Designing a robot to compete on BattleBots is no easy task. It requires precision calculation, quick iteration, and collaboration.
RoboGym Robotics, a veteran BattleBots team, has taken their design game to the next level with help from Onshape. Utilizing Onshape’s cutting-edge suite of engineering tools for design, simulation, and rendering, combined with industry-leading collaboration and accessibility features, RoboGym tackled creating a brand new robot for the next BattleBots World Championship.
Standing out in a fierce competition like BattleBots takes more than just raw power; it requires meticulous design and engineering. Over the course of the past seven BattleBots seasons, the quality bar has continuously risen, with teams from across the world competing for the most coveted trophy in robot combat: the Giant Nut.
Aware of the challenge before them, RoboGym set out to design and build Roundhouse, a formidable robot that would feature a large, horizontally spinning undercutter weapon and a massive flamethrower. RoboGym knew they would need powerful engineering tools to bring their new robot from idea all the way to the BattleBots Proving Ground. In Las Vegas during the fall of 2023, they faced off against the AI-powered robot Orbitron. Watch the video below to see the results:
Onshape: Professional CAD Meets Real-Time Collaboration
RoboGym Robotics specifically chose Onshape as their primary design platform for Roundhouse. In previous design seasons, RoboGym utilized SOLIDWORKS to design Deadlift, which caused big headaches due to clunky file transfers and version control issues that come with traditional CAD packages.
Searching for a solution, Onshape jumped out as a professional platform that could enable the team to be more effective than ever before. Not only does Onshape have full-featured CAD, rendering, and simulation, but it also has built-in, agile PDM, collaboration features, Google Workspace integration, custom scripting, and enterprise analytics, all in a single cloud-native system.
For RoboGym, one of the standout features of Onshape is real-time collaboration. Similar to Google Docs, Onshape allows simultaneous editing, and it can be accessed on any browser or device – the full robot model and all its past versions are available to all team members anytime, anywhere.
RoboGym team member Matt Birkel double-checks the geometry of a machined part in Onshape from the Onshape Mobile app.
The RoboGym team comprises five members in five different states spread all over the country, so Onshape’s ability to work around the physical separation was a game-changer. Plus, each team member has a full-time job with a busy schedule, so working on Roundhouse needed to be efficient and flexible – you don’t want to wait for another member to finish and check out an assembly before you can start.
Onshape allowed the team to work on the design simultaneously and efficiently. Additionally, team members shared feedback on each other’s work directly within the platform by attaching comments to parts or assemblies directly in Onshape. This enabled design reviews even when finding a time when everyone could meet for a video call was difficult.
Combined, these features gave a significant advantage to the RoboGym team, whose members were able to contribute their expertise in real-time and maintain steady project velocity.
RoboGym team member Ryan Shulksi working on Roundhouse in Onshape.
Simulation Fuels Iteration, One Branch at a Time
Creating a BattleBot that can withstand the rigors of combat requires consideration of structural integrity, stress distribution, and material properties.
In BattleBots competitions, there is a fixed weight allowance (up to 250 lbs), so optimizing every pound of weight is critical to making the most competitive robot. Onshape's built-in simulation and analysis tools empowered RoboGym to analyze key components comprehensively, such as the frame interlocks and wheel mounts, ensuring that Roundhouse was as tough as possible.
This data-driven approach significantly reduced the time and resources spent on physical prototyping, enabling the team to fine-tune Roundhouse's design with high confidence.
With Onshape’s simulation results, RoboGym quickly iterated on Roundhouse's design, experimenting with different configurations and making fast modifications. Onshape’s version control feature played a crucial role in tracking changes, allowing the team to revisit and restore previous design states when needed.
Version control combined with Onshape’s branch-and-merge workflow was particularly useful for experimenting with specific details for the design. When exploring a new variation, the team created a testing branch in Onshape’s versioning system, where they would fine-tune critical aspects such as the reach, moment of inertia, and impact angle of the weapon bar, as well as the deflection angle and thickness of the robot’s front armor.
After identifying an optimal configuration, it would be merged back into the main branch. Multiple team members could concurrently experiment on their own test branches, enabling rapid iteration. Over 400 committed versions later, Roundhouse was ready for the real world.
The finished CAD model of Roundhouse in Onshape.
Realizing Roundhouse: From the Cloud to the Crowd
With their design locked in, it was time to bring Roundhouse to life. Onshape not only accelerated RoboGym’s design phase but also ensured a smooth build process. Linking the model’s BOM to Google Sheets enabled the team to track orders, inventory received parts, and quickly identify “what bolt goes where.”
The accessibility of Onshape made it easy to perform quick sanity measurements from a smartphone while at the workshop. In the same time it took to make one Deadlift, RoboGym was able to make two complete copies of Roundhouse.
RoboGym team members Matt Birkel and Michael Rouse discuss build details over the frame of Roundhouse.
After weeks of machining, welding, and assembling, the team made their way to Las Vegas to fight at the BattleBots Proving Ground, going up against the AI-powered opponent Orbitron in a two-fight series. After a set of tense and exciting matches, Roundhouse came ahead with a 2-0 record and valuable fight data for future improvements.
Roundhouse in its finished state at BattleBots Proving Ground ready to face down their opponent, Orbitron.
With the assistance of Onshape's advanced tools, RoboGym Robotics elevated their BattleBots game to new heights. Onshape's real-time collaboration, parametric design features, simulation capabilities, version control, and more, have collectively made RoboGym and Roundhouse a new force to be reckoned with.
Next on the agenda? Getting Roundhouse to the BattleBots World Championship. There's a long road yet to travel, but with Onshape by their side, RoboGym is ready to take on any challenge that comes their way.