Markforged Dominates in Robot Combat

One of the really amazing niches that our printers fall into is the sport of combat robotics. In the past, we’ve supported Jamison Go and Charles Guan as they used our printer to print anything from unibody one pound robots to shock absorbing electronics mounts on 250 lb BattleBots Overhaul and Sawblaze, two teams we sponsored this past season. One of the reasons why our printers are so valuable in this field is due to our high strength to weight ratio. With continuous strand carbon fiber, our materials can exceed the strength to weight ratio of aluminum, and with the impact resistance of Kevlar, our printers can produce entirely custom parts that can sustain heavy hits no problem. Inspired by the material capabilities of our high strength 3D printer, I decided to give the world of combat robotics a shot and enter into Mass Destruction, a local competition held a few weeks ago at Artisan’s Asylum that Markforged sponsored.

Many combat robots have converged into a few different implementations of the same designs, and each core concept has its pros and cons. A horizontal spinner, for example, is a robot with a huge toothed bar or disk spinning at high speeds. However, when a horizontal spinner comes in contact with any sort of incline or “wedge”, the energy from the spinner deflects back into the robot, and the robot goes flying. Because of the customization and strength capabilities of an additive manufacturing machine like the Mark Two, I wanted to build a novel robot that used Markforged technology to circumvent some of the downsides of horizontal spinners. I entered into the antweight (one pound) weight class and started designing my first robot, Foiled!

‍My antweight combat robot with a propellor as a blade, with many 3D printed components.

There are two components of Foiled that are 3D printed: the chassis and the center of the weapon disk. These two components give the antweight robot a critical advantage because of their materials. The chassis is Onyx with Kevlar reinforcement, giving it high impact and abrasion resistance. The center of the weapon disk was what gave Foiled a huge competitive edge. As I mentioned earlier, most horizontal spinners like Foiled end up going flying. The weapon on Foiled comprised of a steel toothed outer disk with a3D printed carbon fiber insert in the middle. The spokes of this insert I designed to be upside-down airfoils. This means that whenever my weapon is on, the forces from the airfoil help the robot stick to the ground.

My first battle was up against AmbiSinister, a full body spinner that coincidentally used Markforged parts as the “shell” of their robot. After the first hit my opponent ended up flipping over (more proof that this is a huge weakness) and spinning like a top, and after a few more hits the match was over.

 

I was able to check out the damage afterward, and you can see the top shell of the bot was cut open, with shredded continuous fiberglass sticking out.

‍Damage done to AmbiSinister, another bot with Markforged parts.

After that, I had my first trial against antweight wedge bot Rising Phoenix. I started to see some interesting effects, but ended up ripping a wheel off before I could get a good sense for my robot’s behavior. The true test was when I went against Puppy, who I ended up fighting 3 times: once in the qualifying rounds and twice in the elimination bracket.

 

In the video, you can see multiple times that when I hit Puppy’s wedge my bot usually hops an inch or two in the air and lands face-up, allowing for really quick recovery time. During the quarterfinal match I had some motor issues, so my robot wasn’t very effective without its weapon. However, the bracket was double elimination, so I had time to repair it and ended up facing Puppy again in the finals and bringing home first place! You can see all of my matches here.

A few of the big hits in my matches, showing quick recovery time.

The Mark Two gave me the agency to easily test new innovative 3D printed concepts whereas previously I would have been unable to do so. If I had manufactured the weapon disk with traditional 3D printing materials, it would have shattered on the spot. Using more traditional manufacturing techniques, and it would have been both too heavy for the antweight class and too difficult to prototype. I’m excited to test out future concepts in combat robotics and develop a 3 lb version, Foiled Again!

Request a demo to put Markforged parts to the test, and if you’re in the Boston area, look out for the next local combat robot event!

Alex Crease
December 9, 2016
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