small for me to do both wedges in the same vise setup.

Test mount and gratuitous botshot. Things do fit.
And this is just a gratuitous botshot!

So, as of Thursday morning, the bot does move, and is decently maneuverable. It’s not fast on 11.1 volts, but I’ll manage. I still need to scrounge an arm controller at the event, and take care of some minor issues such as the charging lead and a power light of some sort. I’m not too worried about the charging lead since I can take the top off the bot to charge it.

Oh, and I wrote this from Harrisburg, PA. Event begins tomorrow!