…giant fighting robots. What?
Founded in 2014, Oakland-based MegaBots is using robotics technology to create piloted fighting robots. The robots (also called MegaBots) are inspired by the comic books and video games the company’s founders—Gui Cavalcanti, Matt Oehrlein, and Brinkley Warren—grew up with. MegaBots is using its engineering expertise in hydraulic robotics to actually build the robots of science fiction. The company’s vision is to “entertain a growing global audience of science-fiction fans and eSport enthusiasts by turning their dreams about giant robot combat into epic reality.”
The company’s first MegaBot was just a torso and a right arm, which was then incorporated into a 15-foot-tall, 12,000-pound humanoid robot that fires cannonball-sized paintballs at speeds of over 120 miles per hour. This MegaBot (named Mark 2 or Mk.II for short) debuted at the 2015 Maker Faire Bay Area last May. In just five months, Cavalcanti and Oehrlein designed the Mk.II and a team of around 15 people worked together on its fabrication and assembly. Mk.II runs on tracks salvaged from a small bulldozer (top speed is 2.5 mph) and is operated by two people: a driver and a gunner. Check out the awesome YouTube video below to see Mk.II in action at the Maker Faire.
We have a giant robot
Then, in the summer of 2015, MegaBots kicked its vision up a notch by publically challenging the only other known giant piloted robot in the world to a duel. This 9,000-pound robot (named KURATAS) was created by Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industries. And as Oehrlein put it when issuing the challenge, “We have a giant robot. You have a giant robot. You know what needs to happen.” Suidobashi accepted, but under the condition that the fight includes hand-to-hand combat. “Come on guys, make it cooler,” was the response of Kogoro Kurata, Suidobashi’s founder and CEO. "Just building something huge and sticking guns on it … it's super American. If we're going to win this, I want to punch them to scrap and knock them down to do it."
So MegaBots launched a Kickstarter campaign on Aug 18, 2015 to finance the upgrades to Mk.II. In just under a month, it reached its goal of $500K and are now in the midst of designing and building Mk.III. This new robot will be physically larger, heavier, and faster than Mk.II, at 16 feet, 16,000 pounds, with a top speed of 10 mph. Upgrades include armor plating, melee combat weapons, and an order of magnitude more power—350 horsepower versus Mk.II’s 24 horsepower.
MegaBots has several key design and fabrication partners, advisors, and sponsors, including Autodesk who is supplying design software and access to high-end manufacturing equipment. In addition to its own engineering and fabrication employees, MegaBots is also using subcontractors such as Howe & Howe Technologies and IHMC Robotics, who are working on various parts of the robot.
Powered by technology
To build Mk.II, MegaBots used Reality Computing and 3D laser scanning technology to get an accurate structural layout of hard-to-measure parts. The team knew it wasn’t going to be able to create its own drive train in time for the Maker Faire, so the tracks on the robot came out of a used skid steer. They placed the tracks in an open area in a warehouse, set up the scanning system, and in 30 minutes had captured all of the data needed to generate a point cloud of the tracks in ReCap 360. This point cloud was then used for analysis and extracting measurements, which were then used in Fusion 360 to create the final design. The software’s cloud-based collaboration features allowed MegaBots to crowdsource the design of an entirely new weapon with people all over the world, and its CAM features were used to manufacture that crowdsourced weapon.
The Mk. III is an entirely new design and MegaBots is currently using Fusion 360 to design the skin of the robot. “The software’s ability to edit a model and get feedback on design choices quickly from the team makes it an ideal tool for collaborative design efforts like the robot’s appearance,” says Oehrlein. As design progresses, MegaBots plans on scanning parts of the robot that are pre-fabricated, used assemblies and have no available dimensional data or drawings. This scanned data will be processed in ReCap and incorporated into its model-based design efforts to generate millimeter-accurate 3D models that can then be used to create interlocking custom-fabricated parts.
Giant. Fighting. Robots.
There’s no word yet on the exact date or location of the Mk.III versus KURATAS melee, but Cavalcanti teases that it will be sometime in 2016. Stay tuned to MegaBots' website and its Kickstarter page for updates, and we’ll be sure to post the information on this blog as well.
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