BattleBots is a TV series where teams design, build and operate 250-pound remote-controlled robots that fight in a hazard-filled arena, known as the BattleBox. Team Valkyrie designed and build their bot with Markforged printers.
Robots must be designed to get tossed 12 feet in the air, crushed by 35,000 lbs force, or smashed with a 60lb disc spinning at 2,000RPM — and still work afterward. BattleBots has a strict 250 lb weight limit so materials are taken into account during the design process. Any weight saved in one are of the robot can be applied to another – frame, weapon, support elements, etc… A smaller frame might requite more materials and manufacturing which can increase costs and time, which is why Team Valkyrie looked to Markforged to design, build and improved their robot.
Markforged printers provided a wide range of materials to choose from depending on the specific needs of the part. In each case, Markforged allowed Team Valkyrie to design optimized and lightweight components that they would’ve had to produce with heavier materials and more time-intensive manufacturing methods. They were able to save on weight but conserve strength. Team Valkyrie printed over 200 parts and saved time on four areas of design.
Valkyrie’s unique design allows parts to just barely fit inside. Before manufacturing any new part of the robot; the team 3D prints it first and installs the printed part on the robot to make sure it accurately fits.
Tooling and Fixturing
Since many elements of Valkyrie involve complex contours or compound angles. Team Valkyrie 3D printed parts for work holding, to set the components they machine up correctly when they make them. Parts printed ranged from soft-jaws for machining sprockets, to drill jigs for aligning and tapping holes in the frame, to indexing jigs for job setup.
Valkyrie has 55 3D printed parts installed, made in a range of different materials. Twelve of those parts were metal, mainly brackets and supports. Nine parts were Onyx FR to protect from any flamethrower robots Valkyrie might fight. The remaining thirty-four parts were made of continuous fiber-reinforced material; parts such as shock-resistant electronics casting and structural supports that play key roles in keeping Valkyrie functional during a fight.
“With a strict weight limit and a tight build schedule, Markforged printers allowed our team to offload a lot of the manufacturing so we could focus on other tasks at hand to get the robot working. We knew that we could create tough, reliable parts that would hold up in the BattleBox — through all of our fights in 2018, only one part broke. Many of the parts helped us save weight in critical places by designing them to be the optimal geometry necessary to perform.” – Alex Crease, Team Valkyrie
On-site Repairs and Improvements
During the competition, Markforged provided 4 printers to support 67 teams that were competing. Teams could make lasting parts by either printing replacements or modifications to further improve the robots for the next set of fights. Markforged allowed Team Valkyrie to push the limits, improve quickly, test new concepts, and more.