Seven years ago, I was approached by one of my high school teachers, Mr. Sipos, asking if I had any interest in competing in a battle bot organization. I agreed, without any hesitation, to what has become a full circle life experience. I would have never thought that designing, building, and fighting robots would lead me to a career in additive manufacturing while also supporting other high schools in their efforts to build fighting robots.
BotsIQ is regional competition where 60-70 high school teams build and fight remote control robots. Teams get paired up with local industries to collaborate and fabricate these fifteen pound machines. Last year, Norwin High School contacted The ExOne Company, seeking to pursue an edge on their competition. They wanted to explore the idea of a 3-D printed metal robot, a first of its kind in the competition. I was excited to be on the other end of the BotsIQ organization, seeing the creativity of the students with new technology. ExOne’s direct metal printing allowed the students to design armor pieces that were rigid yet open, complete with preplanned holes, and complex geometry. Norwin took 11th place out of 66 teams. The printed parts held up to the challenge and encouraged other teams to begin to think outside the box. This year, four teams are now sponsored by ExOne. They are showing great promise with design and creativity using additive manufacturing.
Designing with an additive process in mind opens the doors to ideas that were previously thought to be impossible. Complex cellular structures can be used to remove material that is under no load while increasing strength and support in areas where it might be needed. Aside from the speed of production, additive manufacturing has the potential to fabricate parts that could not be traditionally machined or forged by hand. Additive designing can allow for complex assemblies to be reduced into a few or even one solid part.