Anyone want to trade robots?

We and 3928 often end up doing something like this every year (minus this year :frowning:) at the Des Moines Maker Faire. Highlights have included a Stronghold Assist, stacking Power Cubes, and cross-game shenanigans:


If you mean Nate? Yeah I’m pretty sure he’s serious. This isn’t the first time he’s mentioned it.

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Am serious. Tell your friends.

For more context… we have done similar things in the past:

I’d do it for real. Not sure if my team agrees, though, and you’d probably get the short end of the deal.

Here’s the thing though - teams have different styles of construction and tricks for things.

You’re exchanging robots but it’s really more of a knowledge exchange. And let’s say they don’t learn much from your bot there’s a good chance you’d end up asking questions on why they did certain things and expose golden calves the team has.

Sharing knowledge is never bad.


One of my previous employers took every opportunity to study their competitors products. They would give distributors big discounts if they could get the competitors products from the end customers. We had a room about 10’ x 25’ that was full of motor controllers from various competitors. We would conduct formal teardown meetings where we would study what components they used and how it was built. Someone was assigned to write down all the pros and cons relating to the design. Afterwards, it would be reassembled and the R&D techs would on test it to see how much the manufacturer lied on their specifications.


<aside> Munro & Associates is a fascinating company which does these tear downs, of all sorts of things, but especially in the automotive field. If Chevy wants to know how Ford shaved a pound off of their door hinges (pretty sure it wasn’t swiss-cheesing :wink: ), then they call Munro.


This kind of intermediary interaction is also quite important legally in some situations and fields.

See: that educational tool development group we don’t like

Cool pic from setup of that event.


I would totally play a season on this field

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Did anything ever come out of this?


Nope. We’d still trade one of the bots, with it due back in ~August.

Holding someone accountable to their published specs after you’ve taken the product completely apart and put it back together seems a little unfair. Sounds like a cool experience overall though.


I can understand your concern. We designed and manufactured 3-phase AC motor controllers. They are actually relatively simple devices. The simplified schematic for our products is the same as for our competitor products (and very similar to the brushless controllers used in FRC). The competitive advantages are achieved by offering better customer service, better performance, pushing components closer to their limits, reductions in labour costs and negotiating lower prices.

Our goal was never to copy the competitor’s product so we did not need to fully disassemble the competitors units. Typically, we only needed to remove the outside panels and a few large assemblies. We had a group of experienced professionals looking at them and we were interested in information such as

  • make, model and number of the major components
  • physical makeup and layout of the power circuit
  • cooling system
  • (self) protection system
  • Design for Manufacturability issues (DFM)
  • Design for Serviceability issues (DFS)

Since these products had DC bus voltages in the range of 400 - 1200 V and output current ratings of up to 2000 A, any assembly errors do not result in slightly degraded performance, they result in catastrophic failure (explosion) so you can be sure we document clearly what we do disconnect.

In our testing, we are typically looking at things such as how much thermal margin the product has and how well the advanced functions (advanced control schemes) work. These advanced control schemes are all implemented in the firmware so if the unit was assembled correctly and can “spin a motor”, those functions should work properly.

Lastly, if our disassembling and reassembling the product will cause it to not operate properly, then when the manufacturers recommended preventative maintenance procedure are performed on the the product, it might not function properly either. This would indicate that it was poorly designed.

We had a store room full of various competitors products that we had obtained and analyzed. This type of practice is pretty common in many industries i.e. automotive, semiconductor manufacturing, etc.

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