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Venator V3 LIVES!

Updated: Sep 28, 2019

I'm writing this several weeks after my participation in the FRA Championships, and as you can see from the title, Venator V3 did make it to the event!


But before I talk about the tournament itself, let's quickly rewind to the week prior. Venator 3 more-or-less fits together, but it's unpainted and the inner workings have not been soldered or mounted yet. According to my last post the remaining work would "be very doable in the time I have left". Well, was it?


I managed to get some looking really clean LiPo & link mounts 3-d printed at the Edinburgh Hacklab. The guys generously helped to format my files correctly. Once this was sorted, the printer whirred away and began printing my designs! Check it out!



2.5 hours later, and it's finished!

Ok so this LiPo Mount won't blow anyone away with intricate shapes. However, the ability to make a mount to fit a specific battery size is a huge advantage. I usually make LiPo mounts using much heavier aluminium channel and angle. There is always some wasted space as I can only order them in specific sizes. These previous mounts are very sturdy, and I've never tried 3-d printed parts in a robot before. I'd have to wait until combat to see how they'd do.



Now all the electronics can be mounted into place, with velcro pads securely fastening in my ESCs, and my drive motors being mounted directly into the chassis bulkheads via the gearbox. A few more tweaks and countersunk holes later and Venator is fitting together nicely! Next on the to do list was to paint the HDPE panels.


HDPE is a very practical material to use for combat robots, as it's easy to work with, lightweight and durable. However, it is very inconvenient to paint, which means most HDPE robots tend to be block colours with minor decorative stickers. Personally, I've always preferred the character that full paint-jobs offer, and previously I've used self-adhesive vinyl printouts to decorate my robots. I've never been sold on the finish however, and the vinyl does not last long in combat - I've changed the sticker sheets on the original Venator three times!


So I thought I'd have a crack at painting HDPE to really see how it's longevity in combat would compare to vinyl sticker sheets. I used two/three coats of primer, four/five coats of paint, and then finally two/three layers of lacquer. While this took significantly longer than just slapping on some stickers, I'm very happy with the results. The primer I chose did not like the HDPE and just dried as pretty grainy residue over the surface. This might well be my own fault but I'm sure I followed the application instructions properly. Thankfully the blood red paint I bought went over this nicely, and the primer actually gave the panels this gritty looking finish which I actually like. I also painted some bolts and barrel nuts to keep the aggressive black/red theme running throughout the whole machine.

So with only one day left until the competition, all that was left to do was solder together all the electronics. It's a tight squeeze in this chassis, which does make it pretty fiddly to solder, but on the flip side it means my electronics don't have any space to rattle around inside the robot and come loose. At 10pm, after a full day of soldering action, I ran the drive of Venator V3 for the first time! Apologies for the vertical video, I was super tired and took this in a rush!

And thankfully it worked! If something had gone wrong here my championship dreams definitely would have been dashed, because I still had to pack and get ready for the trip down south. Finishing the machine this late also meant that I could not test drive or get used to the controls. I have used this drive setup in all my builds, but I haven't run these ESCs or motors in a long time, so I just hoped that they'd be reliable once more. Now all I had to do was bolt the machine together the next morning and I'd be ready for the Championships just in time!


So, weighing in at just 7.4kg, here is VENATOR V3!

Overall I'm delighted with the result! To go from an initial idea, to CAD, to fully functioning combat robot in just six weeks is a huge accomplishment for me. For comparison, my last build, Strix, took 11 months to complete. Granted that's a more complicated machine than Venator V3, but I've never been able to build something to such a tight schedule before. Not only that, but Venator V3 looks just as distinctive and aggressive as I'd hoped, and I think it really stands out from other robots.


HOWEVER...


That's all well and good, but how did Venator actually get on in the FRA Featherweight Championships 2019? How does a nippy little 7.4kg machine stand up to full weight 13kg spinners? You'll have to read my full Event Log to find out! (Once it's actually written up!)


I might update this diary once more if I make tweaks to Venator V3's design. Until then, I'm going to conclude this build diary by saying thanks for reading, and thanks once again to the Edinburgh Hacklab for helping out.


11/09/19

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