2020: A Year in CAD

2020 has been a crappy year in most regards, and robot combat has been no exception. I managed to make it to Motorama in February with my beetleweight, but that was the only event I got to attend all year long. Just because I had no events to go to didn’t mean that my mind didn’t keep churning on making new robot designs. So here is a quick rundown of the designs that I came up with and pushed all the way to a relatively complete model.

My designs from 2020
  1. 12lb undercutter – While it may not be in the cards for me to build a robot for any of the non-insect weight classes right now, I still wanted to try to come up with a design that I could build one day, and going for an undercutter makes sense as it is the archetype that I have the most experience in. My first attempt at a 12lb undercutter design came in 2017 as a scaling-up of my nascent 3D printed beetleweight design (but to be cut from UHMW). Now that my current beetleweight design has gone to a metal plate build style, doing the same for a scaled-up version just made sense.
12lb undercutter
  1. 3lb big wheel vert – Watching the UK bot Captain Jack Spinnah in action and seeing the accompanying build log made me feel inspired to take a crack at designing a big wheeled vert. One of the most perplexing parts of this type of design can be the wheels and attaching them. As I wasn’t the biggest fan of UHMW wheels and had seen the success of Billy’s design with big foam wheels, I found a 6″ EVA foam roller that I figured could be sliced and drilled to make big shock absorbing wheels that could be used with the standard Fingertech wheel hubs.
3lb big wheel vert
  1. 2lb vert – My young daughter has expressed some interest in robots, so this got my mind running on potential designs for a multi-bot that we could one day compete with together. I figured that the best way to split a multi-bot would be a 1lb wedge for her and a 2lb weaponed bot to dish out some damage. The hidden benefit of this design is that it mostly comprised of spare parts I have from building my other bots. The weapon system is just the disk from my 1lb undercutter turned vertical and with an extra motor to power it.
  1. Meltybrain prototype “Spin Doctor”– With the extra time I suddenly had on my hands after the pandemic began and I was briefly furloughed, I took another crack at making a prototype meltybrain robot, this time using only the telemetry from the motor controllers. I tried to make it work with my initial one-wheeled design, but eventually went to two wheels for greatly improved stability and control. Unfortunately, both my time and my interest eventually waned, and this one went back on the shelf before I finished working out all of the bugs to get it to translate.
“Spin Doctor” proof of concept
  1. 1lb carbon fiber undercutter – In the beginning of 2020 I wound up selling my titanium plate based antweight and beetleweight undercutters, and the buyer eventually wound up remaking the 1lb frame from carbon fiber and seeing good success with it. So I took another swing at the design with carbon fiber plates in mind from the start.
1lb carbon fiber undercutter
  1. Modular beetleweight – I had previously made attempted modular designs based around a 3D printed or aluminum plate frame, but I was never fully satisfied with the expected durability of the frame of strength of the modular joint. Then I had the idea to make a hybrid joint design which I think would be much sturdier, and I was on a bit of a carbon fiber kick after discovering CNCMadness, so the frame wound up being made from carbon fiber.
Modular beetleweight
  1. 3lb vert – I’ve always had a bit of a desire to build a more “meta” design with a vertical spinner, but the lackluster performance of my first attempt with Enraged Erector Set has left me wary of trying again just yet. This design marked the beginning of my carbon fiber kick, with the entire frame being made of tab-and-slot carbon fiber plates and a metric ton of nutstrip. This wound up being something like a belt-driven 3lb version of the highly successful 1lb bot Algos. There is an anti-horizontal configuration with a cut-down D2 wedge, and an anti-vertical configuration with wedgelets instead.
3lb vert
  1. 1lb wedge – This is intended as the other half of the multi-bot design for my daughter and I, and it is built to stand up to 3lb opponents. With shock mounting inspired by the extremely tough Slim Pickens and sporting beetleweight class 22mm planetary drive motors, I’m hoping it will take a lot of punishment. Swap in a more carpet (and foot) friendly printed wedge, and my daughter can safely have a blast driving (read: crashing) it around our living room on a weekly basis.
  1. 150g undercutter “Pocket Apocalypse – My newest bot, which I will finish building just as soon as the postal service gets through their holiday/covid shipping backlog and starts delivering packages to me again. As I noted before, my comfort zone is currently undercutters, so any attempt at moving into a new weight class invariably starts with an undercutter design. Carbon fiber main plate, direct drive titanium disk, and printed electronics compartment slung underneath.
Pocket Apocalypse
  1. 1lb undercutter “Someone Else’s Problem – The newest iteration of my oldest current design. I began this robot design as a 3D printed frame culminating in my publicly available Backlash design, and then upgraded to a titanium plate frame design that was the precursor to Portable Apocalypse. After both designs wound up sitting on the shelf for a couple of years due to no convenient events near me when NERC dropped the 1lb class from their Franklin Institute event, I wound up selling them. With Bayside Robotics announcing their First State Fights event practically in my back yard, I upgraded the design with the lessons I had learned in the intervening years competing with Portable Apocalypse, making the frame tougher than ever.
Someone Else’s Problem
  1. 3lb undercutter “Portable Apocalypse – Probably the prettiest bot I have built to date, and I managed to land the cover article on an issue of Servo Magazine with it. The titanium frame and UHMW armor are meant to take a beating, the 3/4lb disk packs more energy than most handgun rounds, the printed walls with embedded standoffs makes it dead simple to assemble and repair, and the newly padded (and now spektrum-less) electronics should help to tame the electrical gremlins that have been its greatest foe to date. I feel like I have really got this bot to a place where is has a good shot of taking me to the podium. Now if we could only kick this pandemic so I can safely get it into a competition again…
Portable Apocalypse


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