T-Shirt Cannon

Hi Chief Delphi community,

I’ve been working on a T-Shirt cannon base for the past few days and I was wondering about how to plumb it. I’m using 2 scuba tanks as storage and firing chambers and I’m planning to tap threads into a custom pressure block that attaches to the barrel. Thanks in advance to anyone who has insight :slight_smile:

4 Cim drive
3/16in center drop WCD
360 degree rotation (shoot in any direction relative to wheels)
Angle adjust from 45 to -45 (barrel facing down)
2.875in ID Barrel
Magazine fed with cylinder ejection

]There have been a number of T-shirt cannon threads in recent years; you can find plenty with some searches, including ideas for rolling t-shirts and working through various problems. Here are a few key items:

  1. Safety first! Do not use PVC, or other hoses/tubes/pipes that break in a brittle fashion; make sure that all components are rated for the appropriate PSI of air (not just water). Air at a given pressure has a lot more stored energy than water and while air may or may not be more likely to cause a rupture than water would, the consequences would be much worse.
  2. Large airflow at relatively low pressure with a brief open interval for the solenoid is the favorite way to go. We use about 50 psi through a 3/4" brass solenoid valve, and 1+" pipes most of the way, open for 40-50ms. If I were building now, I’d get a 1" brass valve so we could take the pressure down a bit more. (We have a 3" ID barrel so its similar to yours).
  3. It takes a lot of energy to launch a t-shirt. Don’t plan to power the compressor from an FRC battery; either use air compressed off-robot (our method) or get a larger (marine deep-cycle) battery.

Scuba tanks? 2500-3500 psi. Please tell me that’s not what you’re using.

I would assume their working pressure is much, much lower than that. There are several other teams that have used Scuba tanks in the past without any issues.

I would avoid a “custom pressure block” and just go for 100psi (or whatever you’re running at) metal pressure fittings. Your barrel should also be thin-wall metal rather than thick-wall plastic.
Scuba tanks for storage sounds pretty standard from what I’ve seen here; just make sure you run a regulator to the output. :stuck_out_tongue:

What is the small cylinder in the back of the barrel for?
I really like your design, it looks very neat. You could remove the twist axis if you wanted to to add stiffness (just turn the robot instead) but your way could be more interesting.

That appears to be the firing mechanism. We used the same design for our cannon. It pushes the cartridge forward and activates the release of stored pressure at the same time. This also provides a good deal of safety with our cannon because it cannot fire over the pressure that is used to push the cartridge forward. In our case that pressure is 30 PSI, I don’t see a lot of others running that low of pressure however.

They referred to using scuba as “storage and firing containers”. We use scuba as “storage”, but some cast-iron tanks as accumulators at low (50-60psi), and I am guessing this is what they mean by “firing containers”.

In our case, we get the scuba tank charged at the fire house or dive shop. It has a standard scuba regulator which regulates the pressure down in the 110 psi range. (I don’t recall the precise number, but it’s fixed as far as the consumer is concerned, so we don’t have any control over it.) We feed that into an FRC standard regulator to get down to 40-60 psi to store in our cast iron tank, which has an outlet that can handle up to a 2" pipe IIRC - I know that we use a reducer to get down to the 1-1/4" galvanized pipe we’re using.

I fully concur that trying to use 3000psi is much higher than I am comfortable with professionally, much less with FRC. We had a diesel engine and a 3000psi compressor in a “CON-X” shipping container on an acoustic survey in the late '90’s when my office experimented with air guns for seismic surveys to determine the acoustic behavior of the seafloor. (Yes, I pay the bills as an underwater acoustician for the US Navy.) We had an ME aboard who was hired specifically to do maintenance on this unit, and I was the senior representative of my office for the survey. At the start-of-survey safety brief, I explained just how much pressure 3000 psi is. I believe I said “That hose that snakes across the deck is about two inches in diameter. A quarter-inch hole in this hose will generate enough force to toss you across the deck, and possibly overboard”. Eyes got big, and everyone looked to Les (the ME), and he just nodded. It was a slight exaggeration for the largest members of the survey party who weighed over 200 pounds, but that element of the safety brief had exactly the right effect as far as getting the survey party to respect just how dangerous 3000 psi can be.

Yes, from quick tests, it seems as though 50 psi (working) would be adequate to launch t-shirts.

Hi, thank you for your helpful posts, would pressure would you recommend that we store air at?

Haha, I hope the twist will be interesting in a good way. As for the pressure block, I just couldn’t think of a solution to transfer air from standard piping to the firing tube. Do you have any suggestions? I figured a properly welded on block of steel would suffice at 50 psi. (Please correct me if I’m wrong)

Oh wow, a T-shirt cannon that’s not the usual “gathling” type. One thing that concerns me is the rod that the cannon system is mounted on. Was there a reason for such a mounting system?

My reasoning is behind… I believe Newton’s Third Law: With an action force comes a reaction force. As cannon fires the shirt, the shirt “fires” back with the same force to the cannon. Therefore after several shots out of the cannon, that rod its mounted on will bend significantly.

So yeah, I would strongly advise to mount the cannon onto something sturdier to stop this from happening.

Charging the accumulator to 40-60 psi should be adequate and relatively easy to find fittings and hoses, apart from the swivel.

Well the main reason was to allow for a 360 degrees of motion and to allow perpendicular shooting to the wheel base. However at second glance, I can see many ways to raise the second mounted bearing in order to lessen the moment on the steel rod. I have thought about the “recoil on the cannon” as 50 psi on a 3in diameter item is not a small amount of force.

Are you using one tank as the HP side and the other one for the accumulator tank to provide the volume of air at LP to fire the shirt? If so you will not want to use the valve in the LP tank to gain the volume of air flow. You can use 3/4"
steel pipe with NPT threads.

A typical scuba regulator will drop the HP pressure down to about 170psi and I would suggest an additional regulator that is adjustable and will drop the pressure again to 150 psi max.

You can view ours at prhsrobotics.com under outreach. It is built on the same principle that you are using.

The recoil will not be nearly this large, unless you’re tossing chain mail t-shirts. The 50 psi air will be rushing through a 3/4" or 1" solenoid valve and quickly expanding to push on a half pound projectile over 7 square inches of area. My back-of-the-envelope calculations based on how far a half-pound T-shirt is tossed tells me that the recoil force for our no-sabot system (we roll the shirts into their own sleeves and muzzle load them) is more like 40 pounds than 350 pounds. If you are feeding the shirts in cylinders, you may require more pressure and will generate more recoil.


Not a bit surprising after the teaser video; I made a bit of chain mail myself in the 80’s. I’m rather impressed with how much our student leadership team is focussing on game mechanics, strategy, and grand strategy while ignoring the stylistic hints we’ve been given. I wish I could ignore teasers and game hints as well as they can.

Speaking of chain mail t-shirts our team is making chain mail armor right now.

Yup, I am using one as a high pressure storage tank, and the other as a firing tank. Thank you for the insight on the regulator and the airflow out of the accumulator tank, I will keep those in mind.

We use a 2-1/2" nominal (2.465" ID) copper pipe as our barrel. Tee shirts have to be carefully rolled and are still tight. It takes about 30 PSI to pop them out. Normal demos we shoot at 40-60 psi. We go up to 110 psi on the football field. We are a little unique in that we use a shooting accumulator that discharges completely on every shot rather than feeding the cannon directly off the storage tank.

You want your hose between the barrel and the air accumulator as big and short as possible. That will limit the cannon’s range of motion. I would mount the fire valve on the cannon to keep the flow in the hose as high as possible. Tapping pipe threads in a block of steel is doable. Especially with working pressures less than 120 psi. 3/4 pipe is getting on the big side for hand taps though.

Here’s the result of our offseason project:

We have 4 fixed 3" barrels, all plumbed to a single manifold. The manifold has 3 Clippard tanks plumbed into it, giving approximately 100 cubic inches per shot. Each barrel is plumbed to the manifold through a fairly pricey 1/2" air piloted valve, salvaged from a piece of production equipment slated for disposal at our main sponsor. The manifold is recharged between shots via the compressor and a 2 gallon tank. Manifold refill takes 1.5 to 2 seconds. The ball valves shown are used to precharge the tank and/or manifold with shop air to lessen the load on the compressor (30% duty cycle). Short shots take about 40-50 psi and a full 100 psi charge results in distances of about 90 feet, depending on rolling skill. We use a short section of the barrel material to check the roll, looking for a slight interference fit.

If your Clippard tanks use the usual FRC fitting, those three 1/4" diameter fittings are the limiting factor on getting air to the shirts quickly. If you used a section of galvanized pipe as a tank, with reducers at the end to feed a 3/4" or 1" valve, you could achieve the same launches with much lower pressure and probably less air. 3/4" normally closed valves are available for about $20, and I recall seeing 1" NC valves for less than the 5 port solenoids usually used in FRC.

Edit: This draws more current than the air piloted valve, I am sure. We drive ours through a 12V relay module, though a spike relay could serve the function, if you don’t mind driving brads with a 3 pound hammer.

(not that exact module, but a similar one with four ports)