How do we curve an aluminum shooter panel?

We’ve got a shooter nearly finished and ready to put onto the robot. We can make a plexi curved panel to expedite balls to the shooting mechanism using a heat gun and person power. We don’t have any fabrication abilities on site. How should I teach my team to do this with thin aluminum? I didn’t want to purchase a high dollar English roller as I’m trying to keep our team “on budget” for a change. haha. Any pearls of wisdom would help. Also if anyone has a reasonablly priced fabricator source in the Arlington, Texas area, please drop me a PM on Chief Delphi. We’re ahead of schedule. I don’t want this part of the robot to be an obsess point for the team. I’m just a teacher…not an engineer or shop instructor. My practical knowledge is no help to the team.:eek:

Thanks in advance!

Steve Miller
FRC 3355
FTC 10756
Purple Vipers

sure you can use polycarbonate and bend it. It takes some time and patience. You can compensate imperfection (uneven bending or gents) by Velcro (soft side). Bending 1/8" aluminum sheet is difficult, but if you can get thinner, shape them and laminate. In either case having back support to keep the curvature would help.

Edit: Just make sure that curve does not change after few matches. Supporting in the convex dice will help. In pause we have used wood, which was easier for is to cut ca use it as support.

I would use perforated aluminum sheet. We’ve used it on our prototypes and it’s tough, light, and easy to bend.

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Clamp your aluminum to a work bench with 1x1 or other straight piece and bend a little, move and bend a little and so on and so on.

It will take a while but if you are careful you can get a pretty nice curve.

You could make a wood form and bend the metal around it. Due to bounce back you will have to bend it to the final curve off of the form but it is still a useful way to make sure your curve is correct.

We’ve used a couple of “rails” for curved shooter backs…it doesn’t really need a wide, single panel, does it?

I like to choose materials based partly on what facilities we have to work with said materials. If we don’t have a machine that will do what we want to do with that material, I find a different material that we can deal with.

What they ^^ said.


  1. Never use Plexiglass (Acrylic) on a robot; It shatters and breaks, dangerously.
  2. Polycarbonate (Lexan, Makrolon) bends like aluminum, no heat needed. For a gentle curve, use thin (1/8" or so) and it will bend just fine to a smooth curve: Just secure it along its length so it stays bent.
  3. Aluminum is great, but visibility is restricted.
  4. Much like Polycarbonate, aluminum does not need to be permanently bent, simply secured in position because it is somewhat flexible.

We’ve prototyped with a 3/4 plywood arc that we cut on our CNC router, but you could possibly do same with a saber saw and some sand paper. That plus double wheels seems to work well.

We did our cam grabber during Recycle Rush by making a wood form and then forming the aluminum to it. We cut a 4 by 6 into the curve we wanted, then put the aluminum in the middle of the two cut pieces and clamped them shut.

The watchout - the aluminum will spring back somewhat - we ended up doing it twice, the second time with a smaller diameter curve cut on the wood than we intended the final aluminum curve to be.

It worked adequately.

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