And We’re Back In Business! An Equals Zero Return to Form, or So I Hope

After much ado about a whole lot of things, this site is now at least in a working state where all my information is accessible… even if it doesn’t look quite all aligned, all my plugins are missing, things might not be in the right place, and so on. This website is still a van, just a newer one.

By the way, I noticed all of your 63 emails asking what happened to the site! Hell, I didn’t know people still had the patience to read blog posts in this era of Youtube subscriptions and TikTok follows. A lot of valuable info resides here, so I definitely had the incentive to get everything running again, just a matter of willpower (This will be a theme for this post…)

So I had to relearn a lot of “Internet Stuff” since the last real revamp of the site from 2009. The biggest challenge ended up being re-importing the database which actually dates back to 2007 (the earliest posts on this site now), which is why this site was a potato dealership for a few days.

First, I had trouble importing the 200-something megabyte database dump, and it took several retries in different browsers and different times of day. Not only that, but fancy hax0r Charles of 2006 named all of his WordPress databases fancy names, so the new WordPress install didn’t know ass from teakettle. Next, because all of my domains are now unified on one hosting account (Equals Zero Designs and Marconi Motors), I had to connect all the subdomain dots. I’ve also never seen cPanel in my life, despite it being available back then also – I did pretty much all of the setup and back end work through FTP and phpMyAdmin directly, so there was just button clicking to learn.

I’m still going from theme to theme, so the immediate appearance of this site might change in the next few days. I’m trying to keep it a dark and easily browsable theme. The one I have as of 1/11 also has a banner image like the previous rendition, but I haven’t reuploaded those yet. It also has a bad habit of displaying the past few posts all together making the front page infinitely long, and I have yet to find the setting for breaking it up into previews only! I also still need to get used to the visual editor that WordPress ships with now – I’m not a fan of it so far, since it’s more of a walled garden experience and it’s a little harder to use my historic file and photo structure. But alas, welcome to the Internet of Today.

Anyways, after all of my makeshift database adminning, here we are again – I’m sure I’ll make a post like this again in another 11-14 years. All of the old posts should be there, but I have not (and will not) check them for layout or importation mishaps, as I consider those pretty much static archives at this point. Look, my van posts are here for my own reference and that’s all that matters.

So! Onto the new content. Besides now the Summer of Ven and Overhaul 3 Design & Build series posts I need to backfill, there’s some new stuff in the pipeline because I will somehow always find new vans to work on. I’ll just add this to the “List of Things I Still Have To Blog About”. Here’s the short story of, I dunno, since late September or thereabouts.

dromes

You know what? I miss having my own drone. I keep working on everyone else’s drones, but I haven’t had one truly of my own since all the way back in the Tinycopter days. Back then, I had the audacity to code my own flight controller, but these days most of my work is integrating Arducopter and PX4, flight controller firmwares that are….. less haphazardly put together. With safety and what not. Somehow I’ve built dromes for many entities since then, including KIWI of course, and my current place of employ, but what measure is a drome engineer if he doesn’t have any of his own?

And so I went to pray at the Altar of Lord Bezos and visited the Oracle of Jack Ma. You know the adage “Buy right, or buy twice”? My take it on it is “Why buy right when you can buy very specifically wrong and buy a lot?” It’s like getting a 0 on the SAT, since you have to answer every question incorrectly and can’t just shotgun it at random. You have to specifically know what not to buy, so your pile of parts has a minimal chance of cooperating, maximizing your chances of failure but forcing an exploration of the tradespace into places no sensible engineer would touch. Long time readers will understand this is my M.O. for everything – I know what to do, so why do it when you can try something dumb since nothing matters and we’re all going to hell anyway?

As such, crafted out of a tote of deprecated KIWI parts and my robot electronics bins, helped along by some deconstructed Seg-baby packs dating back to 2015 (RIP seg-thing), and with the blessing of the lowest-priced drone parts AliExpress could provide, I present Trashcopter:

The least fine drome that money can maybe buy!

This thing is…. a drone. There’s nothing special about it. I just wanted a beater drone to fly when I felt like it. It works fine, I went through the usual setup and tuning and fine craftsmanship associated with putting a kit drone together, and it is still in one piece as of this writing. It can fly autonomous missions, take off and land itself, follow terrains and avoid (large, visible to IR light) objects, and do a barrel roll in mid-air once. (Okay, it was for a brief couple of hours not in one piece). It ain’t a Skydio II, it’s basically a potato someone threw very hard, very controllably.

I explored the sub-basement steam room of drone parts on this build by purposefully trying to sort by price lowest and free shipping. What I found is an entire under the fallen log ecosystem of used drone parts, selling motors and ESCs and subassemblies for $1-$5 apiece. As expected, I now own like 50 motors pulled from XiaoMi drones, and the ESCs that go with them.

The frame is the cheapest, most terrible DJI FlameWheel knockoff I could find. The finish is so ratchet that I had to deburr everything before using it (and correct some of the heatset insert work, and open up some of the PCB chassis plate holes…), but I also now have 6 frames worth of questionably molded nylon arms. I mean you should see the sink marks on these arms. What I’m saying is, I can build as many terrible drones as I feel like now, for less than the cost of getting parts stateside for one single functional unit.

I furthermore went shopping for the crappiest radio I could find – the “Can I find something even cheaper than the 4 channel HobbyKing 2.4Ghz radio?” and that result is sitting next to it, the “MicroZone MC6” series. Like Trashcopter, it is “An Radio”. It has all the right shapes and tchotchkes in the right places, and Doesn’t Not Work. Hell, it’s even 6 (secretly 7) channels.

The build report for this guy will expound more on the process I took to get the parts, exploring some of the parts themselves including taking apart the cheapo radio, and just generally show the setup of a modern-day Pixhawk and Arducopter based multirotor from end to end for posterity.

But that’s not all.

I hinted in the original Robot Trap House post that I had unfinished business in the sector of Very Lörge Dromes that I still wanted to explore and develop, but which wasn’t relevant to the KIWI business needs at the time. One of these in particular is my strong belief that the “One motor per prop” multirotor architecture doesn’t really scale to large, flying van levels. You CAN make it work, and many companies have, often at great expense of either buying or developing cutting-edge custom motors and materials for airframe and propellers.

That clashed with my general philosophy of “Don’t custom unless you want to make a project out of the custom thing”, and consequently the direction of KIWI, where every aerospace engineer we tried to hire dropped to the floor and foamed at the mouth as soon as they witnessed our extremely BattleBot-like building approach: COTS and easy sheet metal and extrusion weldments.

The magic sauce to me when it comes to electromechanical hardware startups lies not in exotic in-house cooked and served materials and genetically-evolved one-piece structures, but getting out into the field with a working, reliable robot in front of the customer and a practiced means of getting there many times. I’m a bad CTO – I don’t like technology.

So how do I aim to demonstrate an alternative? Well, I reached just a little bit back into history, like a few years, into the domain of the Variable-Pitch Multirotor. Also called “Heliquads” or “Collective Pitch Multirotors”, they trade a little bit of mechanical complexity (The collective-only rotor head) for, in my soon-qualifiable opinion, a broad increase in the maneuverability space and control bandwidth.

My still-in-progress entry into this design tradespace will be what I affectionately named “Wigglecopter“:

Yes, that is my dinner table. No, nobody ever comes over.

In short, for a minor increase in thrust for vehicle attitude correction, a conventional multirotor has to spin up and down the propellers. Your torque to inertia proportions really, REALLY matter. Everything needs to be as light as have as little MOI as possible, and your motors need to be as torque dense as possible, to get a high enough control loop bandwidth to keep the vehicle stable.

Conversely a VPM/CPM can issue corrections by adjusting the pitch of its propellers. Single-degree movements will induce variations in thrust corresponding to possibly hundreds of RPM of motor speed. There is a lot of literature in the advanced aerospace controls scene pertaining to these, and I’ll collate and dive into a few papers I’ve taken a liking to in its build reports.

I actually tried to buy one of these, as they were sold for a while in the Early Teenies by a few hobby vendors with models such as the HobbyKing Reaper 450, WLToys V383, and the CJY Stinger 500. They’ve pretty much all died out, so instead of hunting around for used or new-old ones, I decided the mechanical problem was simple enough to just put together and get the point across.

If you look closely, Wigglecopter is just made from the same pile of garbage that Trashcopter emerged from. I just ordered a few DJI F450 quad frame cards from Amazon to make it a quad, and had to gently re-engineer the motors to accept the collective pitch mechanism and propellers. I’m going to put some more legitimate gear into this thing from the flight control and sensing side, as I’d like for it to be a development platform.

Notice that it still does have four independent motors? Well, you can still do that with a CPM, provided you now keep the motor speed constant so your thrust output is not a multivariate surface of sagging motor speed and flexible propeller blades…. just one of them, as much as possible. I decided trying to make a serpentine belt drive was just going too hard the first time out, and will just bypass this issue with inertia rings pressed onto the motors if need be, and with the ESCs set to speed govern. We’ll see what it does!

My LTE plan for Wigglecopter is to finish and validate it, then start getting larger and larger. I’m going to need to modify the firmware a little for myself, as I would like to make a collective-pitch Hex and Octo down the line. Wigglecopter itself should be all done and ready this spring, and its bloodline is completely unplanned except for daydreaming of lifting Kei vans in the air.

Overhaul 1 Restoration

A very exciting new development in my life is that I now have Overhaul 1 in my possession again. In November, I made a speedrun up to Boston to collect the remainder of the several hundred pounds of life I left in the ol’ vape shop. At this point, I was able to extract Overhaul 1 from its dormant state. For the past few weeks, I’ve been going through it (there’s not much, mind you) and getting it back in running order.

There’s no intention of putting it back in battle except a few token matches with Sadbot, Overhaul 2, and Overhaul 3. Yes, somehow I will soon have four operational heavyweight Battlebots. It’s like vans, they just keep spawning. Everyone I know agrees that it would be incredibly funny if Overhaul 3 loses to every preceding generation of Overhaul. I mean, it’s never won against Sadbot, so this is a distinct possibility.

I designed up a retrofit for the drive motors on the shuffle pods, implementing a design idea we should have done but didn’t have the time to execute. Right now, the electronics bay is a small plastic tote bungee-corded to the frame, but I’m going to design up an integrated battery case and electronics deck so I can close it up. It won’t be as (unnecessarily) fast as it was before, as as a bot I’ll probably reserve for demos and showings only, doesn’t need to be anyway.

I also had to straighten out a lot of bent parts. You know what – my adventures in Big Chuck’s Auto Body came home to roost. There were a lot of fun rednecky processes involved in straightening the welded unibody-ish frame and the pointy plow.

So, hopefully Overhaul 1’s “Rebuild Report” will just read like one of my many other hundreds of “I fixed this stupid thing that broke because I was stupid to begin with” titles.

all of the ven are piles

As of right now, my entire treasure fleet is in disarray. While everybody runs and drives, I wouldn’t characterize any as “particularly competent”. It’s winter, and they’re not in danger of being towed or fined for the first time, so in a way this little return to form with me building robots again has been at the expense of the ven.

Why are they so derelict? Well, I think in part it’s due to me continually throwing them up and down mountains.

Now that I’m only about 3 to 4 hours from the very vannable mountain roads of northern Georgia and the North Carolina/Tennessee border, it means I go…

I’m the width of the road, I’m the width of the road, I’m the wiGET BACK IN YOUR LANE NOW

…all…

Look at that inside-front liftoff. Rear sway bar time?

…the time

I do think at least once every month so far I’ve ended up somewhere in the area with vehicles nobody expects to ever witness in general, much less on a mountain. I’ve gone with groups (typically composed of SPROTS CARS) and when I damn felt like it.

The downside is obviously that the exercise is very strenuous for tired old ven. Here’s the lockout tag captions for everything as it stands:

Mikuvan

  • The entire exhaust path from the axle-clearing bend back fell off in late May when I was on the Tail of the Dragon. Yes, fell off. As in the person behind me had to dodge it. Straight-piping 3 hours home was hilarious, albeit dissatisfactory for hearing longevity. I replaced the exhaust in my first fully welded/fabricated custom exhaust job in June. In fact, look at it ratchet strapped to the roof rack above, as a victory trophy.
  • Complete front brake caliper and rotor replacement in November – it’s had one mildly dragging caliper for a while, and it was tolerable until some amount of smashing on the mountain caused it to seize even more.
  • Now it’s slowly leaking brake fluid from the master cylinder/booster assembly – while it stops fine, the fluid loss is gradual and both faster than I’m comfortable with and want to deal with the mess.
  • The power steering pump is now making absolutely terrific sounds and leaking at the shaft seal, so it’ll be on the chopping block for replacement.
  • There is a cable harness that the cruise control computer intercepts the transmission overdrive solenoid with which has failing pins. This has manifested in sporadic loss of 4th gear, meaning I’m either going 55mph tops or absolutely revving it flat out to hit 70. A kick or tug on the harness will often resolve it – I’ve tried various methods of biasing and restraining the connector pigtail over the past year or so, but outright repair/bypass is now a necessity because it’s getting too annoying.

Vantruck

  • Developed either a misfire or bad exhaust leak from the right cylinder bank, so while it will drive fine, it sure sounds like an old rattly diesel when it isn’t one (yet…). I’ll need to do a full heuristic debug before commenting on it more – it got worse lately as the weather cooled down.
  • It’s recently began emitting blue smoke out the exhaust intermittently. I’d attribute this solely to something like worn/crispy valve stem seals or sticky piston rings, but what was more worrisome is that the oil pressure gauge began to not register pressure. Now, in this era of Ferd, the oil pressure gauge appears to be a fake one – really an on-off scenario. I haven’t correlated the two symptoms by physically measuring the oil pressure yet, and really cannot say I’ve paid enough attention to said pressure gauge in months past for it to even have been symptomatic of anything. It could be a coincidence. Either way, out of an abundance of caution, I haven’t been driving Vantruck around the past few weeks.
  • Rear drum brakes have something going on, probably just excessive wear. If I set the parking brake, the rear brakes will drag for a while after releasing them. If I brake in reverse, then drive and brake forward, there’s a palpable clunk as something with just a bit too much slop pops back into position. Sounds straightforward, just willpower-limited for dissection.

Spool Bus

  • It came with a diesel leak around the left bank of injectors – old and crispy return line fittings, and the cold weather has made it worse to the point where I’d prefer not to drive it. Less due to the fire hazard and more because it stanks of diesel, costs me money by leaking it out, and is rude to others for leaving dribbles on the road. Willpower-limited repair, as I have the fittings and hoses sitting in it right this minute.
  • Thrashing about the mountains has caused a power steering system leak. I haven’t dug into it to find out where from, but it’s actually not from the gearbox itself this time (a known failure mode of many a Ford truck), so it’s probably a stiff hose or loose fitting. In fact, I had to abandon a day on US Route 129 a few months ago because the power steering leak became dramatically worse all of a sudden, a small puddle per power cycle. Luckily, the system was filled with transmission fluid and I had a quart to keep topping it off on the trip home.

You notice it’s all turning and stopping related problems, more or less? Well, in order to not fly off the side of a mountain, it’s imperative that you be able to turn and slow down. Vans, while imperfect at this, can be coerced into doing so somewhat gracefully, but they’ll only put up with it for so long.

Oh, yeah, where’s Murdervan? Spoiler alert – I sold it back in September after shoring everything up nicely and writing a Facebook ad that, in light of current events might get me Investigated. It was sold locally in-town to someone who seemed enthusiastic and knowledgeable of old Ferd diesel trucks, and will join a small business fleet that does urban gardening and landscaping work. A very fitting end to its brief story with me, as it was always just too normal for my misfits. I’m sure I’ll see it around the city more!

So there’s also a lot of Ven to write up, besides the Summer of Ven series itself. I better get used to loving this keyboard and its probable timely successor once the keys start falling off.

Cute little robots

A few weeks ago, I was skulking around knick knack stores in the farthest reaches of Georgia (my latest habit, finally checking out all those antique and flea markets I keep blasting by on the way back and forth from the Smokies and Blue Ridge). A lot of these stores have vintage tools and hardware, which I enjoy perusing. However, at one of them, I found this little guy:

That, if you’re not familiar, is a Dr. Inferno Jr. Well, not really. It’s a Tomy Omnibot, a little robot toy of the 1980s that was probably pretty badass for its time, being programmable via cassette tape and all.

Needless to say, I made off with it because hey, it has some relation to BattleBots history as well as the history of programmable smart toys. It was in good physical condition, though the proprietors said they couldn’t locate the remote control at the time but would keep mining their stocks for it.

Without the OEM remote, it seems rather static based on my research, and so I decided to perform a unique restomod. I’d do a mechanical repair and restoration to get it in driveable first, but I had an element I wanted to add.

That is an old Futaba T4NL Conquest I got for free at some Swapfest at MIT many moons ago, and have just had sitting in one of my Electronics Mystery Abyss totes since. What better to control your 80s robot with than an 80s radio!

What you can’t see from the outside is the MicroZone MC6 transmitter that I organ-swapped into the T4NL. Yup, I done did it – a restomod of the transmitter with a modern day, albeit potato, 2.4G computer radio. This was a fun adventure, and I think I approached it in a unique (but harder) way than just tapping the PPM summation point and feeding it into a 2.4G radio module. I fully embedded the MC6 using the original Futaba gimbals, added the MC6 servo reverser switches to the back side, and wired in new switches to turn the 4 channel T4NL into a full fledged 7-channel radio.

And of course, this photo of my 80s robot that I drove around with my 80s R/C radio was taken at a car show I took my 80s van to. This, as I called it on the Facesphere, is #Radwoodbait for whenever those shows come back up.

I’d definitely love to write up the whole restomod of both the Omnibot and the Conquest T4NL radio, because it was just a fun distraction project over the holidays when everything was closed and I didn’t feel like going outside.

Remember, even while I’ve refrained from fixing this web-van (HEHEHE WEBVAN) up to post content, I’ve been taking my usual excessive amount of photos of every step or interesting happening. The content exists, I just have to find the willpower to write it up – and I hope finally having the damn site operational again will motivate it.

Also, I have so much to remember what I named “Potato”…starting with the title of this site. I’ll take care of it soon, I promise.

robots

Robot Ruckus at Orlando Maker Faire: How to Somewhat Scale-Model Test Your BattleBots

Hello everyone. Here’s a photo of Überclocker 5 experiencing Waffle House for the first time, alongside Earl of Bale Spear team, who makes a better “BIG CHUCK” figure than I ever will.

Let that image never fade from the collective knowledge of mankind.

Anyways, as Robot Ruckus approached, I had to figure out how to get my bots all the way to Florida. Taking a week or so to drive there and back was kind of out of my realm of possibility at the time, so I decided to run a little bit of a relay race with the HUGE team.  They’re in Connecticut , which is either a suburb of New York or Boston depending on who you talk to.

I delivered Sadbot, Clocker, a tote of spare parts, and a toolbox to them one fine Sunday afternoon. They were then going to drive everything – Huge included to Earl in New Jersey (if you recall, Earl also brought Overhaul to Battlebots in 2018!) upon which he will travel to Florida. So after the delivery, I had plenty of time to do Other Stuff before flying down to Orlando.

Upon my arrival, I obviously had to grab a rental car. I figured that I’d get the shittiest econobox possible since I wasn’t going many places, just to the event and a hotel room. Well, when I got the reservation and headed over to the rental car garage, it turns out the company was out of shitty econoboxes.

So what now, do I get a free bicycle instead? Nope. Free upgrade time! The garage handlers throw me a key fob which I assume was to the small dorky crossover nearby.

Nope, behind that:

Thanks, I hate it.

Let me be very clear: I’ve forgotten how to drive. No, not in general, but remember what I’m mentally calibrated and trained to for years: Being high up and on top of the front axle, and having a very short or nonexistent hood.  THIS WAS NEITHER. You cannot see out of these. Not out the sides, not out the back, and barely out the front.  I guess that’s the trade for prioritizing looking cool and edgy. For yours truly, stepping into any modern car requires some zen and meditation, and a constant reminder that I now have a front.

I am always terrified of automatically failing over into “van mode” while driving anything rental, and going full Unintended Acceleration into a store or dumpster or fire hydrant as I try to park 1 foot away from something.

How fast does it go? Greater than Van. I dunno man, I don’t have a good sense for How To Fast. My friends who work at GM (who had to listen to me complain about it in real-time) said it likely has the rental-car spec turbocharged 4-cylinder Ecotec engine, which may explain why I was experience what I swore was turbo lag, but more likely might be several inter-related drive feel variables like any economy modes it was stuck in.

2019 Chevrolet Camaro: Faster than a 1986 Ford Econoline.

 

Also, this interior panel fell off while I was heading back from the event at one point. It snapped back in, of course, but seriously?

The trip from the airport to my hotel was made in complete darkness, in the rain. Great. So I’m sitting 2 inches off the floor behind 8 feet of snout, unable to see anything, trying to figure out why every new car is a forsaken spaceship simulator inside, and mingling with other equally lost tourists trying to figure out their own rental cars on the fly. Through several construction zones, to boot. I guess I’m glad I went ahead and got the full-plausible-deniability add-on.

When I arrived at the event the next morning, I found Uberclocker like this.

 

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaawwwwwwwwwwwww. Earl took it in a South of the Border restaurant apparently, and they had these convenient accessories available.

 

I unloaded totes and began setting the bots and infrastructure up for safety inspections.

Sadbot

Sadbot was up first against the multibot Crash and Burn, built by Fingertech Robotics (incidentally, a Ragebridge dealer!) and which has done very well at Robogames events. They were running in kind of a reduced functionality state for this event, so it was more or less a pushing match. Sadbot is obviously a great shape to get pushed around, so it went about as expected with the exception of me getting a few good shoves in. At one point, I took a huge gouge out of the railroad tie side bumpers with the log splitter tip. It definitely did its job.

In the first 30 seconds of the match, the lifter controller popped. Uh oh!

 

It was a pre-production 12-FET brushless Rage board that I pulled out of a bucket labeled “SAD RAGEBRIDGES” and wired up. I probably deserved this.

It would appear I neglected to solder some of the pins on the MOSFET packge. Quality control! That probably popped as soon as it saw any heavy load. I replaced it with a “production model” I brought along in the pile of Equals Zero wares.

What’s more important, though, was the powertrain holding up great for that entire match of me running around and into things. The C80/100 drive motors were lukewarm, and so was the aluminum heat spreader plate in the electronics deck. And even better? I loved driving the damn thing. I mean, saying it handled like Overhaul 1 would be cheeky. Obviously from the video, I took a while to get re-engaged with bot dynamics. But afterwards, it felt like driving a big 30lber, which is my desired effect. Big wheels and conservative gearing seems to be holding up so far.

Sadbot’s next match wasn’t going to be until Sunday at this point, so I decided to take the opportunity to go to Home Depot and grab some….

…masking tape, a big wire brush, and some spraypaint.

This thing has always needed a paint job, and I wanted to paint the frame pastel purple to match the Miku blue and pink attachment aesthetics. Well what better time than now? It was a bright and only somewhat windy day outside and around 70-something degrees. I brushed off the accumulated rust and grunge on the outside and had at it. Paint+Primer, you say? I dare you.

So there you have it. Sadbot will be purple from now on.

My next match was against the other multibot, Macaroni and Cheese. The matchups are “DETERMINED RANDOMLY”, or so I am told. Maybe the random quantum computer just really likes seeing multibots get thrown around.

I went a little more hard-headed in this match with the added confidence of the previous fight, more actively chasing as well as trying to back off from engagements. I stayed to a “I weigh more than thee” strategy instead of trying to capture with the pokey dingle, and managed to drive both halves in the wall a good few times, including propping them both up by the end.

One of these power charges had the unfortunate side effect of making Sadbot somewhat droopy.

Ah well. This match was a much more aggressive one from the stick perspective. I purposefully drove like the maniac I should be driving like, to see if I could get anything to upset itself. The motors got warmer, but not concerningly warm, and I unfortunately neglected to take a controller temperature.

I asked Earl to use Farmer Force™ to straighten out the pokey dingle a little – the upside of it being slightly bent was it at least touched the floor.

 

Sadbot’s final matchup was against Kraken, the actual BattleBots entry. This was finally a chance to drive a match against an opponent of equal weight, and what an intense driving match it was – I went full hard as if it the Giant Nut depended on it. This thing also perfectly fit in Kraken’s trap, as I found out. I kept the pokey dingle at a height to engage Kraken “in the jaws”, and did it once and drove it into the corner. However, once we recovered, Kraken got a better bite on the lid, which led to…

Oops. That’s the outrunner’s wires getting squashed into the rotor. One of the downsides of using external rotor’d motors is you have to pay a lot of attention to where your wires are going. It would have been better to make this a side-exit mounting instead of top-exit. Overhaul, if I keep this drive setup, will definitely have an external shield over the rotor to prevent this.

The wires took a little while to get chewed through, during which it was shooting sparks out the side of the bot which I thought was the controller exploding. I lost this side of drive around 75% of the way through the match, so had to play defense and pivot to keep facing Kraken. Anyhow, I couldn’t find any explosion signs on that Brushless Rage, but I also didn’t feel like repairing this at the event after the Heavyweight bracket ran out of time – originally, each bot was supposed to get 4 matchups, but only we had three in the end. This will be a forensic investigation for later!

Überclocker

Clocker got off to a …. great? Memeful? start by fighting “Marty”.

I’m going to let the video explain itself. Well, I found out it’s definitely front heavy, but it’s also compounded by the fact that Marty is enormous. I also found out this match that Clocker gets stuck on the floors very easily here – they’re plate steel laid on wood foundation, and definitely were shifting around as the event wore on. That’s one of the foils to having a super low wedge in BattleBots – the arena floor will only get shittier, and you’ll definitely regret missing your charges. It’s a tradeoff – possibly get stuck or bounce off a seam, but have weight on the ground.

After I parked the bot at the end of the match, I noticed when picking it up that the lifter was actually seized. What on earth?

It would seem that I #HardParked it maybe a little too much, and the P61 bent in half.

Uh oh. This is maybe an engineering oversight, but the failure mode is also a little infuriating. See, the P6x series shafts neck down to 10mm no matter what diameter you order them as, to pass through the bearings which are of limited size to support the mounting hole pattern. They’re also made of stainless steel.

 

This last part I don’t really get, but basically the shafts are rather soft. So once the preload on the screws is overcome, the whole thing will buckle. Maybe I should have secured them with a 2nd plane or backup plate of some sort. Or maybe I should have used a face-mount technique instead so there’s no “gear climbing” force. Or maybe…

Okay, whatever. I didn’t need the full torque that the 45:1 ratio was going to give – I more did it for a limited lifter speed, but I suppose that’s why I took the care of engineering clutches into Overhaul, and Clockers Past, so it didn’t consume itself.

That’s why you might have noticed the bot split in two for service during Sadbot’s segment. I managed to get a P60 from another team that was the 16:1, two stage ratio, so I had to fiddle it into the bot. This involved cutting the height spacer down in length because the mounting pattern changed. Luckily, I anticipated something dumb like this happening, and the bottom rail has both the 2:1 and 3:1 pattern.

The only downside of going 16:1 is the lifter will be almost hammer-speed. But this could be entertaining in its own right!

Clocker’s next fight was against Ascend, a very powerful 30lb pneumatic flipper. This was going to be a durability test!

It was hard to get under using conventional means, so I mostly had to drive around it and hope to catch it vulnerable post-flip. I also spent an infuriating amount of time trying to get out of a floor seam.  Clocker went flying several times in the fight, which was the shakedown test I wanted.

Near the end, it got stuck upside down because the retaining bolt for the lift axle on the left (gear) side actually backed out and fell out somewhere!  So the gear just skipped as I tried to put it back upright. I managed to get one good grab-and-lift and a couple of other pushes, but didn’t prevail in the decision.

What was cool was I actually got a wheel nibbled off from a direct flipper shot in the first 30 seconds, then drove the entire rest of the match on 3 wheels. Just fine.

This was very exciting. To me, this means if I can keep the chain and inner hubs on, I can treat the wheels very disposably. Not that I’d do it as an explicit tactic, but as get out of jail cards if the situation forced it.

In Overhaul, I’d likely keep the inner wheel tightly retained while the outers are left to float on plastic/shear-rated hardware. I have a few ideas of how to do this for Clocker itself come Motorama.

Another downside of just coupling your actuator to the bot lazily: When your actuator suddenly has 3 times the power, it’s gonna start consuming itself! Remember I put a 42mm brushless on the leadscrew drive instead of the usual 500-class drill motor.  Overhaul has a dedicated trunnion on the lift hub, this is just me not wanting to bother redesigning everything after the lift gear to use a 30lb-scaled one.

The lift motor didn’t blow itself up this time, and in a way I found the lessened torque to be more tolerable. I still clearly had grab and lift ability, but now with the weight of the bot having more leverage against the motor, I noticed I could “trim” the bot better in that match. I’d stick-down just a bit, and gradually the thing finds its self-levelling point. I could then periodically stick-down to refresh it, in a way.

All patched up after wheel service.

Clocker’s 3rd and last fight was against BEEESS???!! (You must only say its name with the upward questioning inflection). I found it hard to get a grab on with his defensive tines sticking out everywhere, so this match was just a lot of driving practice.

And that’s it. Sadbot came away 1/2, and Clocker ended up 2/1! After the event was packed up, I sent the bots back up north with Earl and picked them up from Connecticut again the week after.

Well, not before getting up to some shenanigans in the dark behind the building.

Sadbot, being “Extremely robot shaped” as we termed it, was used as a test dummy by a few teams with lifters/grabbers. Here is a future possible BattleBots entry, Claw Viper, tuning lift motor settings using Sadbot as a dead weight.

The Real Giant Nut was the Lessons We Learned Along The Way

So I’ll do a  more in-depth discussion of the implications for Overhaul separately as its own design series. But here were my two biggest takeaways from this event:

  • If I can make the equation “Overhaul 3 drives like Sadbot drives like Overhaul 1” work, then I feel far more confident bringing sexy back in the arena. I’m satisfied with this powertrain setup, consisting of the single 80mm brushless motor on a Brushless Rage, geared conservatively for about 13mph, and back riding on big blobby wheels.  What I’d probably do is use this as an initial design path, but have a failover ESC solution (VESC controllers have grown up a lot in the past 2 years) as well as a failover brush DC solution. I have some candidates in mind for the latter which I tested over these few months and think are a good idea. More on that later!
  • Clocker was a great architectural test beyond what I intended to accomplish. I definitely wasn’t counting on losing a wheel here! The bot was vastly easier to maintain, even replacing the lift gearbox with a different ratio. I now know that the frame should get longer to better grab and lift – part of the issues stemmed from having to move the front wheels so far back. The small poker wedge legs worked out reasonably, but I’d probably want to make several kinds because of the arena floor. There’s only minor changes and mods I want to make before Motorama. For one, it needs to test the DETHPLOW architecture for Overhaul, and maybe implement my 2-stage breakaway wheels.

One thing to note about Clocker is that I should have dropped the Angerbox clamp drive system to a single stage. I’ve basically done away with the requirement that either Clocker or Overhaul can crush stuff. The clamp should therefore be fast to close, something it wasn’t really at this event. Clocker and Overhaul will likely run single-stage gearing into their clamps for future events.

Between these two major differential tests, I think I have a good handle on what Overhaul 3 has to be.

Namely, it should be Sadbot, but with a grabber and lif….. wait a minute. #holup I swear I’ve built this bot before.

 

Überclocker 5: Finishing Up The Everything Else

Last episode, I had just finished machining and assembling the frame. As I said then, it felt a little wrong. Almost too simple compared to my usual. Well given that’s one of the major directives of this build, and for Overhaul 3, I’d better get used to the feeling. So with the aluminum machining taken care of, it was time to do some welding and final assembly.

The new leg design is almost 1 for 1 what I want to build for Overhaul. Its armored pontoons were a good idea for some forms of kinetic energy weapon dispersal, but weren’t very good at wedging otherwise. Last season I made the “stiletto” versions for matches where having broad surfaces against the ground would be a liability, but the way it mounted to the bot was still predicated by the angled wubbies. I could adjust their ‘preload’ into the floor with washers, but this was permanent (for the match duration) and they actually would impede the bot’s motion by slightly lifting the front small wheels off the ground. There’s really no substitute for a good set of hinged wedges that will always conform to the floor under gravity. I’d eventually want to redo these plates from an alloy steel like Hardox or good ol’ AR400, but for now, a surplus piece of on-hand 1/8″ cold roll steel works too.

Initial tack welds were laid down the parts as-fixtured, then I’d remove the leg itself and add a dab more weld bead. The design was specified for approximately 4mm gauge AR steel, but using 1/8″ cold roll meant there was a lot of placement slop, so I’d rather fixture as the parts were going to be used.

Top side in progress, mostly done.

And then backfilled from the underside. I then ground all four undersides smooth, and painted over the legs and mounts in black.

While the various painted parts are all drying, onto assembly work.  There’s a series of little spacers that have to be installed for the wheels to attach at the right distance to clear the drive chains. Not the most elegant approach, perhaps, but one that was workable given the commercial nature of the parts. For Overhaul I’d have custom hubs with the correct spacing already designed in.

On the inside, a series of washers to hold the hub face on. Another slight point of tack is to put the wheels on, you really need to remove the outer “hubcap” plastic Versahub because otherwise there’s no easy way to line everything up looking through the 1/2″ hex bore. A minor complaint, and really I could just put a plastic circle piece here instead of the Versahub.

Well, it has wheels now!

The lifter motor is suspended off the lower plate by a large gearbox-shaped spacer. It’s a bit of an overconstraint with a fixed bearing in the frame rail; same with the external bearings on the drive motors. Overhaul will have these be isolated systems with flexible couplings like I have on the existing lifter design.

 

The lifter fork and clamp parts all slide onto the main shaft one by one. The dead shaft does allow this thing to be far more serviceable than Clockers Past.

Once the three crossing tie rods and spacers are tightened, the assembly is rock solid. Unlike Clockers Past, the only method of force transmission  from the lift gear side to the “drive” side (right hand) is through those three interspersed tie rods. With the live drive shaft, both forks directly received motor torque. Now, My Calculations Show™ that the rigidity is adequate even picking up a 30lb opponent entirely on the right fork.

Overhaul already has a method of through-transmitting lift motor torque in the form of the big hollow hub the arms sit on, so the considerations there are much different.

Support legs all installed and tightened. A shoulder screw whose shoulder is the length between the hinge sides gets tightened down, and that’s all.

As I expected, this thing is really front heavy. The CAD model doesn’t quiet show it all, even, because it’s a static representation. With nothing in the back, the bot tips forward on its two front wheels immediately.

There will be things in the back, of course, and the final design showed I could possibly have a 3 pound counterweight spanning the back frame rail.  We’ll see how it ends up. I also suspected that the bot will drive very differently depending on how squished the front wheels are (i.e. how much downforce is placed on the arms).

One minor “oh yeah, I modeled that” as I mounted the drive chains: I specified flat-head screws for most of these frame connections, but to do waterjet layout when I wasn’t the one using the machine, I had to make a configuration of each part with the countersink diameters suppressed.

Then I promptly forgot I was supposed to use flathead screws, so installed button heads. This works fine for every place that doesn’t have a chain run next to it, of course, so I didn’t even notice until now.

Ah, that’s much better.

Electronics installation goes quickly, but first, I needed to throw things inside to get wire run distances.

Another “PM Charles” habit I learned and now don’t feel right without: I even created a wiring diagram for this thing with gauges, connections, and lengths before I cut a single piece of sumptuous silicone-insulated ultra-flexible noodle wire. And labeled every cable as I made them.

(As wires get into the multiple-0 gauge, they and their connectors begin getting more and more sumptuous as well as expensive if you fuck it up)

I avoided making something intelligent like Super DEANSBUS and instead just went for the good ol’ Hong Kong Soldered-Shrunken Squid. I only needed four ESCs and an auxiliary connection (for receiver power).

Prepped and ready after a couple more hours of soldering. I’m very much now used to crimp tooling and contact systems used in commercial/industrial connectors. The R/C world really needs a “crimpable bullet connector” of some sort (And I don’t mean these trash-tier things), because solder cup filling for dozens of wires just takes so much manpower.

And here it is!

I was very much right when I said it would drive differently depending on if I had the arms down or up. If the arms are raised, the back two wheels basically aren’t there – it drives like a 2WD bot and is almost too squirrely. Overhaul 1 had similar issues, but the long triangular pontoons damped it a lot.

However, if I drop the arms down and preload them into the ground even a little, it will transfer some weight to the back wheels, unsquishing the front wheels just a little. It gains 4WD-like traction, but still puts substantial weight down on the forks. I actually managed to accidentally sand a good mount of the forks off on the bottom driving around in the rough concrete area of the shop.

This is a desired result. If I make sure Overhaul can sink down a good half inch or so in the front when the arms are raised, it means I have a fairly large band where the arms can be down and the bot still retain full traction. OH2.x wasn’t capable of this – the small wheels deformed so little that it propped the front 4 off the ground, making it act like a front-dragging 2WD bot.

On my mind now is a good way to make an easily adjustable travel limiter so I can, if need be, just slam the arms down without having to modulate them carefully. On this bot, if I drive them down too far, I can get it to start behaving like OH2.X – turns become more difficult and less predictable as the rear of the bot is trying to pivot around a drag point in the front.

The final weigh-in is pretty much on the money minus the weight of the wires, which I didn’t put in a simulated blob of copper for. The CAD weight was 26.7lb. Looks like either way I’ll have around that 3 pounds to play with to install a counterweight on the back plate!

Stay tuned for some exciting Orlando Maker Faire coverage, where I’ll get to find out if everything is wrong.

Überclocker 5.0: In Which I Actually Have to Build the Bot, Not Just Talk About It

Here, have an Überclocker kit. That’s it. My job is done and I’m going home.

Hah – funny story though. The past 3 generations of Uberclocker were actually ALL sold in the end to other builders. That’s right – before this build, I didn’t possess a single one of them. They were sold in various states of disrepair, of course. But sadly, I have yet to see any of them back in the arena, or face my own follies.

By the last week of September, this was the pile that I’d collected. The last head assembly is just for show – it was a spare made for the previous bot (Uberclocker 4.0) and is damaged in a couple of places. I’d gotten orders in for motors and pulled a couple of other Clocker 4.0 parts out of the organizer. A lot of this will see reuse intentionally.

Putting together a wheel assembly revealed that the Vex aluminum Versahub downloadable model is WRONG! It shows up as a flat face on the oberse, but in reality, has a shoulder that is larger than the 1.125″ on the other side. Vex uses 1-1/8″ as the standard because it also happens to be the outer diameter of a Type R8 or FR8 bearing, a very common bearing size.

So I had to turn the short shoulder down to 1.125″ in order for it to actually fit the plate sprocket. No biggie, but hey, update your damn CAD model.

Notice how the wheels are mated together – they have the previously mentioned #8-32 standoffs crammed into them. If I trusted friction enough, there isn’t even a need to have something on the other side. These were rather tough to press through!

One of the plastic Versahubs caps off the outside here. The whole assembly slips on to the P80 keyed shaft and is retained by the shaft’s end-tap screw hole and spacers.

That’s it. What? I made a drive system that’s one gearbox bolted to one wheel? On purpose? Boy, haven’t done that in a while.

The P61 gearboxes assemble almost directly onto the Sk3-4240 motors using the Mabuchi 775 motor mount kit. The shaft is too long by about 6mm however, so I had to trim all of them with a Dremel disc and cleaned up on the belt sander.

I printed off a couple more of these “Angerboxen” as I call them, which have been a staple of my bots for a few years. They’re based on a design I made all the way back in high school (with less tools) and carried through to bots like 12 O’Clocker, and then a spare motor from that made it into Uberclocker v4.

They’re just repackages of generic single speed drill gearboxes into a 1.5″ square profile, compared with their usual 2″ funny shapes. This will be the first time I cram a brushless motor into them, though. For the sake of convenience and expedience, it’s easier to keep this bot all brushless instead of make room for a brushed Ragebridge. Previously, Uberclocker 4.0 had a DeWut for the lift and a 550 size drill motor for the clamp, so it made sense.

I picked up a 4.95mm reamer to bore out some spare drill pinions (I have a 10 pound bag of loose random cordless drill guts) to turn them into pinions for the SK3 motors.

And here it is ready to close up!

…and a day later, after a quick redesign.

 

You see,  the SK3-42mm motors are bigger in diameter than a 550-size drill motor. Not by much, but by annoyingly enough that I could not feed one of the threaded tie screws in from the motor side.

I ended up changing the design up to have the tie rods enter from the front, basically making this an ersatz P60/61 gearbox. I mean, at this point there’s no real need to have a custom design and I might as well do an “embedded P61” like Overhaul had the P80 integrated into the clamp motor. But this setup is lighter and already designed in, and it was easy to replicate.

I added a set of 2 smaller holes in the center for a Mabuchi 400 size motor. This faceplate mount is often found in the smaller 28-30mm brushless motors – if weight got out of control, I could quickly drop the motor weight in half by going to one of them. I don’t need the full power of a 42mm brushless on the clamp arm anyway, but it was there and easy.

All of the subassemblies and components are starting to come together now. If there’s one thing that 1. Building Overhauls and 2. Doing Massive Drone Startups have taught me, it’s always just pipeline spares if you have the materials on hand. You will need them sooner or later, whether gust of wind or gust of Tombstone.

The lift arm shaft, unlike Clocker 4.0, is now a dead axle like Overhaul. I wanted to ensure the less complex box frame had more members to tie it together side to side. Pretty much every Clocker Past has had a live axle to let me easily turn a shaft collar into a torque clutch., but for this one I’m doing it dirty! Shown here are a bunch of spacers to keep the arm elements at the right distance apart. The shaft material is McMaster’s “ceramic coated aluminum” shaft material. Easy to machine, but you have to break the ceramic coating which is actually fairly tough. It will eat regular steel tools, but carbide will defeat it.

After the first week of October (Well, there goes Franklin Institute), my waterjet parts arrived from a local vendor. I dropped off material the week prior, so an average turnaround time, plus picked up a handful of company parts while I was at it.

This was enough parts for two bots except the frame, which I figured wasn’t going to get trashed at a Sportsman’s Class competition like Robot Ruckus, so I decided to not incur the extra cost and the having to order additional material.  I’ll do this for Motorama instead, where I plan to enter Clocker into the full combat 30s.

Checking off your own fabrication prints is always satisfying. Maybe just left-over project managment energy in me, but this is definitely my most documented and organized bot in years. Having other people needing to read your thoughts and intentions clearly in mission-critical systems is something I’ve had to get used to in the past 2-3 years, and I most definitely learned a ton from other folks at the company with more extensive industry experience.

(Not to say these are remotely version-trackable and custody-chain verified prints…)

I even back-added the “live edits” into the drawing files and annotated the CAD model. Oh, the horror.

 

Both Uberclocker and Overhaul make extensive use of these 12 pitch, 12 tooth, 20 degrees P/A stock spur gears. I made a point of just ordering a half dozen and broaching them all, because again, I’ll need these again for OH3.

Anyone ever find it funny when company logos and motivational posters show odd numbers of gears in mutual mesh?

It’s really just a Freudian slip into the culture of the organization.

Machined rear axle spindles and a test fit in a hub. The rear hubs are the same Vex aluminum Versahubs, but bored out on both sides and a type R1212 miniature bearing stuffed into the pockets. They’re retained by a big washer at the end of the spindle so will take more effort to peel off than just ripping out a set of tiny bearings. I could have gone for simplicity and done a Delrin bushing too, but a large overhung load onto the relatively short (5/8″ wide) spindles made me leery about added friction under the bending load of the bot.

Next up, frame rails that need channelling and pocketing. I knew this was going to end badly for me if I didn’t mark them very clearly.

 

They also needed the top and bottom plate holes drilled and threaded – I set all of them up at once in the mill with the same reference edge and played a bit of paint-by-numbers on which hole has to go where, making something like the world’s most impractically slow subtractive dot-matrix printer.

Invitably, I had to bum it up somewhere, and that’s being off by one edge-finder radius on an arm tower. Everyone does this eventually, no matter how veteran! So I had to slot one of the arm towers to let it actually sit where it needed to be.

The top and bottom plates are being test fit here. Overall the tolerances were alright, but they do add up, so some of the holes just barely did not align and needed to be step-drilled up a 1/32 in size. I went 1/16″ over as extra future slop insurance.

Next, the frame was set up and clamped to the table to perform the drilling / tapping operation of the front bulkhead which was just going to get line-drilled in place. I didn’t feel like tilting the Bridgeport head 15 degrees and doing those coordinate transforms to get to the hole placements this time! Stabbing straight inwards with a drill was going to be all the grace this frame sees.

And that’s it.

The frame’s now fully assembled. 5 parts for the base and 2 for the arm towers. In some ways, this kind of bulky rail construction is elegant in its own right. Clockers Past have had elaborately puzzled together plate frames with part counts that ranged from 15 to 20 or so, and Overhaul carried that over for version 2. It’s now something I aim to move away from for V3.

Next up: Filling in the other parts of it that make it more robot-shaped.

Überclocker 5.0: The Big Post of Designy-Stuff

Alright! So previously I established some of the bot’s principal geometry. Now I had to actually import more components and try to flesh it out, and make little edits here and there. Recall this was where I ended before:

I’d already tabled the idea of moving the clamp motor to the arm tower region, and the lift motor has been moved slightly forward and under the lift gear. This had the side effect of pushing the drive motor (and hence the front wheels) rearward a good half inch or so, and I was a little dubious on if the bot would have weight far enough towards the rear to lift anything.

The clamp arm (the “head” as everyone calls it) was going to stay identical to the previous 30Haul version; I already had parts to fit it, and so it didn’t make too much sense to change. This was, after all, an exercise to see if I could keep a lot of Overhaul 2.x parts the same when it comes to the liftgear. So far, I think I can keep the entire top half of the bot using the same parts, so it will save a ton of redesign effort.

I’m now continuing to flesh out geometry and adding more critical (but blank) parts. The lift gear was going to grow some compared to last 30Haul, to give it more of a ratio with the lift gear. I had a plan this time of running a 3-stage P61 gearbox and using a single larger output stage, in order to be a little more commensurate with the old DeWalt-based lifter which was a 52:1 ratio with a roughly 4:1 output stage. The plan here was for a 45:1 P61 with 5:1 on the main lift gears. The motor shaft would stick through the left frame rail some, so the plan was to put an outboard bearing in to greatly reduce the bending burden that the narrow, necked P6x shaft would have to take otherwise; that’s what the large clearance hole where the lifter gear should go is for.

The intermediate vertical bulkhead from before has been turned into a kind of quasi-bottom-plate made of the same thickness material. All 3 motors bolt to this plate with spacers between them and the plate.

I’ve fully fleshed out the drive system here (all…6 parts of it) and given more detail to the lift assembly, including generation of the arm towers which are hidden in this view.

The Wall of Wub positioning was going to be two large groupings on either side to accommodate the legs Uberclocker is known for (which turned into the wedge pontoons on Overhaul). I also made volume claims for the center shock mounts when 30Haul gets its very own DETHPLOW.

I just imported a 30haul old arm in for geometry and visualization purposes. At this point, the bot’s CG was already very close to exceeding the front wheel line (a.k.a it’ll always tip forward). The height change of the main lift axle meant the forks themselves had to be shorter with a more severe curve. I decided to start over instead of trying to change the geometry of the existing arms, because there was something else I wanted to try.

One of my perceived flaws of the Overhaul lifter fork design is they’re still rather wide at the tips. I wanted the lateral rigidity there, but it did mean if the arm tip got bent up it was hard to get under someone with it ever again.

My bright idea for 30Haul, which would be equally reproducible for Overhaul, is to have a main plate member that is extra thick and rigid, but only have its thickness sticking out as the attack interface. Something set a little more inboard can provide the overall side to side rigidity.

For 30haul, this meant I was actually going to make each fork from a solid backbone of 1/2″ aluminum. We start with the basic dropdown shape which will clear the frame. I made some push and pull adjustments as I went, since I wanted the arms to descend down quickly, but shouldn’t cut away too much of the front frame rail.

The upper curve is generated with some tangent arcs.

And the bottom curve just follows the same arc center with some more edgy features. This is actually how Overhaul 2.x forks were all generated too!

I smoothed things out and added some thru-spacer holes as well as bolt circles.

Check out that arc of 5 holes that runs roughly down the length of the arc shape.  This is what they’re for:

Instead of discrete standoffs like last 30Haul, I’m going to be using a single solid plastic spacer between the inner and outer fork. The discrete spacers were fine for 30lb Sportsman’s Class duty. But they just entered Full Dab mode under any significant side impact since the standoff thru-bolts provided bending axes!

The idea of this fork is the thinner reinforcement plate and the thicker main plate are supported full-contact with the rigid plastic insert. Hopefully, this means it will act substantially like a sandwich composite in that side bending regime, and maybe a hard smack from a weapon will introduce a bend or a bow, but it won’t just completely fold up.

I was planning on using the Markforged machines to print the center spacers in Onyx, but they could also be cut from solid plastic.

 

After specifying and adding the inter-arm spacers, the majority of the bot’s mechanical needs are done now. Seriously, there’s so little going on compared to one of my average designs.  It’s kind of a refreshing change, honestly.

I next moved onto making the basic support legs that enable the bot to grab and lift. These front legs had to be Sportsman’s Class rules compliant first, which is why I’m going for a simple fork tine-like projection instead of the crazy angled wedges.

I started with the sketch plane that’s defined off the thickness of the rubber shock mounts, and made a big plate which covers all of them.

I had a change of heart at this stage, and instead of making solid projections that altogether ride on the wubbie mounts, I decided to pursue a hinged design.

I always thought I could preload Overhaul’s wedges into the ground with carefully adjusting spacers/washers on the wubbies. Yes, I technically could, but they then weren’t far from a permanent setting anyway. I found that the previous 30Haul only exhibited a narrow range of satisfactory wedging versus propping its own front wheels off the ground.

Hinged wedges have been on the retreat in the sport for a while (albeit slowly) because of their vulnerability to getting damaged. But a lot of bots still sport them, because having something load itself into the ground with its own gravity beats you carefully applying a pre-determined force trying to do the same in an environment that can throw anything at you, at any time.

The legs themselves will be made from thick aluminum also, for this time. They’ll be allowed to hinge upwards about 10 degrees – something can get under them without consequence as long as I back off in time. Even a fixed-but-compliant  wedge would, in that circumstance, still cause the bot to lose traction in the front if lifted.

I just drew some lines that looked cool first and foremost before making the geometry compatible.

Here’s what that assembly looks like up front. Now, it IS true that having hinged elements that are also on wubbie mounts is superfluous, and I agree. If the wubbies proved to add just too much extra compliance, I was satisfied with running plastic spacers underneath for Franklin and Robot Ruckus.

A size comparison between Clockers 4 and 5 (a.k.a first 30haul and new 30haul). The new bot is shorter by a bit – maaaaaaaaaaaaaaybe even too short on the wheelbase. But it’s not outlandishly compact like I worried about going in.

Before I started on the electronics layout, I decided to put the finishing fastening detail touches on the mechanical end – Every hole got at least one sample fastener as a sanity check, and I also laid out top and bottom plate bolt patterns.

 

Up until this point, I’d actually never designed the rear idler hub. I modeled it as kind of a top-hat shaped spacer with two shoulders, one for the wheel hub bearings and the other to space it out from the frame. It would just get anchored in with an extra-long frame rail screw after the wheel is mounted.  Relatively simple and durable!

I also decided to knock off a few BB entry trends and add “breadboard holes” to the frame. Some on the sides,  as can be seen, but mostly on the back.

The idea of these breadboard holes is to be able to add attachments and defenses in a quick, reasonably strong way. You standardize on your own bolt pattern when designing these accessories. I didn’t have any in mind at the time, but it’s one of those “Boy, it’ll be annoying to drill them later” features.

 

The clamp actuator was imported from Uberclocker v4 and is almost completely unmodified except for a total height trim right next to the three small mounting holes. There was just a lot of unnecessary material here before, and this allows the actuator to be about as compact as I can get  it.

So that’s about it, mechanically, for the bot. I’m definitely not used to something having this few parts, and I really hope the design approach works for Overhaul proper.

With this allowed to rest for a while, I turned my attention to “things which hold electronics”.

I’m reusing the design of the battery tray from Uberclocker 4 with a few small geometry shifts to accommodate the frame shape of this bot. It has slots underneath where hook-and-loop cinching straps get fed through, which hold the battery down.

The “Rage-hutches” as I call them each hold two 6-FET Brushless Rages face to face stacked vertically. I found this was a convenient height – just barely under the thickness of the frame!  They’re made of 2 pieces each. One is a baseplate with mounting ears, and the other is the perimeter “U” shape with holes and reliefs for the heat sinks.

In another deviation from my usual form that I want to point out is the utter lack of small hardware on the bot now. The top and bottom plates are retained by 1/4″-20 thread size, and even the electronics mounts get 1/4″ compatible clearance holes for a nut-and-bolt interface with the bottom plate.

I’ve tended to use #4 screws – or at least very small screws – to hold ancillary parts and electronics in. One of the critical exercises we did for the company products was really trying to standardize on hardware, and after being part of that, I am keeping in mind the number and types of fasteners in use in the bot. A long time ago, most everything I made robot-wise was just using whatever hardware conveniently fit the geometry…which meant I might have needed 4 different hex wrenches to change a motor, for instance.

Working  on deployable products, plus the much higher regimentation requirements of the BattleBots pits if you actually wanted to get things done fast, have made me think of all this from the start. This bot should be serviceable for the most part with a 5/32″ hex wrench. I actually spec’d button head 1/4-20 (frame and top/bottom plate) but regular socket head #10 screws (motor mounts) because they share the 5/32″ drive. I made more use of #8-32 than I ever have before as my “small screw”, because Vex parts are made for 8-32.

And here’s the size comparison again from the top view. I was fully expecting Uberclocker 5 to not be able to drive without the opponent raised very high. Overhaul 2.x and Uberclocker v4 both have substantial front traction in the form of small wheels located nearer the center of lift. Other things of note – the inner frame rails of Uberclocker 4 are about the same width as the “Outer” ones of v5. The attacking cross-section of the bot remains much the same in terms of width and height. Really it’s those big Vex wheels that sort of make the thing look small, in my mind – the body looks visually smaller in comparison to the large wheels that poke out.

From the side, the bot has gained some height, but pretty much solely due to the added chassis height. I was able to keep the curvature of the fork tips not too severe – the taller they are, the harder it will be to grab opponents.

Overhaul 3 itself should still have a somewhat longer wheelbase and better proportions of the wheelbase x track rectangle. Remember, I had to move the front wheels backwards. By the original design, they should be very close to the front transverse frame rail.

I personally felt, too, the bot could have stood to be a bit longer even here. But, it really couldn’t get longer. Why?

If the bot went further back, the thing wouldn’t really be able to self right. I’m sure it can throw itself back over with the momentum of the lifting assembly, but I like being deterministic from the start. This was a length restriction for Overhaul 2.x also – in one swing of the forks, I had to be able to tip the bot onto its wheels again. So this means Overhaul 3 is going to have to gain wheelbase, If I so desired, by moving the front wheels forward again to where I intended them.

Next up, the initial rounds of fabrication begin!