Since my last update, the House of Black has been very busy indeed. We’ve had visitors, we’ve made major changes, we’ve started transitioning from prototypes to “real” production robots and our initial design is almost complete. Let me give you a sneak peak on how it’s been going as we head into Week 5 of the build season (And some teasers of the 2019 Robowrangler Robot!)
On Friday February 1st, the team sat down and did a full robot design review. This is something we do most years. It’s a great way for the folks not heavily engaged in the design (who don’t pay attention to the posts in Robowrangler Slack) to “catch up” with the status of the robot.
Excerpt from a Slack Status Update Last Week:
“This is all about systems integration. There isn’t a lot of clever design work or “new ideas” being determined. We’ve taken all the ideas we’ve had as a team, turned them into prototypes to prove them work, and have figured out the basics of “how we’re going to do everything.” That’s not what’s happening right now.
Right now, design folks are “Figuring out where things fit”.
It’s a lot of discussions like “So how many inches do we need next to each drivetrain pontoon to fit the climber?“.
Right now, design folks are “Putting in the details.“
It’s a lot of work like “So where exactly do all the bearing holes go? How do I make sure the pit crew has access to the motor mounting screws? How long does that shaft need to be to fit the gear and the wheel and the pulley?”
The review went very well. We made some important decisions as a team (unrelated to the robot). We also set the plan to move forward. We’re getting into crunch-time here!
We’re bumping into a problem we haven’t faced in a long time. Our entire process is built around the fact that we get parts made FAST. Manufacturing so fast the parts are ready before the designers even sleep off their CAD binge. This year, we’re continuing the new design methods we experimented with on the 2018 robot and refined in the X019 prototype. Lots of 3D printed parts. Lots of thin sheet-metal structures reinforced in key places with 3D printing.
LOTS of 3D printing… on EVERY subsystem. Oops.
While our sheet-metal. lexan, and lathe-turned production remains just as fast… we’ve totally overwhelmed our 3D print capacity. Unfortunately we didn’t plan for this, and have created a manufacturing bottleneck. While it’s certainly something we can overcome (and in fact we’re already doing things to fix the problem).
Don’t worry, we’ve already had the “Let them eat cake” / “first world problems” moment.
We’re certainly self-aware enough to realize how ridiculous this problem seems.
“What do you mean we have to WAIT for our parts to finish? What are we… cavemen?”
Sheet Metal Christmas
Good news, we got our first run of sheetmetal parts back from manufacturing!
Bad news, we can’t really do much assembly until more 3D printed parts are done.
It’s not the best Sheet Metal Christmas we’ve ever had. It’s kinda like that Christmas where Scrooge finds out Tiny Tim died, but they’re all still trying to find joy in the spirit of the day.
JVN: “Sheet Metal Christmas lives in my heart all year round. It’s not the metal that makes the day special, it’s us being together!”
Wrangler Student: “I get to see you every day… it’s definitely the metal which makes it special.”
We still managed to prep a bunch of parts and assemblies. Still got a few things built up, even if we just did test assemblies. AND, of course… we still managed to find a bunch of mistakes I made which will need to be fixed before the robot progresses any further “for real”. Oops.
2 weeks + 2 weekends + 2 days left…
“2 Weekends” being the most important part of that schedule update…
It seems like build season weekends are when most of the “big work” gets done.
2019 Update 3 mentioned that we were hoping to get “high-fidelity” prototypes in time for the meeting on Saturday at the end of Week 3. Did this happen? Yes it did!
Ball Scoring Test - Successful!
We were able to test all our object scoring methods with a “real” version of each of the mechanisms. We’re pretty happy with the results. The design team has begun working on the next version which will integrate in the final robot.
Hatch Scoring Test - Successful!
Similarly, we’ve been testing refined versions of our disc scoring mechanism. It’s very similar to the one we’ve had on X019 for a few weeks now. I think this mechanism has gone through more “design” iterations than any other. (In fact, it may set a record for all Robowrangler mechanisms). There are folders FULL of different versions on the 148 CAD server…
Intake Subsystem - Preliminary Test Success
The high-fidelity version of our intake subsystem went well, but since this mechanism is very integral with the rest of the robot, we won’t feel good about it until we do a test of a full integrated system. There are a lot of things “in the way” of this mechanism, so we need to make sure the tweaking we do to make it all fit don’t make it suck…
“This works great! Let’s just change it a bit so it fits into the rest of the robot…” - Famous Last Words
Lift Subsystem - Design Complete
Like in 2018, our lift subsystem is one of the last ones to have its design completed. The folks working on this mechanism had a lot of detail work to “get right” and also needed to integrate with most of the other subsystems. The result? The design work is just finishing up, and we’re releasing parts for manufacturing. (Including some parts which were redesigned to alleviate the 3D printer bottleneck).
End Game - Spectacular
I love our end-game. I love the plan. I love the mechanism. I love the strategy behind it.
If it works, I am going to giggle every time we do it.
I don’t even care that the first prototype was kind of a disaster. We LEARNED a lot from it. This will totally work. I believe. The next version of the design is coming right along.
Drivetrain - Under Construction
As I said above, while we have sheet-metal Christmas, we’re only on Day 4 of 3D-Printer Hanukkah. We have a few more “crazy nights” before we get all those parts delivered and can finish construction. Maybe we’ll have one of the drivetrains running early this week!
Electronics - Beginning Wiring
The electronics panel designs are about 80% completed, and the electrical team has begun wiring up some of our boards. I love when the robot has a modular control board, since it makes a huge chunk of the wiring a “parallel process” instead of a “serial process”.
Programming - Auton Test Success!
The programming team has been hard at work playing with one of 2018’s practice robots. (Not the one we threw into the garbage, the one used for code testing during the season.) This weekend it successfully jumped off the level 2 platform, and did some autonomous scoring. Color me impressed! I love it when the robots do amazing things autonomously!
“Want to have your picture taken with a 250-pound champion fighter who never sweats?”
The Robowranglers and Greenville ISD were fortunate enough to have the 2018 Battlebots Champion - Bite Force on display this past weekend!
It was really neat for a few reasons. Apparently lots of folks from the Greenville community wanted to come out and see (another) Battlebot up-close-and-personal. The really cool part? all the visitors were invited to tour the shop, meet the team, and get a glimpse at the Robowrangler 2019 progress! Lots kids from the GISD VEX Programs, and LOTS of future Robowranglers among the visitors…
They told us “make sure you keep it safe” so as much as we wanted to see Bite Force fight Renegade, we decided it wasn’t worth the risk. We’d hate for Renegade to damage Bitey…
You Know You’ve Made It…
I got an interesting message from someone in the FRC community…
“In completely unrelated news: I wasn't sure if you had heard, but there's apparently knockoff 148 shirts being manufactured. I can send you pictures if you'd like (I currently have one of the shirts), but I doubt that contraband Robowranglers gear is at the top of your priorities list this week.”
Ahh, but that’s where you’re wrong! I have MANY Robowrangler shirts, but I don’t have anything like this… This shirt is more limited edition than any of mine, I needed to acquire it for my collection…
2019 Robot Sneak Peak
I hate teasers. I think often they’re just a bunch of fluff. I think frequently they don’t show enough to be interesting and they’re generally a big waste of time…
Two things have recently come to my attention:
I am a giant Grinch.
Many people (other than me) DO in-fact enjoy teasers. Some of those people would enjoy some teasers of the Robowrangler 2019 robot.
In the spirit of “give the people what they want” and more importantly “do what ‘The Boss’ tells me to do” I’d like to share a few CAD teasers of the 2019 robot.
Enjoy this collection of fluff pictures which don’t show enough to be interesting…
It’s amazing how you can show so much, and yet still show so little!
(At least the Robowrangler hints don’t include a polynomial equation…)
Who’s the Boss?
People seem to be confused by my references to “The Boss” of 148. Some people think D-Row is the boss (including him). Some people think I’m referring to myself in some sort of weird 3rd person.
Are We Dumb?
After we posted our first “full integration” screenshots to Slack, everyone was admiring the robot and commenting on the design. Jessi was the one to sober us up: “Not to stomp all over this parade, but I’ve gotta say it: the lift mechanism is definitely mounted backwards."
That someone, for the record, was me.
In my defense it looked really good facing the other direction.
JVN: “Do you have a plan to fix this?”
Robowrangler Mentor: “I plan to click on things in SOLIDWORKS until I figure it out.”
I guess when you think about it… isn’t that everyone’s plan?
This is Fine.