3D Printing

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Desktop 3D printer

3D printers produce plastic parts under computer control. The process of 3D printing is especially useful for the smaller insect-class bots, where weight is a severe limitation to design. However, even Heavyweight-class builders use 3D printing to make composite reinforced components, custom compartment insulators, and wire guides. Keeping electrical parts and cables away from metal plates and sharp edges reduces the risk of damage and short circuits.

3D Printing is widely used in one specialized division of combat robotics, the Plastic Ants class, where the chassis and weapons (if any) must be made of plastic in order to qualify.

If you don't own a 3D printer, you may be able to get help from your local library or makerspace, or from your fellow bot-builders. Some people will want to design their own bots, which requires knowledge of 3D modeling using a computer or app for the purpose. Others will choose to download a premade design (see below). Once you've got a bot design working to your satisfaction, you can print a supply of replacement plastic parts, which can be used for repairs after your bot becomes damaged.

Selecting a Printer

Selecting a printer for 3D printing a combat robot can be a big decision, and here are some factors to think about when purchasing your printer.

Budget

Desktop and office 3D Printers can range from as low as $150 to over $10,000 depending on their hardware, capabilities, build volume, and other factors. Here's a quick overview of what's available:

  • Budget-friendly/hobbyist 3D printers: Range from $150 - $750, normally limited in materials and build volume. These include machines like the Creality Ender 3 series, and will normally have a maximum nozzle temperature of 245-250° Celsius. These machines are meant for printing PLA, PETG, and ABS, but by replacing or modifying some components, they can print more advanced materials like Nylon and TPU.
Note: Some low-end crafting printers don't have a heated printing surface. These should be avoided, since they don't work with a variety of plastics.
  • Advanced materials printers: Range from $750 - $3,000, and are capable of printing materials like PLA, ABS, PETG, TPU and other flexible types, Nylon and nylon composites, and Polycarbonate blends with minimal or no aftermarket modifications. These will have a maximum nozzle temperature around 295-300° Celsius and can heat their print surface to 100° Celsius or more.
Better advanced printers have an enclosed print area to keep the temperature of the part consistent during printing. There are printable kits to enclose standard open-frame printers.
  • Engineering grade printers: These range from $3,000 - $10,000+, with few materials outside of their capabilities. These printers are often able to print not only advanced materials but also multiple materials using multiple extruders or multiple tool heads, allowing for even greater complexity. Multi-extrusion can allow for printing multi-color items (e.g. black and white), multi-material items (such as mixed PLA and PETG), or soluble support materials like PVA/BCOH.

Printable Filaments and Materials

The materials that a FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling[1]) 3D printer can extrude must melt at a given temperature, maintain a consistent flow of material through the nozzle, and solidify in a consistent fashion. These materials include thermoplastics, waxes, and even chocolate! With specialized printers it is possible to use such materials as ceramics, glass, and concrete.

Most 3D prints in combat robotics will be made from rolls of plastics and plastic composites on an FDM printer. "Resin" printers are becoming more common in larger sizes at budget-friendly prices, and more options for resins are available to purchase on a regular basis.

The list of common 3D printable plastics below proceeds roughly from weakest to strongest.

PLA

PLA is inexpensive, but brittle.[2] It is the most common 3D printing filament. It rarely warps in use and is great for tiny parts.[3] It's a great starter material, and recommended for printing prototype parts. Many builders prefer other plastics, especially for their active weapons or armor. Pure PLA is made from cornstarch[4] and gives off a corn syrup odor which reminds some people of waffles.

PLA+

Various manufacturers offer "PLA+" and/or "Tough PLA," which are modified PLA filaments that are meant to be less brittle. With an acrylic additive, for instance, it may show much better impact resistance.[5] Inland and eSun claim their PLA+ products are 10x stronger than regular PLA.

PETG

PETG (a copolyester) is more heat resistant, more flexible, and less brittle than PLA.[6] It is well suited for 3D printing mechanical parts. Since it is more likely to flex under impact its resilience may be useful to the bot builder, but it is 2-3% heavier than PLA. Observe manufacturer's recommendations when printing, as it tends to stick very strongly to smooth print beds. You'll notice a fairly mild hot-plastic odor when printing.

ABS

ABS is a strong and reasonably impact-resistant material at a moderate price, but warps easily and smells worse while printing. Its low density makes it one of the lightest of all printable plastics (PLA is about 20% heavier for the exact same print). You'll probably need to print it in an enclosure for best results; this keeps its temperature even during printing, so that it only shrinks after printing instead of curling or warping during printing. Many hobbyists ventilate the enclosure to the outdoors with fan(s) due to the odor.

Nylon

Nylon is tough and flexible. Regular nylon is hygroscopic and must be kept in dry storage, or it will absorb moisture from the air and become spoiled after a few weeks. Consider buying a hybrid nylon material that doesn't require as much attention to storage.

PC

Polycarbonate is super strong - your robot arena walls are probably made from it! Many printers can't print it, though, because it must be heated to an extreme temperature (about 275°C/525°F).

CF Materials

Carbon-fiber reinforced materials are extremely tough, and ideal for combat robotics. These are usually polycarbonate or nylon with chopped fibers embedded inside. You should strongly consider using these when plastic parts are needed for beetleweight designs.[7] This material requires a hardened printing nozzle, as the carbon-fiber strands or particles are highly abrasive.

Tips and Best Practices

  • Nearly all 3D printers can handle PLA and PLA+. Most other materials require printing onto a heated surface (the "print bed"). Check the specifications and instructions of your printer to find out what materials it can handle.
  • A basic limitation of 3D printed parts is that they can crack or break apart along layer lines, since they are made from layers of plastic. Generally, the tougher the plastic the more likely the layers will also hold together.
  • Pay attention to the orientation of parts on the print bed - consider orienting parts so that the direction that needs to be the strongest lies horizontal during printing.
  • You can make adjustments each time you print. Thicker walls (shells) and a higher percentage of infill add density and strength to your bot, but also increase weight. Remember to re-weigh your bot after changes have been made.

Robots you can Print

You can download and print robot designs from sites like Thingiverse and Printables. Just 3D print the robot body and other provided parts, then assemble them with the working parts of the robot. Some have helpful instructions and buying suggestions for finishing the working parts; however, some have little or no guidance, and you will need some experience to try them.

Below are links to 120 bot designs that have been shared by the robot building community. Limited consideration has been given to whether each of these is buildable, or will meet the stated weight class.

150g Combat Robots

Bot Class Type Provided by ID # Notes
(Unnamed) 150g 4WD Pusher ACE_ROBOTICS 3022477
(Unnamed) 150g Flipper emancarrillo 3186849 The original “150g Flipper Battlebot”
(Unnamed) 150g Hammer emancarrillo 3811105
(Unnamed) 150g Horizontal spinner emancarrillo 4094199
(Unnamed) 150g Lifter Flaronk 2435280
(Unnamed) 150g Flipper JairEmia 4743535 N20 powered
(Unnamed) 150g Hammer / Flipper JairEmia 4901799 N20 powered
(Unnamed) 150g Pusher beardedowen 2103348
(Unnamed) 150g Hammer Tom_Dreyfus 3906492 Remixed
(Unnamed) 150g Suplex bot emancarillo 4627536
(Unnamed) 150g Wedge Technick007 4330363
(Unnamed) 150g Plow Jhack 2954423 Dozer with tracks
001 BattleBot 150g Horizontal spinner R4stl1n 5244513
3D Amazon Depot 150g Horizontal spinner Drcameron 3168988
A Bit Pushy 150g Pusher FalconFPV 3204827
Absolutely Quackers 150g Hammer Team_Panic 3341786 Hammer duck
ACE 150g Lifter ACE_ROBOTICS 3022464
Additions for Unnamed 150g Flipper AlexKorvin 3933072 Based on 3186849
Afterlife 150g Wedge johnszy 3234339
Aionia Timoria 150g Drum spinner drcameron 3168573
A Little Obvious 150g Angled spinner Team_Panic 3431621
Ant Freeze V2 150g Wedge Zanbots 3815539
Baby Shark 150g Wedge thesaxmachine 3810730
Barq's Bites 150g Flipper drcameron 2998633
Big Flip 150g Plow SiegelRacing 4616666
Big Sup 150g Suplex bot SiegelRacing 4693024
Blackspin 150g Drum spinner JC2017 2805613
Black Star 150g Wedge Ajaxjones 2065860
Blind Spot 150g Dustpan bot Team_Panic 3341761
Blockhead 150g Drum spinner earthwormjim 2812197 Large beater bar
Brutus 150g Drum spinner AlexKorvin 3972258 Overweight (see link)
Brutus Remix 150g Drum spinner cannon3d 4182360
Brutus Mk2 150g Horizontal spinner AlexKorvin 4338982
Bulldog 150g Vertical spinner Bribro12 4623536
BuzzCut 150g Vertical saw JairEmia 5400782
Drum Battlebot 150g Drum spinner emancarrillo 5240385
Dynamo 150g Wedge Pyrotron 1215069
Entomat 150g Flipper GermanRoboteersAssociation 5150517
Enviudador 1lb Drum spinner esdrufao 3921633
escoBAR 150g Horizontal spinner ninja_drift 3752142 based on Shrapnel
Firestorm 125% 150g Flipper FalconFPV 3039761 32mm wheel/N20 version
Firestorm Micro 150g Flipper AdamDC 2927678 N20 version
Firestorm (Original) 150g Flipper alexmordue 1665299
Flippin’ Plow 150g Flipper / Plow SiegelRacing 4502098 Emancarrillo flipper with a plow
Flowers 150g Shell spinner SiegelRacing 4327093
Fork Fairy 150g Wedge JairEmia 5136959
Fork Wedge 150g Battlebot emancarillo 4216968 Overweight (see link)
Front Flip 150g Flipper Fryddog 4352090
Front Flipper 150g Flipper emancarrillo 4268191
Front Flipper Holy Mod 150g Flipper TeamSlaughterhouse 4933614
Fury Jr v9 150g Horizontal spinner Dkero4 5351660
G1/Guestbot 150g Pusher Justgecko 4189961
Game Ogre 150g Wedge 1337gallagher 4714362
Grabbybot 150g Grabber / Lifter emancarillo 4281243
Graboid 150g Grabber JC2017 3323762
Grabthar 150g Modular (Multi) Aldwin 4868890
Guestimate 150g Horizontal spinner Team_Panic 3707013
Gyrator 150g Horizontal spinner CNCROBOTICS 3070730
Gyrator v3 150g Horizontal spinner CNCROBOTICS 3164801
Halloween Pumpkin 150g Pusher NoLiver92
Hampire 150g Thwackbot Baker01t 5154492
Harvester 150g Wedge PepaZmetra 5250081
Hello Trouble 150g Bar spinner Stonecreekturnings 4240015
HugsEy 150g Grabber / Lifter SiegelRacing 4325008
Hypnotic 150g Wedge Posey 5242539
Inspired by Carbide 150g Horizontal spinner alexmordue 1816540
Kraken 150g Crusher emancarrillo 4308902
Legally Distinct 150g Drum spinner Blessy 5338319 V3
Loader 150g Wedge HarryMakesThings 2989490
LowMow 150g Undercutter JC2017 4866523
Luma’s Plow 150g Flipper / Plow LumakidT 5324201
Mega London 150g Lifter thesaxmachine 2945303
Microdot 150g Triple wedge Team_Panic 3341738
Microdot Updated 150g Triple wedge Team_Panic
Mini Emoji 150g Lifter ACE_ROBOTICS 3022469
Mini Mammoth 150g Spin-Lifter JairEmia 5318276
Netsplit 150g Horizontal spinner xanderstrike 4844195
Plover 150g Wedge aldwin 2022778
Rollcage 150g Wedge fryddog 1800795
Scoop of Mild Frustration 150g Wedge / Plow FiregirlRobotics 5176628
Schnozzer 150g Wedge OG_BOG 5022445
Scrapper 150g Wedge Fryddog 4297430
Servo Drive 150g Hammer WitchdoctorbyKO 4789416
Shrapnel 150g Spinner Fryddog 1692075
Shrapnel Mk3 150g Spinner Fryddog 3115202
Shredder 150g Spinner drcameron 3168636 based on Shrapnel
Siren 150g Drum spinner drcameron 3168700
Slightly Crude 150g Wedge Team_Panic 2054276
Spike 150g Wedge Fryddog 4311761
Spooky 150g Horizontal spinner BLRobotics27 3184758
Squeezy 150g Grabber / Lifter SiegelRacing 4567470
UnderScore 150g Horizontal spinner FalconFPV 3173115
UnderScore Remix 150g Horizontal spinner Printer239 5179359 Remix for 1806 motor
Upchuck 150g Vertical spinner FalconFPV 3099273
Vlad Micro 150g Lifter AdamDC 2927358
Wedge of Doom 150g Wedge FalconFPV 2946703
White Fang 150g Horizontal spinner Insertbattlebotsjokehere 3695273

All other weight classes

Bot Class Type Provided by ID # Notes
(Unnamed) 1lb Wedge tbeg 2374705 Mk1
(Unnamed) 1lb Vertical spinner kkbittle 2036647
3DAD 1lb Horizontal spinner drcameron 3908901
4WD Wedge 1lb Wedge TeamLiftoff 4723564
Backlash 1lb Horizontal spinner clingmanr 3146568
Blockhead remix 1lb Paddle spinner shultiskevin 3111090
Blue Screen of Death 1lb Horizontal spinner chrismik 4075681
CheeseWej 1lb Wedge Teamd20 4885071 Plastic Ant
Danger Zone 1lb Drum spinner altapowderdog 766609
Doom Stone V1 1lb Vertical spinner kmcelroy 3297944 Plastic Ant
dropSAW 1lb Vertical saw ninja_drift 3768970 Chassis remix
Eureka 1lb Wedge Teamd20 4800332 Plastic Ant
FidgetBot 1lb Horizontal spinner billywoodworks 2513990
Fidget Stone 1lb Horizontal spinner Guggleshyena 3040924
Flapjack 1lb Drum spinner shultiskevin 3160354
Future Killer 1lb Vertical drum altapowderdog 3793747
Half-SMEEEEEEEEEEEE 1lb Long split wedge TheN00b 4675230
HUGElet 1lb Vertical spinner Crankymuffin 3188358
Ice Breaker 1lb Drum spinner SamDream 3175677 Plastic Ant
LifeSteal 1lb Horizontal spinner Posey 4910548 Plastic Ant
Little Slugger 1lb Undercutter Lord_Toby 5202939
Mega Looon V1 1lb Vertical spinner thesaxmachine
MI 1lb Full-body spinner RattlerRobotics 2828234
Mini Dal3 1lb Wedge Frostgear 4912512 Plastic Ant
Mr. Roomba 1lb Ring spinner Kylellrc 3170974 Plastic Ant
Mr. Twister 1lb Vertical spinner AdamDC 1401358 Plastic Ant option. See also Alt blade
Plastique 1lb Shell spinner AdamDC 2813722
Simple Ant Weight Wedge 1lb Wedge mightygrom 3962507 Demobot
Tiger Shark V5 1lb Horizontal spinner thesaxmachine 3819420
Tiger Shark V6 1lb Horizontal spinner thesaxmachine
Tribute to Bite Force 1lb Vertical spinner Tom Lum Plastic Ant
WejFu 1lb Wedge Teamd20 4843171 Plastic Ant
Mega Don G V2 3lb Plow thesaxmachine
Munchkin 3lb Drum spinner Creative_Instigation 3731962
Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly Mk6 3lb Undercutter TeamMagicalLipoFire 3179067
Vector 3lb Horizontal spinner Endbots 3917039
Vertex 3lb Vertical spinner Proxy303 4741317
Vertigo 3lb Vertical spinner Insertbattlebotsjokehere 4241833
Deadlift 1.5kg Lifter Noursicus 4232399
Plastic Donk 1.5kg Wedge Noursicus 4230265
Razor 1.5kg Horizontal saw AlexKorvin 5022333
Wall Chaser 1.5kg Vertical saw AlexKorvin 4967207
Mars Attacks (itself) unknown Shell spinner shultiskevin 3160993
Combat Robot 2.0 unknown Drum spinner altapowderdog 1688510

Parts and accessories you can Print

The following is a small selection of useful parts for robot combat, most of which can be 3D printed. You might find robot parts that you need here, but this list is also a great starting point for design ideas and improvements for new bots as well.

Chassis

Motors and Drive

Hubs and Wheels


Electrical

Weapons

Arenas and Events