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3D Printed Combat Robots

View how the team used 3D printed carbon fiber parts to boost strength and durability while minimizing weight across the drivetrain of the 3D printed robot.

View how the team used 3D printed carbon fiber parts to boost strength and durability while minimizing weight across the drivetrain of the 3D printed robot.

Hypershock, a four-wheel drive vertical disc spinner, competed in the 2019 season of BattleBots. View how the team used 3D printed carbon fiber parts to boost strength and durability while minimizing weight across the drivetrain of the 3D printed robot. With its performance under high-stakes conditions, Markforged 3D printers provided engineers with high-strength parts that worked, time and again.

BattleBots is what it sounds like, according to Markforged—250-lb. remote-controlled robots battle it out in a fight to the death. As part of a team on the show, Markforged printers were used throughout the design, build and repair process of the 2018 and 2019 seasons to create Valkyrie: a sleek, fighter-jet like robot with a 65-lb. undercutter blade. Though the printers served a variety of functions in the competition, there was one way that Markforged machines were really able to help out during competition, according to the company—they didn’t just fix robots, they made them better.

What many people don’t know is that all of BattleBots is filmed over the course of two weeks in April. The team built a good robot and was prepared to fix it. The team was aware it needed tools to help them rapidly iterate through modifications that could improve how Valkyrie performed in the BattleBox. That’s why the team brought four Markforged 3D printers to the filming location.

Every fight, a team learns something new about how the components in your robot behave when pushed to their limit, and there is usually about a day or two between fights. It’s important to not only be prepared to replace parts of the bot if damaged, but improve on them—and quickly. One of the team's design choices for BattleBots was to design and maintenance Valkyrie NASCAR-style. Almost any part of the robot can be quickly removed and replaced with a few bolts, and the whole robot can go from a pile of parts to ready-to-fight in under an hour. 

The team turned to Markforged for a durable, custom, lightweight, and quick-turnaround solution. In less than two hours, the team designed the conformal mount, printed a pair, and installed it on Valkyrie. The mount sits between the motor and the frame, and is laced with continuous Kevlar reinforcement to handle the shock of any mid-battle forces. The team drilled a countersunk hole in the frame and designed a locating feature in the part to line up the support when it got installed on the robot. The team then took them into battle for a test run.

The drivetrain reportedly performed flawlessly in its fight against Monsoon, and the fix also improved the reliability of its drivetrain long term. Many of the teams had similar motor-support issues, with similar symptoms, and they turned to the on-site Markforged 3D printers to make improvements. 

On a larger scale, the printers on-site at BattleBots did more than fix robots: they made them better, the team says.

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