Archive for the 'Project Build Reports' Category


The Overhaul Design & Build Series, Part 4: Do You Want to be Gooey?

May 13, 2018 in BattleBots 2018, Bots, Events, Overhaul 2

Wasn’t that an insane season premier episode!? If you missed it, it even seems like they’re distributing the episodes in more creative ways this time, up and including Prime Video. That’s good news, including for me, who can’t be buttsed to TV like 99.5% of people near my age group and lower, and so can barely watch his own damn TV show. I’m fairly confident Overhaul will first be on the 3rd episode, so I think it will time well with the conclusion of this series.

The bulk of the physical construction took place around the first and second weeks of March. Actually, let me rewind the clocker just a little bit, back to the last weekend of February.

I got another shipment of stuff from Markforged, which is returning this season as one of the team sponsors. First, a bunch of Onyx filament to print wheel hubs with, as well as two large molds made on the Mark X series machines which have a bigger build volume. The Mark Two is limited to around 5″ in the width dimension, and guess what has 5″ wheels?! I printed a pair of 3″ front wheel molds in-house from Nylon, since that’s much smaller than the build volume limit.

Printing each pair of large wheel cores actually takes an entire day (22 hours, anyway) so it’s kind of a long process to make a dozen wheels. However, it was easy to pipeline everything once I got the prints going, as the polyurethane also happens to want about a day before demolding.

The resin of choice was Smooth-On Reoflex 60. I had plenty of good experiences with Reoflex 50 in Überclocker, but thought it wore a little fast and that Overhaul’s overpowered drivetrain would make that worse. So I elected to move up on the durometer rating, and 60A is similar to Colson wheels.  I got a small pack from the local distributor around here, Reynolds, to test my process and also the amount of liquid pigment needed. See, the native color of the Reoflex resin is a pleasant poop brown color, which is actually too dark to turn MIKU BLUE. So whatever, black wheels it is.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions on how the hell these wheels are supposed to demold. The molds are one-piece with zero draft, so it should be some kind of physical impossibility…. but then you realize that is what the screwy tread profile does!

I went light on the mold release here, and subsequent wheels actually popped out easier than that. Have I mentioned it’s also awkward trying to hold a camera at the same time as keeping yourself upright AND applying several Torques to something? At least a few torques.

They didn’t all work out though. The first center wheel mold I got from Markforged seemed to have some extrusion problems for the exposed surfaces, leaving them porous. We figured I’d just try slathering on the mold release as they reprinted it.

Nah, this one was stuck for good. Later on, I actually cut this mold open and discovered the resin had seeped entirely down through the floor of the mold and even through the inner walls due to its porosity… Yup, not unscrewing this one.

The reprinted mold was fine.

The problem with a robot with much larger wheels…. is that little sample pack pretty much only lasted those three initial wheels. So guess who now owns an entire gallon of goo? There is no intemediate size between the small trial-size and the full gallon.

These buckets are kind of crappy to use without dispensing equipment setup, but luckily I managed to get the workflow down for pouring them, and only got everything slightly gooey.

All of the frame rails now have brace plate holes-to-be-tapped drilled into them, so frame reassembly can begin in parallel with the remaining operations on new drivetrain and clamp/fork parts.

The first things to go back together are the liftgear and new lift motors.

One assembled front 3″ wheel… I’m liking these already.  The tread adhesion is outstanding – I can’t begin to tear the sidewall away from the face of the wheel. That and the mechanical over-molded interface means short of getting these things cut off, I’m not going to lose the tread.

A little bit more progress on reassembly, now with added drive motors.

Going on in parallel with the wheel casting and reassembly was lots and lots of welding. This damn thing almost has too much welding on it. I also know that I only say that because during this build, we didn’t have a MIG welder, only a TIG.

Here’s why – TIG welding is a very slow, methodical process which gives the welder maximum control over the weld composition. For the things we’ve been doing for “work” and consulting projects, this has been great! What it’s not good at is making large amounts of obnoxious fat welds quickly, for things which are only meant to run into each other over and over. Really, a lot of what you’ll see in the arms was designed for MIG welding, but I couldn’t gain access to my usual one back at MIT until nearly the very end of the build season. Putting Overhaul’s arms together, and Brutus’ wedges and plows, were processes which took up an entire day, or days.

The combined builds of Brutus and Overhaul made us go out and buy a MIG welder because of how bad it was. So that obviously won’t be a problem again, since now we have a Millermatic 211 in the arsenal.

However, I will begin with pointing out that a TIG welder is great for performing an act of terror I learned during my MIT career: TIG bending. Hey, it creates a highly localized heat region! By gliding the torch over a line scribed into some metal, you can very easily get it up to formability temperature. The upside is also a smaller HAZ than (in my experience) with an oxy-acetylene torch.

To make these bends in Overhaul’s future ears, I simply dumped 200 amps of TIG into them for a minute or so and then quickly threw them in the brake press. The welded-like appearance is actually very superficial and was a result of the metal surface liquefying somewhat.

The clamp side plates required some cleaning and standoff tubes machined. I actually didn’t have to buy any new tubing for this clamp design – all of it was either from some other tubular object on Overhaul, or could be slightly machined to the needed diameter. The machined tubes were advantageous since I could control the width of the assembly precisely using the turned shoulder.

SSAB’s Hardox comes with a paint-like coating instead of the heavy hot-rolled mill scale that I see a lot on generic AR grade steel. It comes off very quickly with a flap disc, whereas last season involved several hours of grinding with a solid wheel to get the material to clean weldable state.

Other weld prep included fitting the new lift hub pieces together – some diameters had to be cleaned up and shoulders turned once again.

I had to do a rather hilarious setup on the ears which connect to the clamp actuator in order to clean up the internal bore. Yep, that’s 4 out of 6 jaws.

Here I am doing the first assembly tacks on the lift hub. I have a very strange welding habit: I like doing my setup with the TIG welder, then switching to MIG to finish out. This is solely because I have no patience whatsoever for TIG.

Remember those little flats that were cut into the actuator ears and endcaps? Check out the parallels on the bottom – they help align everything so there is no complex fixturing needed.

Blah blah blah… welder and paint, grinder I ain’t, etc.

Because the clamp arm’s aluminum pivot rings still need to go over these, I had to clean the endcap welds up on the lathe afterwards.

A finished lift hub with endcaps threaded and with bearings made of oil impregnated nylon. I actually found a blank that I had machined most of to the correct dimensions, so making more was easy. I had more unfinished blanks which I machined new arm bushings for from also.

It was now Pi day, and New England greeted us with like the 3rd winter storm in 3 weeks. But the build must go on! Never give up, never surrender (seriously kids, don’t ever move up here. it’s not worth it. it’s expensive, shitty, and cold). I set out to Mid-City Steel which was able to quickly supply plasma-cut Hardox 450 parts on short notice and for very low ruble. Combined in this order are more parts for Brutus.

With this order came the first DETHPLOW (out of 2 – I entered a 2nd supplementary order for more spares) and all the arm parts too.

Plot twist: The arms are mild steel.

Yes, yes, finally obtain mythical Hardox sponsorship, end up making lifter forks from goopy mild. I was ready to design the arms to be made from HX450 also, but couldn’t help thinking if the arms were extremely rigid, that something happening to them would just take out everything upstream – the lift hub, main shaft, etc. which are decided not very Hardy or Ox-y.

Therefore, mild steel arms it is. Depending on how they perform in the season, this might be changed down the line.

Setting up the arms for welding was a similar process to everything else – chop and turn some tubes, and clamp it all together. I for one don’t mind if we bought a CNC plasma cutter. Before these industrial processes (which themselves are rather “old school” and established) were “discovered” by the robot community, welding a frame together was a much bigger deal and required much more setup and skill. This was the environment I grew up in, so that’s why it took me so long to learn and appreciate welding.

Here I am putting the arms together with our Miller 200 amp TIG in the foreground.

Hey, wait… That’s not actually me! That’s…

Allen, a new team mate for this season, who is a ‘graduated duckling’ of my involvement with New York Maker Faire and the Power Racing Series. These days, he’s a mechanical engineering student at Stony Brook. I stole him for their spring break and basically trained him from-scratch on TIG welding, upon which he somehow dumped the entire tank of argon over the course of the week.

First of all, it was a lot of welding, if I haven’t made myself clear on this front. But I do think the regulator was set up for too much gas in general, since at one point the flowmeter had something heavy run into it and did not work properly, and we set it up by listening to it. Sigmas! We have none!

(We do now have a new flowmeter)


Allen put together essentially everything you see in this build report that wasn’t the lift hub. This is a photo of the two Overhaul heads under construction. It was jigged up using the lift hub on one end and the spacers for the tooth on the other.

Your Godfather horse-head moment for this build.

Connecting all of the welded bits together was actually very painless this time. Think this means I’m getting better at design-for-welding! This is a test-fitted complete lifter assembly. Not pictured are the spare set of long arms and pair of finished short T-Rex arms. And the other lift hub. And D E T H P L O W.

Mechanical re-integration of the bot progressed quickly from this point. Check back in next week for more original content!

The Overhaul 2018 Design and Build Series, Part 3: When Your Supply Chain is Missing a Half-Link

May 04, 2018 in BattleBots 2018, Bots, Events, Overhaul 2

It’s fab time! The following story takes place in the last week of February to the first week of March – yep, that’s just over 3 weeks, reaching into 2 weeks, until the bot had to be in the crate! In fact, a lot of the earlier photos here were concurrent with finishing out the drivetrain changes and electronics module, since the mechanical modifications were first priority.

Alright, the first thing to do after two years of stagnation and one entire shop move is to take inventory. Some of Overhaul’s parts had wandered off into other projects or been repurposed, and others had been sold to needy builders elsewhere. Oh, and some things instead were to be deprecated and thrown out.

I was first out to ascertain how many good drive motors I had remaining. I originally built a whole bunch of spares and only ended up using two or three. But the lift motors at the time were low on stock at Hobbyking, so I only had four lift motors total – one of which was burnt out and the other had a severely damaged gearbox from (likely) the rumble and post-season shenanigans.

There were also other parts being counted – sprockets and drive hubs, and hardware relevant to the liftgear which I only had a few of to begin with.

By the end of the day, I had a good idea of what needed to be ordered from McMaster the following Monday, as well as what parts to ask HobbyKing for!


I began the stripping down of the bot during this process. Poor Overhaul – it’s mostly been living on a lift cart behind my work area, usually causing me to run into it in some way on a regular basis, causing a pattern of injuries on my leg which would have been highly suspicious during high school.

Breaking the bot down was important since I would want to start over with all new fasteners and ascertain the status of all of the parts, such as where a frame rail might need to get cleaned up or if this or that drive hub was about to let go anyway. There were also quite a few parts which were going to receive lightening in my efforts to make weight for DETHPLOW. Basically everything above in blue is being replaced completely, and a lot of parts which went into the now-previous design head will have to be deprecated.


Ah, the sad electrical box. Overhaul hasn’t been operational since a year and a half ago when I sold the DLUX 250 reflashed ESCs to Ellis for Robot Wars. To my surprise, this damn thing still powered on. There is a single brushed RageBridge inside to run the former clamp motor, an A23-150 sized Ampflow motor, as well as a BEC module.

Oh well – everything which caught fire is considered automatically sketchy in my book, and this box had an entire unassembled spare if I somehow needed another one – so I salvaged the bus bars and some intact wiring harness parts and unceremoniously chucked the rest.

Overhaul is probably my current masterpiece in terms of design-for-assembly and design-for-service. I put more thought into how things go in and out into this bot than probably every other project I’ve ever made, combined. It’s actually very easy to knock down as one person, since the majority of the bot is supposed to be serviceable by 2 people in under 5 minutes. It takes on average only 2 minutes to release a set of drive motors and under 60 seconds to separate the upper and lower halves of the bot at the arm towers, after which the set of lift motors comes out with only 4 bolts.

The revisions will see some of this go away – for instance, the frame rail brace plate would add a dozen bolts and a different tool to the process. However, I was fine with this – at BattleBots with the current format, you usually have several hours of notice before fighting, if not days. It gets tighter around the playoffs and finals obviously, but the quickest turnaround I’ve witnessed was still on the order of 2-3 hours. If I was scrambling to replace frame rails that hard, it means I’m doing pretty damn well.

On the plus side, the actuator and upper clamp retainment strategies have been changed to be more easy to service.

Well, when you get down to the basics, Overhaul is just a series of gears.


All said and done – this is what my table and bench area looks like. I sorted the remaining spare frame rails by type, since each type needed a different kind of surgery or modification.

Chibikart makes a cameo in this photo.

There was about 8 pounds to lose in the frame, spread across a few parts. Overhaul weighed in at 247.0 on the event scale during Season 2, so I used that as a cross-reference to the CAD weight of 240 pounds. To make sure DETHPLOW took me up to the same physical end weight in replacing the separate heavy wedges, and also taking into account the new frame brace plates, I had to get the bot down to around 230 pounds. The rest of the ‘missing weight’ was to be made up in the battery and ESC assembly being smaller and lighter.

Above, I use an annular cutter (also some times called trepanning cutters) to empty out some of the interior of the Epic Lift Gear. If you’ve never used these before, they’re like specialized high-precision hole saws for metal, and can cut a large hole very cleanly and quickly. They used to be very expensive and specialized, but you can find Chinesium sets now that work fine for under $100.  This one was driven in low-gear on Bridget.

The arm towers themselves also lose a bit of meat, with each side getting 1/4″ removed. In a mild perversion of their use, I actually used the same 2″ diameter annular cutter to make the circular boss by simply leaving the interior portion and machining the rest away.

It was now the first week of March, and life suddenly got much more exciting.

I had been scouring the country for a more consistent source of the 4mm AR400 steel that makes up Overhaul’s clamp and fork profiles. Basically, the material seems to come and go at McMaster, who also seems to source it from the depths of a tropical rainforest as all of the AR grade steel I’ve ever gotten from them has been covered in rust and not a single one has really been straight.

Through a lot of calling around local steel companies, I was given an inside sales contact at SSAB – the international manufacturer of the UK/Europe robot fighting circle’s preferred armor steel, Hardox. The gist of the conversation was essentially “Hold on, what did you say you guys were building? Let me talk to the sales manager and we will see what we can do”.

Only afterwards did I do some research and found that SSAB was essentially the U.S. Steel of Sweden. To be fair, I’m not sure what I was expecting, since it’s not like some small mom-and-pop operation produces 8 million tons of high strength steel alloys a year.

So there we go – I’d like to formally welcome SSAB Americas as a sponsor of Overhaul this season! This explains the big Hardox logo on the Equals Zero Robotics Facebook page now.

They not only straight up sent me a diced up 4′ x 8′ plate of 4mm Hardox 450, but also helped find a local steel distributor who had a fast-turnaround plasma cutting service for even more Hardox. This will come into play just a little later.

Alright, presented with several hundred pounds of steel, I will obviously go waterjet. I paid some hush money to the MIT Edgerton Center and popped out a few parts on the Omax 5555 in an evening. I started with 2 full “heads” for Overhaul and basically all of the kibbles which go into the new lift hub design, as well as one set of titanium brace plates.

Here’s the finished parts in the middle of some post-machining.

Back at my shop, I cleaned up the actuator-mounting bore on the clamp side plates. The actuator trunions will ride directly in these holes, so I wanted a not-sandpaper finish here. I didn’t have a carbide boring bar that fit my old boring head, so I reground the old HSS lathe rool I used in there and just ran it very slowly and gently to scrape the little bit of Hardox off.

Harder steels might be horrifying to machine, but they do leave wonderful finishes if you know their weaknesses.

I made a design change to the lift clutch which entailed cutting out some new parts. I wanted to increase the clamping pressure significantly because Overhaul had a lot of trouble actually hauling stuff over during Season 2. To do this, I made new thicker pressure plates such that the tightening nut could exert a lot more force without causing bowing and decreasing of the contact area. I also switched to a higher-friction clutch material (what McMaster calls their high-coefficient of friction), from a medium one.

Additionally, I made over a half pound back here by machining down the Epic Lift Pinion and clutch gear! Technically, that shaft also never ever had to be made of steel – 7075 aluminum would have been highly reasonabel… but I already had slugs of steel sitting around in the right size back then…

Just a couple of days later, the new actuator bodies arrived from my Chinese CM.

Oh. My. Baby robot Jesus.

Probably the most gorgeous assemblies I myself have ever designed and carried to fruition (if I do say so myself). The story of the gear-nut is a tragedy upon itself. I originally threw it at my Chinese shop along with the billet halves, expecting them to basically tell me to quit it with my English Acme thread in the middle of a gear nonsense.  I was fully expecting to just buy two bronze nuts and shove machined stock catalog gears around them.

The problem is then they asked me for a sample of the 1″-4 leadscrew, which is obviously not easy to get in China, as an assembly fitment. They already made one. What?

Absent the ability to mail a chunk of leadscrew (which I didn’t even order yet) in a timely fashion, we settled on the next best thing: I would send them a 3D model of the leadscrew, and they will SLA resin print it and use it as a fitment test. These gearnuts have less slop in the Acme thread than my Bridgeport does.

In the end, it was worth it! The gearnuts are probably the highlight of this whole operation – on almost every project and bot, I have something I call the “penising piece”, referencing the unfortunate tendency for us guys to put a lot of effort into something very showy and impractical for the sake of one-upping each other.

You know what I’m talking about. Don’t deny it. Think about what sport this is.

Too many parts and assemblies like that and your whole project becomes very out-of-scope quickly. Trust me on this, I used to do entire projects that way.

That is not industry terminology. Do not dare try to make it standardized.

There was only one “quality control” problem, and it wasn’t the Chinese’s fault. You see, the thrust bearings I specified on McMaster had a nominal outer diameter, which I designed the pocket for. It in fact was a full 0.02″ larger in real life.

I’m technically not even mad – it’s a thrust bearing. What kind of dumbass tries to make a radially tight-tolerenced fit on something like that?!

The outer shell of those bearings is just a stamped piece of steel – it doesn’t acually Bearing anything, it just vaguely holds the upper and lower races together so you don’t sprinkle the rollers everywhere.

Sadly, I had to bore out my beautiful Chinesium to accommodate the ingrates.

Here is how things fit together. The big thrust bearings sit directly on the face of the gear. The pinion shaft is retained via snap ring and has another bearing that carries it, located in the half not shown here.

And this is how it fits together. I’m quite thrilled with this unit! It ended up weighing about 1lb less than the fiasco I designed last time around, is much smaller and also capable of much heavier loads due to the large trunnion diameter and thicker leadscrew.  The rod end is threaded into the leadscrew and retained with two cross-drilled 1/8″ roll pins each.

Next time on Overhaulin‘ – lots of welding. so much welding.

The Overhaul 2018 Design and Build Series, Part 2: Where Everything Gets Easier

Apr 23, 2018 in BattleBots 2018, Bots, Events, Overhaul 2

Hey! There’s a robot-related TV show premiering on May 11th you might be interested in. There are robots on it, and they do stuff. They might even tell you about how the robots were made or about who made them! I might even be on it occasionally (But for sure not the first episode: The new format of the show was filmed in fairly cleanly episode-divided chunks, and I’m not quite at liberty to say which episode(s) Overhaul stars in)

Guess what? It’s finally after BattleBots. This means my life has finally returned to roughly normal (whatever that…. is), and most importantly, I can actually finish these damn build reports. Remember back in the day when this site was more hardcore, where I posted basically daily about what I made that day? It turns out “real life” is a class you can’t skip too many times a week. Build everything in college and ditch your classes, kids! I mean, uhh, be a responsible young adult and remain engaged in your education. Yeah. That’s the right message to send! Something something public facing role model…

We return to the design stage of Overhaul by picking up after the most imperative task – redoing the steel frontal parts of the bot – was finished. In fact, I left this post half-finished before I dove into making sure everything was done and had spares, etc.

Everything else honestly seemed easy by comparison, because I already determined what was going on with the other aspects of the bot beforehand, and it really only needed to be pounded through. The next two priorities after the new forks and clamp actuator were to finish designing the drive wheels so I could immediately start 3D printing cores and molds for production, and retrofitting the bot with Brushless Rages.


The wheel technology I wanted to use on the bot was pretty well developed by prototyping it with Überclocker last year for the Franklin and Motorama events. I essentially just scaled it up and kept the “scooter wheel” style molding features.


Something cool you can do with 3D printing easily is make fully interior voids that have no opening to the outside world. I didn’t want to waste material and time by printing a huge wheel which is mostly hollow anyway, and wanted more material perimeters near the highly-stressed hub area. But a fully spoked design would have been extra fragile in my mind.

Solution? I enclosed the spokes with endcaps that have 45-degree chamfered lead-ins so it can print without support. This way, I get the concentrated materal perimeter in the center and the outer regions, as well as two relatively solid endcaps. You can’t see these from the outside at all – they look like blank wheels.

The molds are constructed the exact same as Überclocker’s, too. I’m hurrying on the wheels first because I wanted to test the viability of the “twist to unlock” demolding strategy that I piloted with the smaller wheels. As you can see, I designed in giant wrench flats (or perhaps vising flats) so I can hold the mold in something. Up until this point, I was completely unsure if twist-to-unlock was even going to begin to work!

Parametric generation made designing the 3″ front wheels super easy! To really do parametric modeling well, you have to pay a lot of attention to the order that your features were made in. I’ve practiced using parametric-CAD for its actual parametric properties more in the past few years with consulting jobs, and Überclocker’s wheels were the first multi-variant parametric part of this complexity I’ve done and had gotten it to generate correctly on the first try. I haven’t even dared touch fully parametric assemblies.

The parameters were essentially related to wheel diameter/feature thicknesses, number of thru-slots, and suppression of the interior spokes of the larger one.

(Useful side note – the continuation of that article series about horizontal modeling is something that experienced CAD users all do subconsciously. I learned it the hard way through many of my models exploding, and watching friends with bad CAD habits having entire assemblies made of parts that are exploding. If you look back through how I generate Overhaul’s relatively complex wedge facets, that’s probably the best example I have visible of horizontal modeling concepts)

I imported the wheel assemblies and also added new 12-tooth drive sprockets. I’ve described many times how Overhaul was very under-geared with a design top speed of 18-19mph and could not use nearly all of its velocity space in the arena, coupled with limited traction (hopefully less an issue this time). My experiences with Clocker at Motorama with its new 10mph top speed showed that it felt a lot less squirrely and linear to drive despite not having the best traction.

Going to 12-tooth motor sprockets from the 15 tooth ones would bring that down to 14mph, which was historically a “sweet spot” speed for the 48ft BattleBox.

The liftgear remains pretty much the exact same as last time, but the gearboxes are now the BaneBots BB220 series. I got to test drive these in some of my recent consulting projects after talking with BaneBots post-Season 2. The problem with the P80s was the Double-D coupling inside starting to round off under high-torque loads. The BB220 shares a gear pitch with the P80s, so all my spare purchased gearsets are still useable, but have output stage carriers that are twice as thick and connected using a 12mm hex bore and not a 10mm DD.

I only had to design a different mounting plate to adapt these – the ratios are otherwise the same. BaneBots only sells 4:1 stages for this gearbox right now, but with the ring gear being the same gear pitch and tooth counts as the P80, you COULD fiddle a 3:1 stage anywhere but the output.

Next item on my agenda was the “Anti-Cobalting System” for the outer frame rails. I stewed pretty hard on how to implement these. The ideal solution would have been to box off the top and bottom of the rails with an intermediate tying member, or try to do it Clocker style with a thicker single spanning piece.

Problem is, there is a lot going on in that area – on one side, all the liftgear intermediate bearings are built into the frame rail, and the front drive chain also snakes around there. There’s also not much space to attach an upper brace plate on the inside frame rails without making it fully service-dependent on removing the arm towers (and hence the top half of the bot) for any kind of access to the drivetrain from the top.

I didn’t want to sacrifice that serviceability, and I was also much LESS concerned about “Cobalting” the rails save for a direct side hit because of DETHPLOW now tying both sides together with wubbie isolation. So the ACS became a single bridge plate which spanned the entire unsupported length between the center and front axles. I decided to make it from left over 4mm titanium stitched in through its entire length by 1/4-20 Grade 8 screws.

In a realistic direct hit to the frame side, that plate is still going to buckle and likely pop a few screws. Generally though, it takes transferring a relatively minusule amount of energy to the inner frame rail to prevent buckling. If I had more material and time, I would actually have made an entire width-of-bot bridging piece to act as a huge gusset for this whole area.

But I don’t! So here we are.

That’s actually….. it. There’s not much else going on in this bot which is substantially different this year. Electrically, though, it’s a different story. I decided to drastically refactor and simplify the electrical deck. Last season’s mantra was designing the E-deck and battery as two modules which are replaced wholesale in event of failure, then we figure out what’s wrong with the broken one later.

I really consider that system over-engineered now, and especially with DETHPLOW mode, I needed a lot of that weight back first. With the ESC choice being standardized, there wasn’t a need to make a whole rack of them removable at a time.

I also thought about the number of times I swapped a battery out to charge it and replaced it with a freshly charged one: 0

Every lithium battery worth using in a robot nowadays can charge at 2-5C rates. That means a full charge in 30 minutes or less, and matches at BattleBots will not occur that quickly. Overhaul is also not a bot which is so strenous on batteries that it will roll through an entire charge in one match – Overhaul 1 took up about half of is battery nominal capacity, and OH2 was even worse at like 1/3rd per match.

Therefore, I settled for keeping the Brushless Rages on a single plate accessible from the top for individual removal if needed, and batteries considered now non-removable and better armored within the bot.

So here’s what’s going on! My HobbyKing sponsorship was renewed around now, and they finally had the high C-rating Graphene packs in stock and ready to fire (heh) over to me. I was interested in these last season, but they had been very recently introduced then and the larger sizes were not yet in production.

I am not going to harp on the potential upsides and/or downsides of graphene battery marketing (bad sponsoree…. bad!), but 65C lipos are 65C lipos. Technically Overhaul would be just fine running 2 of them, but I had space for all 4.

The batteries form a single layer in the bot instead of being double-stacked near the back now.

A little hole-patterning later, and the new e-deck unit is basically done. The whole assembly is now wubbie-suspended within the bot, with the batteries (in real life) double-sided taped together into a brick and then sandwiched between the aluminum plate and a lower either-metal-or-Garolite plate, depending on available weight.

This is the assembly by itself. I found some space to squeeze in the 7th Brushless Rage to handle the clamp drive. This whole stack is around 3.5″ tall, so it leaves about 1/2 of air gap between the top plate and my ESCs. That miiiiiiiiiiiiiight be enough?

Seen in faint outline in the e-deck installation photo is a new top plate. I decided to do away with all the fancy cutouts and vents since the ESCs have a giant heat sink for a home. It will exist in two versions – a titanium 4mm one for DETHPLOW mode which trades about 3 pounds I can use, and one made of 4mm AR400/500 steel that weighs more for wedge fight mode (which is looking more and more like it’ll need ballasting)

Finally, the completing modification….. is moving the master switches to somewhere else that isn’t directly accessible on the top of the bot by wayward hammers. Hey, if someone reaches all the way back there (last season), we’re fucked anyway, right? Well guess what – someone did reach all the way there, and we were fucked.

The new location is accessible with the same tool, and with the activator still standing off to the side. The switches face 45-degrees upward directly under the arm tubes and sunk into the frame rail cubby – formerly occupied by Overhaul’s well-meaning but ineffective server fan exhaust port.

So here we go! The two master configurations for Overhaul this time:

General purpose match mode -wedge fights and vertical type weapons alike get the long arms and Limited Liability wedges, with exact positioning depending on who. The heavy top plate is in play. The configuration weight here is 230 pounds only, so I have a lot of wiggle room for silly accessories, minibots, and customized countermeasures.

The anti-KE DETHPLOW mode is specifically for horizontal bar and disc spinners. This mode is actually questionable against higher-hitting bar weapons like Icewave, but I’ve also not had to face such a thing yet, so hell if I know what happens!

And that’s it! The fabrication of everything obviously had to move quickly, so the build reports for Overhaul this year will be a little short. Stay tuned!

The Overhaul 2018 Design & Build Series, Part 1: Because of The Implications

Mar 23, 2018 in BattleBots 2018, Bots, Overhaul 2

Here we go! This post is all about design and redesign. What I’ve decided to do is instead of making a master post of all of Overhaul’s problems and issues I wanted to address, I’ll just stream it as I go. This stems from sitting down to write such a post and then realizing that okay, I actually have a problem with damn near everything. I was 2000 words in and hadn’t even gotten out of the discussion of shortcomings.

One of the most important things you can learn as an engineer is proper project scoping, whether your own or on a team with others, and how to spot and pre-empt scope creep. Well if that’s the case, I just watched my oscilloscope grow legs and bail out of a window, which is a shame, since it cost a lot of money.

Yeah, there’s 1001 things I want to change about Overhaul, but I obviously don’t have the time-money product factor to make it all happen. So I whittled the list down to some of the topics I covered previously, as well as new ones that came about from observing Motorama.

There were both easy to execute changes such as simple part replacements, and also more involved design…… overhauls….. which needed my attention more from the start.

The easy stuff included

  • Higher gearing for less top speed and more control over its own inertia, experimeted on with Clocker.
  • Getting rid of the “rocker” drive configuration by using a smaller center wheel – I want all 6 wheels on the ground at all times if I can manage it, especially with the added torque of a higher gear ratio.

More difficult and needing frame mods and new subassemblies, we have

  • Moving to all Brushless Rages for controllers! This basically meant throwing out the whole electrical deck, which I felt was too over-engineered for Season 2 anyway with its full polycarbonate enclosure.
  • Changing the lift gearboxes to the BaneBots BB220 line, which I had used in a few consulting projects between 2016 and now and which was better suited for high-torque loads. Luckily, this is easy since they are the same physical size.
  • Designing up a bracing system for the frame rails where they are current unsupported between the center and front wheels
  • As seen previously on the first design post, moving to the new actuator design which is more compact and should be much more durable.

And finally, what needed comprehensive redesign:

  • A new clamp body (the Overhaul anteater-dolphin-horsecatbearpig-raptor head) to accommodate the new actuator design
  • Changing the arm and lift hub such that the arms are universal, not mirrored weldments. This wasn’t a problem during Season 2 so much as I wanted to maximize the swappability of parts – if I had to replace a left arm twice, I’d be out of those but not Rights. If the arms were simple flat weldments, they could stand in for each other.
  • Changing the armored wedge design to be more effective – and since Motorama, optimizing for a wedge-fight mode versus a spinner-mode
  • For the latter spinner fight mode, going to a full front-spanning plow arrangement.

Since I was already starting off on the actuator, I decided to move onto the next most logical place first, which is the things that actuator mounts to. When you’re doing almost completely freeform design, you have to anchor it some place. When I taught the EV design class, I called it “grounding” the design – basically, you have to start somewhere, so just pick one and come back to it later as the design evolves.

I had a few concepts sketched for the new lift hub. It basically had to be compatible with the existing arm and gear bolt pattern and be the correct width, so actually designing it was a matter of picking a fastening method which made sense and trying to get it lighter. By “making sense” I meant moving away from the engine head studs holding the previous setup together, one which I no longer favored.

Basically, the longer the threaded stud, the more you have to torque it down for overall rigidity in the things being fastened. I also couldn’t locate an easy source of replacement studs in a higher strength grade than approximately Gr. 5 in the 2 different lengths needed, whereas I could easily find very high strength bolts. Recall that the arms had to be flat now as a design goal, so the whole lift hub is wider anyway, so the bolts may be rather short (well, 3″ and 4″ versus 6-7″ of stud length)

So I made the decision to abandon modifying or adding spacers to the existing lift hub – more spacers, more places for preload loss – and make a whole new hub.

This is the object that resulted. It keeps the profile and spacings of the current hub, but becomes a steel tube weldment with threaded 3/8″ thick endcaps. The length of the barrels on each former arm is just added to the length of the hub, keeping the whole liftgear the same width.

Since I would most likely be the one welding all this up, I could add stupid shortcuts that real welders would probably shun me for.  That’s the reason for those weird little tabs on the bottom, so I can fixture the holes relative to each other easily!

After shadowing Overhaul 2′s principal welder Skunkadelia , and having done more welding in general for work related projects, I’m now more confident enough having picked up my welding skills again to design around it more. I used to despise welding, and still kind of do, but hey, somehow this robot is 50% welded steel shapes so I might as well learn to maintain it.

I kept mulling over the arm design as I decided to whip up a temporary Überclocker-esque wedge shape. Notice the lack of side-wubbie engagement at this point? I was thinking I could get away without them, but Motorama showed me quickly they were probably necessary – as many wubbies on deck as possible.

I included the sidebar in this screenshot to show the process of generating the surfaces and planes needed to define the completely-lacking-in-perpendicular-features wedges.

Adding the backstop plate in a similar fashion to what I was planning for Clocker. After raw sketch lines, I generate surfaces using the sketch profiles.

I then use a Thicken operation on each surface in turn to make them into solid “plates”. At this point, there’s no joinery, because I was just interested in pounding out the shape.

In continuing the “nearly a visual mockup” theme, I then moved onto the fork arms themselves. I decided to dispense with the “tube skeleton and welded plates” method for not really being beneficial over just being made of plate weldments. The tube cuts were always less precise than the waterjet- and laser-cut plates anyway, and part of the reason Overhaul 2 was missing the inter-fork bracing standoffs Clocker had was because none of the holes ended up lining up.

I also committed to having all of the new steel parts made of commonly-found 1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″ steel plate. High strength steels like AR400 are far harder to find in thicknesses thinner than that. I had a lead on 3/16″ material fine, but sourcing the 4mm plate last season for the fork and clamp sides was an adventure. Very few steel companies list it as a product, because who needs a 1/8″ thick dumptruck body or mining shovel? It also gave me the option of making things from normie steel (mild/hot and cold roll low carbon) to just use geometry over sheer material strength as a design rule.



The forkss are now fully made from interleaved plates. Here I’m playing “connect the dots” with tube bosses and gusset plates. I made this plate adaptive so I could still change the  sizes slightly and not have to manually regenerate it.

Here is where I decided to make the forks from plain mild steel. I had the opportunity and supply chain to use AR steel for them as well, but decided against it. Essentially, if the forks were very rigid, they had the potential to easily wreck everything upstream (the lift shaft and hub, the towers, etc.) if somethng hit them directly. With a few geometry changes, I could get the forks to be rigid enough to take the potential downward force from the clamp.

Again, with the basic shape of things established, I went onto the next piece.

I started thinking about “Limited Liability wedges” for Overhaul about the same time as when I cooked up the idea for Clocker. Overhaul’s front is a slightly different shape than Clocker. The chamfer that forms the sloping face is smaller and so the frame rails of the bot extend further forward.

This means there was only so much liability I could limit if I kept the tall rubber wubbies, since by design, they kept the old style wedges flush with the forks. While I probably could have hard-mounted them to keep everything low-profile, I wanted to keep that level of shock isolation and break-away behavior provided by the wubbies in case an attack on  a vertical weapon goes wrong.

I therefore switched the design to a shorter wubbie style , which through the angle of the sloped front, set the ‘intersection line’ of the slope with the ground back a good 3 inches or so. This finally let me have enough fork prominence to make it worthwhile.

Above is the quickly thought up revision 1 of the design, which was basically “make slope piece, add pokey thing”. The idea was fine, but obviously that pokey wasn’t going to last long as a piece single-supported from a plate.

I extended the slope and front vertical pieces off the edge and extended the “pokey thing” as a gusset piece. Now this looks better topologically.

With basically all the elements of the bot that I wanted to redesign in place, I mirrored things and imported the Season 2 clamp to get a first visual.


This let me have a sense of which components needed to be bumped and shifted. Overall, the forks are 1″ longer than they were in Season 2. I wanted more prominence in general in order to attack with them first. These wedges are there only to help stablize the bot in most lift instances.

My goal for the clamp profile was to shift it forward more and also make it a little lower profile. Overhaul’s Season 2 clamp design was almost exclusively to house the huge actuator, and it actually looked a little ungainly to me. Plus, the taller the clamp, the more likely it is to get stuck sideways (which the ears are actually placed to prevent).

I simply exported a copy of the clamp profile and ripped most of the features out of it, including the awkward bump of motor-saving.  The hole positions shifted around a lot with the geometry changes, of course, so they had to come and go as I needed them.

After a few tries, I found a near perfect alignment of holes that actually let me mount the actuator in a position I long wrote off – with the motor pointed forwards. This configuration was modified slightly to adjust the motor spacing. It allowed the use of a very short leadscrew to achieve the range of motion desired, so I was much less concerned now about leadscrew rigidity.

Now with 100% more ear. I re-imported and adjusted the ear model, keeping it as a folded single piece. The plan was still to make the clamp sides from 4mm AR steel. I also added an alignment tab for welding. This was the extent of the work I did before Motorama.

One of the first things I did after Motorama was go back and edit the heavy anti-spinner wedges. Clocker doesn’t have the two front wubbies, nor the two sides, and I became even more convinced that Overhaul’s triple-plane constraint was a good design choice. Future Überclocker will have a more design-true layout rather than being a cartoony model.

I made a multi-faceted edge that was just a flat plate where the side wubbies are mounted. Recall that Overhaul’s season 2 wedge pods had fully angled sides, and I had an interior gusset piece which mounted to the side wubbies. I decided to flatten this area out in order to give even less things to grab onto – the prominent gusseted back edge was pretty much an invitation to getting the whole thing ripped off forwards if I miss an approach. Reinforcement of the area would be taken care of by a cross piece (green outline near the front wubbies) and a flat lower gusset.

This was the result. I rather like it – it adds to the new edgier aesthetic of the bot and is much lower profile and less bulky looking than the Season 2 wedges. The 2nd-angle transition to the pointed backstop plates is also much sharper, hopefully adding a stronge upward vector to someone’s deflected shot.

At this point I started becoming weight-paranoid, and so I just rage-added every remaining major part of the bot I could think of. What’s not shown is a pattern of several dozen (if not over a hundred) socket cap screws that make up the frame hardware.

There was also beginning to be a large weight difference on the order of 7-8 pounds between the heavy anti-KE configuration and the lighter wedge-match and vertical weapons configuration. I was just going to let this play out, since I could always add some kind of ballast if needed or make a smarmy lawn-care attachment to fight Hypershock with, but I wanted to leave a healthy margin for the improtant parts.

Notice something about the pointy wedges? I swapped their sides on the bot design! This obviously also works in real life, and is partly the reason I chose the design I did. I could even go in lopsided if I mounted two left or two right ones. An “arms close” configuration like this is that I would imagine doing for a fight against another lifter/flipper, whereas forks apart are what I would take on vertical weapons with since I can try to make close flanking passes and try to get under one of their corners.

Finally, we get to the crux of my Motorama ruminations.

I pulled the CAD back up one day afterwards and went alright, that’s it… this is happening and I will make weight for it no matter what

Basically I took the existing heavy wedge design just completed and bridged the two halves with a single U-shaped front plate. Reinforcing features have not yet been added underneath, but they will be.

This added about 8lb to the front – a little less worse than I thought, really, and that was without selective weight reduction cutouts. I like this already.

As I said from my Motorama conclusion posts, having a full-span front wedge probably could have turned my tournament around. On Overhaul, it is also wubbie-supported in all 3 coordinate planes in both compression and tension as opposed to just a flat plane of wubbies. It would take a lot of me fucking up in order to lose this thing in battle. The team started nicknaming it the “dethplow”, so Dethplow it is.

The plow also allows me to address another Motorama quibble, which was having to back up and attempt to bring the fork down. I made another configuration which I termed “T-rex arms” since they are half the length of the full length forks.

They fit fully behind the plow when stowed, but if I have someone trapped, I no longer have to back up, but can clamp and lift as normal.

rawr i am oversaur-cathorsedolphin-shark…..bearpig

The clamped-opponent orientation does change a little since the tooth now has significant overbite, but whatever – spinner matches are a matter of survival, not looking good.

I tabbed everything together and added five longitudinal gussets and one transverse rail to brace up the front and underside. The total weight of the dethplow is around 30 pounds!

Next up on how to CAD an Overhaul: Moving through the other systems making the revisions I wanted to do.

Motorama 2018: How Not to Scale Model Test Your BattleBots, The Remix

Mar 18, 2018 in Bots, Events, Overhaul 2, Überclocker 4

I had originally intended to go to Motorama 2018 solely for #vantruckjustice and to serve as an event volunteer and purveyor of Ragebridges and Brushless Rages. But with the announcement of Season 3, it became clear to me that I really should take the opportunity to get some practice driving in with 30-haul a.k.a. Überclocker v4.

Not only was my list of “things I didn’t like about Overhaul” extensively long, but based on my experiences after Franklin Institute and Moto 2017, I had several mental strategies against KE weapons I wanted to try out. Better do it on the small scale where it’s less expensive, right!?

So onto modifying Clocker!

One of my recurring themes in the past few event reports where I ran Überclocker has been the idea of reducing my wedge cross section against vertical drum and disc style spinners. I’ve had a theory for a long time now that broad armored wedges/plows are actually a liability against those kinds of weapons, despite being more effective against horizontals. There’s nothing better to confirm my theory besides Blacksmith vs Minotaur – in which Blacksmith actually does quite well against Minotaur until the latter manages to land a square hit upon the front of Blacksmith.

Essentially, a vertical weapon will tend to bend up your defenses by hitting it at a single point along its bottom edge, effectively making the length of the plow/wedge useless especially if the vertical weaponed bot has a feeder leg of some sort.

One countering strategy is going fully vertical with your defenses, like a crossing vertical bar of steel or something, making sure you hit the weapon before any feeders are able to touch you. Whoops! used this reasonable effectively against totally-not-Minotaur for quite a few hits.

That doesn’t quite work for me, though, because Clocker/Overhaul both have lifting forks.


Another strategy is minimizing your cross section ot exposure to those weapons by being extra pointy, giving them less of a chance to hit something important. This is also a strategy that I began moving towards with other ‘wedge fights’ – a broad surface is, again, vulnerable to any imperfections in not only itself but also the floor. I wanted to explore this strategy with what I call the “Wedges of Limited Liability” seen above – basically turning the armor pods into little shanky forks. I designed them to follow the profile of the existing wedges, out of the same 4mm-ish AR500 material.

These are a few ounces lighter apiece than the regular ones, which is going to mean a couple of pounds at the Overhaul scale. So it was interesting to begin thinking of the configurations I could get – freeing up a few pounds on Overhaul could let me add other attachments or additional armor (e.g. if I had to face Beta again, I’d spend the extra pounds on top armor).

While I was at it, I also redesigned the normal heavy wedges in the style of Overhaul. I had thought about ways to retain the double-angle feature but significantly reduce the number of pieces needed to construct it. Overhaul’s wedges were rather complex and made of 9 individual pieces each. I came up with an idea of making the second angled facet into a ‘backstop’ of sorts, attaching directly to the outside surfaces through extended tabs that also acted as gussets.

In essence, the above is what Overhaul’s new wedges will look like, but with some geometry placement changes. Clocker’s front is a lot more tapered than Overhaul’s, meaning the ‘backstop’ begins too far back to be really useful here to protect the gear from another Glasgow Kissing. I was more interested in the construction and their potential behavior towards deflecting  hits in general, rather than specifically trying to address last year’s weakness.

One change that has been on the docket since Franklin late last year was changing Clocker’s gearing. Using the lowest RPM/v rated NTM 42mm motors was still too much – I rarely exceeded 50% stick travel while driving, and the constant burnout mode the motors ran in during each match made fine control actually rather difficult. To give the bot more control over its own inertia, I was going to go to 11:1 P60s (from 4:1) but with a bump in motor Kv from 650 to 750. While this reduces Clocker’s nominal top speed drastically to only 10mph from like 20, it was going to mean more speed in a useful range. A lot of my strategy relies on being able to carefully control my approach and orientation to opponents, after all.

The same changes will be carrying through to Overhaul, but less drastically – I’m changing only the external motor sprockets, from 15 tooth to 12 tooth, moving the system reduction from 8:1 to more like 10:1, which is what Sadbot has been running in testing and whose maneuverability characteristics I like more. It will reduce Overhaul’s nominal top speed from 19mph to 15mph.

By the way, the NTM Propdrive 42mm series have a Mabuchi RS-700 size bolt pattern and a 5mm shaft, which mates with the Banebots P60 700-series motor blocks, not the 500 size.

Since I finally blew up the clamp collar joint at Franklin, I drilled the sheared bolts out and replaced them with a pin drive. The holes in the gear were bored out, and the “pins” in the shaft collar are actually shoulder screws with their heads milled off! I literally tightened shoulder screws into these holes and then clamped against the screws on the mill and blazed the heads off.

The shorter 4238 size motors, in combination with the 2-stage gearboxes, actually end up at the same length as before! This package is fairly potent and is a brushless 30lb drivetran of choice currently. The same two beta-version Brushless Rages still run the bot, dating now all the way back to Dragon Con 2017 and carrying the bot to victory at Franklin, then several demos at MassDestructions.

Fast forward a few days and an uneventful (!) vantrucking trip later, and here we are at the event:

So I didn’t get a chance to actually weld up the new heavy wedges – they’re shown sitting in a pile next to the bot, ready to become accessories. Since the only welder on site was a 115 v MIG welder powered by a 50 foot extension cord, my plan was basically to add some little barriers to the existing wedges in the form of strips cut from the new design.

Clocker’s first match was actually a “wedge fight” against the twin over-powered wedgebots of Boom Boom. This match was conceptually easy, but a little frustrating because Clocker kept digging into the wood floor. It was in fact too pokey and I could barely maneuver forwards. So it really wasn’t that good of a test of the Wedges of Limited Liability at all.

My next match was against Botceps, a pretty classic vertical eggbeater style spinner. Built pretty much like a BattleBotsIQ/NRL archetype, it had a very potent 50mm TPPower inrunner on the weapon. This was one of those “if I make a driving mistake, I’m kind of done” matches, so I had to be on my toes. I don’t have a video link of my match here at the moment, but should I discover one, I’ll add it in.

As you can see, I did end up making at least 1 driving error – at the beginning, a few seconds in where I missed a charge and Clocker went halfway across the arena. Luckily, the weapon motor fizzled out barely a minute in, but I did lose the tip off one of the forks and the left pointy-wedge.

The punt that send Clocker up and over also squished one of the outer rail mounting screws clean out of its hole.

At one point, I managed to execute my anti-vertical spinner strategy well, plunging the pointy-wedge straight under the weapon of Botceps – which managed to machine the entire row of rake teeth off it! The match ended with a serendipitous flip which put Botceps on its face (“doing the thing” in robotland) and without weapon torque, it was stuck in that position.

My next match was against Crippling Depression, a pretty innocuous-looking bot (by design) that actually puts a massive amount of power into the undercutter disc – two NTM 50-series motors, which is more motor than Glasgow Kiss. By the way, its builder Robert Cowan has a very detailed video series on a lot of engineering subjects, including full video reports of the build of CD. Basically if I were more keen about doing video versus text, I’d be like that! So go Like and Subscribe™

Clocker didn’t make it out of this match all that well, and I ended up tapping out.

The disc of CD hits very hard, and very low – lower than most of my side rails, so it polished off a lot of the bottom screw heads. It was also positioned just at the right height for Clocker to barely ride up on it, meaning I would actually lose a head to head pushing match. With brushless drive and weapons, we’re now squarely in the era of 30lbers with absolutely no compromises – CD and Clocker have identical drive motors and identical gearing!

The super low level of impact meant a lot of extra stress was put on the wedges here, and it never actually got to ride up to the point of hitting my welded barrier strips. In fact, the first few hits managed to bend down the corners of the left side wedge enough that I had some trouble driving afterwards due to it being hung up on the arena floor on occasion. It also caused the rubber shock mounts to shear off early, leaving me with fewer defensive options as the match wore on, until both the wedges came off and my only real strategy was to try and stay on him. You can see some of the resultant impacts causing a little bit of “Cobalting” on the right side (upper of image), but the middle tie plate kept this very limited and I didn’t even notice while servicing.

Eventually, the disc ended up shearing out a few sprocket teeth and jamming the drive on one side, so I just wiggled my way around until I decided I got the idea and should probably keep it repairable for the loser’s bracket.

This was about the moment I realized that disc weapons (and by extension, shell spinners and other lower-prominence weapons) were going to be a much different story than the archetypal big bar spinner in terms of how to fend them off and deflect their energy, and I decided Overhaul needed a full-span front plow style defense no matter what. Watching Jamison fight CD later on with megatRon confirmed this belief even more. I’m pretty sure if Clocker had a full span wedge, even a connector plate between the two halves, it would have gone differently.

I was losing wubbies at an alarming rate and did not have any more spares, so I had to source them from other builders. Clocker was short spare parts in general – I never got to waterjet additional frame parts or cast new wheels either, since the decision to go compete was made in very short order. This event was actually a great study in how far the design would go on attrition alone.

That was all for Saturday – on Sunday, my first match was against BEAM, a tiny Tombstone. A rookie bot that was still BRUSH-POWERED and with an EV Warrior motor at that! Basically running a classic car in battle, but it had done tremendously well up to this point.

Poor guy was probably being gunned after by every BattleBots competitor there, who saw him as “tombstone practice”. Honestly, so did I, because it could portend the results of #season3.

For this match, I was only able to get 4 wubbies per wedge, and changed out to another used wheel which didn’t have huge chunks gouged out of it. I also cut off the bent tips of the forks so they were a bit shorter, but now much less structural than they already weren’t to begin with. It is what it is, given the lack of preparation.

So how did Overhaul do against Tombstone?

That’s, uhh, not very typical, I’d like to make that point clear. Well, it seems like the front fell off again – much more epicly this time!

With as much handicap as the bot was facing, I sort of ‘drove for broke’ in this match and was determined to see how pure attrition would play out. I think I was actually quite happy with how I was able to deflect Beam repeatedly, even getting it to do The Tombstone Dance a few times.

I felt like I had Beam reasonably until roughly the 2 minute mark when one motor was knocked off internally causing it to lose drive one side. I then just kept pivoting to try and meet it with the wedges.  Also, I again kept the arms up to try and keep them out of the way of the bar, but ultimately they still ended up in Full Dab; these arms for Clocker were built quickly to Sportsmans’ class specs, so any sideways ping is going to bend them.

Near the end, though, one of my welded barriers came off due to lack of penetration from the event welder. At the last possible second, we got in a good head to head charge, and….

Clocker’s frame rails are made from 7075 aluminum, which is really a mistake. I already had the plate when it was being designed, so went for Easy first. 7075 is more brittle than 6061, and will crack instead of bending. You can see that clearly in the arm tower that took the brunt of the last hit. This is why Overhaul’s entire frame including the arm towers are 6061, and only the liftgear and clamp & actuator aluminum housing parts are 7075.

From watching videos in slow motion, Beam was able to climb up the de-barriered wedge much like Glasgow Kiss and firmly planted the bar into the side of the head, which of course shoved everything out the other side. The lift gear was also made of 7075, and I lost a chunk of it near the end – check out how clean the shatter line is. It’s barely bent at all along the rim and still sits quite flat on a table.

The ears were also obviously very suboptimal – they were re-printed, but weren’t bridged or braced and so had the same kind of failure when the bot landed upside-down with an opponent – they simply bent the aluminum clamp sides and rotated, making Clocker adorable and droopy for most of the match.

With the base still working fine after the drive motor was reattached, I entered the Sportsman’s rumble to run around like a dumbass. The P60 motor plates only have two screws, not four, so it was asking a lot to hang the entire drive motor off them. This is actually why Overhaul’s motor assemblies have bracing plates behind the motor endcap. Dumbassery was achieved until Pitter Patter sniped the power link with its sawblade.

So that’s Motorama 2018 for Überclocker. Going 2/2 against three heavy KE weapons with almost no spare parts was certainly more than I expected, which was more along the lines of instant vaporization. I think I confirmed about every fear I had for Overhaul, whose upgrades were almost done at this point otherwise, but now needed revisiting.

but what about the Implication?

I spent the joyride back from Motorama consolidating everything I learned while running Clocker and as well as watching other matches including the final few fights with megatRon, Beam, Cripping Depression, and others. As a fair percentage of the builders at Motorama were also building for #season3, we did some bonding at the event and over pizza dinner Saturday night to consider strategies for the “full size” bots.

In terms of the knowledge gained from testing, it’s a fairly established rule of thumb in the community (if you ask) that “designs don’t scale”. The sentiment is you can’t expect to scale up or down a design 1-for-1 in terms of material sizing and dimensions of weapons and motors and expect the same kind of behavior. It’s a consequence of a whole lot of square-cube laws: motor power scales by volume, kinetic energy stored in a spinning weapon by square of velocity but also implicitly square of weapon dimensions due to moment of inertia changes, material strength both by dimension cubed and linearly by yield strength, etc. It’s why historically speaking, a scaled up or down version of a successful design might perform horribly.

Essentially, the idea is that at the small-bot scale, the energy transferred and dissipated in a hit tends to be much less than the energy needed to permanently deform a material of a given strength and size. This is how 3D printed 1lb and 3lb bots fly around arenas and bounce off walls on a whim and keep going. It’s related to the concept of why you can drop an ant off a building and have it survive the fall, but not an elephant. As robot dimensions increase, the kinetic energies stored in weapons – whether spinners, or transferred in a powerful flipper connect, or in the form of a hammer tip – begin overtaking the ability of the material to elastically deform and dissipate energy, so you end up with a lot more things bent out of shape rather than two heavyweights suddenly reappearing at the other side of the arena.

I mentally call this idea the “robot Reynolds Number” when comparing designs of different sizes: to get the same physical behavior, a bigger robot has to be simultaneously more powerful yet built more rigidly. Consider it characterized conceptually as the ratio of average kinetic energy transferred per hit in a weight class to the material yield stress * volume used in your robot ( KE [J] / σᵧ [Pa] * volume [m³ ). The best example I can think of is probably how Big Ripto and Triggo (30lbers) can both bounce around arenas like beetleweights – but both robots are made of hardened steel when it comes to the bodies in contact, whereas plastics or even aluminum is likely to just deform in the same application; as well, they both cram about 4 to 5 kW of weapon motor power behind them, which is actually more than an order of magnitude from the typical beetleweight (3lbs).

What this means for me is that I have to be careful with interpreting the results of my matches. For instance, it’s highly unlikely that Overhaul will get sent flying end over end from a single spinner hit such as that from Botceps, but rather depending on what gets hit, I’d lose one of the wedges or have a pretty big chunk bitten out of the frame. The best-in-class KE weapons in BattleBots right now run right around 15-20 kW and around 50-100kJ. Going back to Blacksmith vs. Minotaur, you’d expect with strength-invariant scaling that Blacksmith would easily hit the box lights, but rather what happens is the frame/wedge deform and fasteners begin failing.  Also, in my match against Cobalt, my one good deflect was the end result not of being ultra-rigid, but backing the hit with the arena floor by virtue of the rubber-suspended wedges, which is obviously something I want to keep.

While the exact physics won’t carry over through scaling, concepts will. For example, I am fairly confident that

  • Weapons of low prominence, such as discs/drums/shells, are best kept away from you and interacted with lightly since they are less likely to grab entire portions of your bot at once, rather chipping away at it. This is best illustrated by how megatRon was able to keep Crippling Depression at bay with a single low front armor piece, whereas CD had more inroads to damaging Clocker’s separate armor pieces.
  • Weapons of high prominence, like the archetypical spinning bar or single-tooth style weapons, should be more readily deflected if possible, since they have more potential reach (i.e. far more “bite per tooth”) and less predictable reactions. You want them to go away from you as much as possible. I rather enjoyed a lot of the driving against Beam and making it do “the Tombstone dance”, and even the small welded barrier strip made a lot of difference until it failed.

Ultimately, I had to rethink Overhaul’s armor approach and how it interacts with the lifting forks.

  • I came away 1000% convinced it needs a Full frontalplow-like surface up front. It’ll be heavier – I will make weight for it somehow. One downside of separate wedges is only one set of rubber mounts takes all the load of an impact, and while my Cobalt flip was perfect, 99% of hits I take won’t be that perfect. A spanning plow will allow the mounts on both sides to take the load. Besides that, it will obviously decrease the amount of open corners Overhaul (and Clocker!) has. In fact, the plan was for the original Overhaul 1 to have such a thing, but we ran out of weight.
  • I had to retain the ability to lift independently of being able to deflect hits. Did you see me pin CD and Beam against the wall several times, but having to back off to try and get the forks underneath them – which in both cases had bent up beyond the point of usefulness? That’s how they escaped and the match continued. I need the ability to corral spinners against a wall but keep the arms tucked behind the plow, maybe exiting via a small cutout. Overhaul has a set of short arms which remain behind the wedge profile – imagine a cross piece in front of them connecting the two wedges.
  • Beyond just dealing with horizontal KE weapons, Overhaul needs a “Wedge of Limited Liability” of its own, which still supports the bot during a lift but otherwise takes the form of a skinny fork or tine so vertical weapons and things like flipper spatulas have less edges to find. I didn’t get to exercise the WLLs of Clocker this time against a vertical drumlet weapon like Other Disko, Mega Overload, etc. but I did like piking it under Botceps. Depending on the length of the tines, it could be effective on its own by being jammed under vertical spinners, for instance.
  • I need to learn to drive “dirtier”. What this means is foregoing my desire for continous showy and aggressive action – something I am used to in the 30lb Sportsman’s class – and instead maximizing my usage of pin times and arena-outs. Jamison is a more strategic and methodical driver me in this regard – he drives to win, whereas I tend to drive to shitpost. Compare his style when fighting CD (and other heavy weapons) versus mine. In the BB arena, survival is going to be key since we are more in the realm of throwing elephants off skyscrapers than insects. The NERC arena doesn’t really have facilities for arena-outs, but the BattleBots arena does, and I think it will be a key portion of my strategy. Bounce bots up and away, keep them corralled, and try to manipulate them behind the low walls and screw embankments.

Once I got back to the shop, it was time to refactor Overhaul’s design a little. Stay tuned for those updates!