BattleBots 2021 Post-Fight Report #2: Shatter! vs Blacksmith - H̶a̶m̶m̶e̶r̶ ̶v̶ ̶H̶a̶m̶m̶e̶r̶ Sword v Power Hammer
Who would have thought last year if you’d said "Shatter! will be fighting Blacksmiith" that neither robot would actually be fighting with a hammer as a weapon? We take on our metro-area rivals, in a NY-NJ battle sure to go down in history alongside the Devils/Rangers playoff series of 1994, Hit the break for our post fight breakdown, and be aware, spoilers ahead! Go watch Season 6 episode 5 now, if you haven't already.
Before we dive into the fight, let's take a look at setups. Shatter! and Blacksmith both enter this fight with completely different weapons than most are accustomed to seeing in previous seasons, but those aren't the only configuration updates here.
First, let's take a look at Blacksmith:
You've probably heard of Blacksmith's new 'Power Hammer' and their slogan 'Smash and Burn!'. Clearly the new bot is a bit inspired by the Hammer Saw and 'Slash and Burn!' slogan of Sawblaze - there are many similarities and differences here between the new Blacksmith and Sawblaze. As for the weapon, Blacksmith's is a bit smaller and lighter than that of Sawblaze, but similar in concept: a vertical spinner mounted on an arm designed to impact the top of opponents. Although Blacksmith's weapon may appear small, it packs a punch. It clocked in at the full 250 mph in safety. Yowza. Their goal was to increase damage potential, and I think they've done so.
Outside of comparing it to Sawblaze, let's look at what's different than other versions of Blacksmith. You'll note the front forks are quite small here - this was a tradeoff Blacksmith were forced into because they ran their extremely heavy 3/16" thick AR500 tops. The 250 lbs weight limit drives all decisions at Battlebots, and Blacksmith opted for overhead defense here, and in return sacrificed their ground game. Was this the right decision?
Let's take a look at Shatter! pre fight:
You can get a great view of all the mods here, but you really need to look at a side profile to understand something about this configuration:
This configuration is over 70 inches long - just under six feet! It's ridiculously long. It barely fit through the doorway into the arena building and was knocking stuff over in the cramped hallways leading to the arena entrance. We might need to figure out a new cart solution if we get any longer! We're longer than Huge is wide, and approaching Mammoth size levels here. Also, just look at the proportions of the blade... it's bigger than the chassis. It's ridiculous and makes me smile every time I see it.
But I'm getting distracted. Let's talk about what we are seeing here, and why we chose it. First off, yes, the blade. The Mary Special. The anime sword. You can't miss it - but what is it? Well, it's huge, but the actual main impactor is in the same spot as our standard hammer. See here:
The extra length adds the ability to hit robots behind us with reverse swings, and also raises the CoG a bit higher for harder impacts (and makeup for the fact that this lacks a big 12 lbs hunk of steel at the end like the regular hammer). But ironically, our reach in the forward direction is essentially the same as our standard hammer.
But other than looking cool, why make the Mary Special? Sure, looking cool is important (hello hexbugs! feel free to hit me up anytime), but it's functional too. Last season we had issues with hammerheads coming off when fighting certain robots, and we wanted to fix that this year. We had two solutions, the Mary Special and New Rusty. We'll cover New Rusty in a future blog - but for today let's talk about the Mary Special.
It's named after Mary, who thought originally thought of it after our fight in 2019 vs Kraken, and then helpfully reminded us of it after our fight last year vs Malice. When we fought Kraken, we kept hitting them with the arm instead of the hammer head due to their awkward shape - and the arm wasn't doing any damage. When we lost the hammer vs Malice, we similarly kept hitting them with the arm. This was essentially judged "not effective" and in conjunction with the triangles looking like damage, we lost the fight. According to some judges, losing the head meant our entire weapon was completely disabled - one even said we lost damage 5-0 vs Malice. So what if we put spikes on the arm so it is still 'effective' if we miss with the hammer head, or even after losing the head? Well, with our titanium arm, they wouldn't do much. To be effective they'd need to be steel. But with a steel arm we wouldn't have weight for a hammer head... then we realized, with a spikey arm why even have a hammer head? And without a hammerhead, there's nothing to rip off to begin with! And thus, the Mary Special was born.
So why did we use it here? Blacksmith is a spinner, yes, but not likely to catch the head in the right way to tear it off. In this case, we're using the Mary Special not because we are afraid of the hammerhead tearing off, but because we want to catch the exposed belts on Blacksmith. If we used a standard hammer arm, missed, and the flat titanium arm hit a belt - nothing would happen. But with the Mary Special we have tons of teeth - and a much better chance of taking out a belt. The tradeoff is that the Mary Special isn't designed for maximum penetration - because of the shape it won't be able to get too deep into armor. In this fight, with Blacksmith running their 3/16" AR500 tops, we weren't confident we'd be getting to deep anyway - so we decided to switch strategies and go fully into the 'get the belts' camp.
But what else have we done here? Up front you'll notice our even longer social distancing forks, similar to the ones we used last week but with 5 extra inches of distancing. This should hold Blacksmith at just the right spot for our sword to hit their hammer pivot - and far enough away that they won't be able to reach ours.
And a subtle but significant change is our AR500 top panels:
Our AR500 tops are a bit thinner than Blacksmith's - at just under 1/8" thick. However ours are also mounted on top of 1" of foam. It's the same type of foam we use for internal cushioning: gym floor tile. This foam is extremely impact absorbing, and fire-retardant (great vs Blacksmith). The idea here is that the AR500 will prevent the 'cutting' action of Blacksmith's blade, and the foam will absorb the impact. It's mounted using 4X 1/2" shoulder bolts to allow the AR500 to slide downward as it's impacted. If the AR500/Foam panel is ripped entirely off, the underlying 1/2" UHMW top is still there, and mounted with secondary bolts. We are taking Blacksmith seriously here - it has a lot of power and we want to be prepared if he gets a shot in.
Will it work? We'll see.
A lot of people ask why we didn't cover the wheels... well because we didn't have the weight for it. We had enough to cover the batteries and ESCs... so, better than nothing. But while designing we made sure we had enough weight for the social distancing prongs - because those are vital for fighting overhead bots.
You may remember the rules state you can't use foam as armor - however since this foam is underneath the top panel it's considered 'internal' to the robot. Don't worry, we checked with the rules people before the fight. The foam ban is to prevent having to deal with cleanup - and they felt this usage was sufficient to avoid that risk (unlike the foam frog).
Other than that, you'll note the white rectangles of UHMW in front of our front wheels. We ran out of weight for our standard shiny corner pieces - so made some quick replacements to add a bit of front protection for the wheels. Good enough.
But where did we get the weight for all this extra stuff vs last week? Shatter! has a lot of weight to play with for configurations - but it's never as much as we want, haha. The removal of the extra 2 wedelets saved a couple pounds, the Mary Special is actually a tad lighter than our usual hammer setup, and we used slightly thinner plastic around the sides and back. I think we even removed a few screws here and there... it was tight.
You'll notice a lack of triangles on the side panels in this fight - that was because we were right at 250 lbs as shown. In the previous fight vs Sub Zero, we were actually a little over - right about 251. We run the triangles as a 'decorative' component, meaning they can be part of a 10 lbs 'decorative weight bonus.' Effectively, your robot can weigh 260 lbs if 10 lbs of it are decorative. There's a catch - and that catch is the opponent can just say 'no' and you need to remove it. In this case, the Blacksmith team said no - so we only ran the triangles we had weight for (on the turret). It's totally ok for them to say no, we never get mad at anyone for saying no - it's their prerogative in the rules. But, that's why we don't have them this fight and Shatter! doesn't look quite as pretty as usual.
Who's setup will pay off? Let's check out the fight and see.
After our sponsorship decal for Prismier immediately fell off, as is tradition (sorry again Prismier), the fight began. And... yay! The forks seem to work! The first hit doesn't hit the chain or belt, but the forks are holding them away well - it seems like we can do this if we just keep the front pointing at them! So, let's see if I can do that.
We lined up another hit, and we actually both fire our weapons at exactly the same time. Feel free to freeze frame it - the weapons fire on the same frame. The issue is our arm is significantly faster... usually that's a good thing! In this case it means our weapon extends first and their weapon comes down behind, slamming directly into the arm. We really didn't want this to happen but it shows the durability of the AR500 arm: it's a bit bent but still attached! Also, a piece of the ceiling somehow falls down. I guess a piece of invisible shrapnel went flying at hundreds of miles an hour? Good thing the arena has a roof!
The Mary Special has survived its first test, and it seems perhaps Blacksmith's weapon has not as it is stuck in the extended position. Now is our opportunity! We immediately chase Blacksmith down and get several shots at their extended arm. After painstakingly analyzing film and photos, I believe this is the hit that manages to get the belt. Before this moment the belt is taut, and after this moment it is noticeably loose, before beginning to flop out the top.
Blacksmith has 2 different things going on in their power hammer: it spins the disc and it swings the arm. The disc spins via a belt, and the arm swings via a chain. Apparently some bad wiring inside caused the arm to get stuck extended, and then after we sliced the belt the disc could no longer spin. The electronics eventually rebooted and with the chain still attached, the arm could still swing, but without the spinning disc it wasn't going to do anything to our AR500 tops.
At this point, we figured the fight was mostly decided, all we had to do was not screw up, stay aggressive, etc. With our active weapon working and theirs down, winning aggression and damage should be fairly easy.
Eventually of course I messed up big time.
I drove directly into the new, wider, killsaw slots. You can't tell on the broadcast, but I was getting an earful from my team. Not only had I rammed us in there pretty good, but Blacksmith decided to come in from behind and give us some help ramming the forks further into the slot.
Luckily, a couple things save us here. First off, the new longer arm allowed us to get some rear swings on Blacksmith, which forced him to back off early. I think the even bigger design detail here is that the social distance prongs saved us. The small 'thumbs' added to the ends actually prevented the prongs from going too deep and acted as a stop. They were barely large enough and you can see they nearly go below the surface - but they hold on and allow us to back out after Blacksmith backs off. Without the thumbs those prongs would have been a foot deep and I don't think we'd have been able to back out.
After this it's a bit of a back and forth battle. Paul gets a nice shot with the pulverizer:
And we get a nice shove into the killsaws... but they manage to pull away just before we get them to the screws. This is actually a really interesting sequence as you see the transition from us pushing them to them pushing us.
People say 'mecanum wheels can't push' and I keep saying that's not the whole story. Mecanum wheels can't push a robot with the same downforce if the other robot is using regular wheels. but we have more downforce due to our magnets and the metal floor. So we can push a robot with regular wheels, as you see in the beginning of the above sequence. Blacksmith can't push us, and is forced to backup. He repositions, and then is able to push us - because he gets our wheels off the ground. You'll note that after season 4, we only get pushed when our wheels are off the ground. Before that, we'd get shoved even with our wheels on the ground - we just couldn't get traction without the added downforce. Now we have more traction than opponents, as long as our wheels are planted. This is a huge improvement and it's always funny to talk to opposing drivers after fights when they say 'you're really hard to push!'
Eventually, after what feels like an eternity of driving around the killsaw slots, the fight ends. You'll note there was a teeny bit of smoke from our robot. This was just the clutches heating up. Everything was still fully operational - it's normal for them to smoke a bit toward the end of a hard fight. The deliberations were surprisingly long, but as we had hoped the aggression and damage allowed us to win a unanimous decision.
What a fight! A full 3 minutes of fairly back and forth driving, and another example of our hammer taking out the opponents weapon. Hashtag hammersdontdodamage
Let's take a look at the post fight damage, with Blacksmith first:
The belt was the majority of the functional damage - however the pulley system was also damaged, as well as the chain and sprocket that powers the arm swings. We were surprised we were able to dent their top - and actually one of the hits dented the gas tank below as well! I suppose it's a good thing they chose to use their heavy tops after all. If we'd used our regular hammer it's possible we would have punctured it. Wouldn't that have been something! A big flaming hammer explosion... But we still think we made the right decision. That sword did what it needed to do - and who knows, without that rearward reach maybe Blacksmith would have been able to shove us fully into the saw slots for the KO?
Let's take a look at Shatter!
The only significant damage was to the Mary Special - which was fairly severely bent by the one and only hit Blacksmith managed to get. Functionally it was fine, but we didn't like the look of it. Other than that, we also suffered some slight melting on the Shatter! vinyl logos, and ended up replacing the friction discs in the clutches.
And although we did get the arm bent back into shape... we put it in the spares pile, as there's no way it's at 100% strength anymore after that plastic deformation.
This took a lot of tries on the hydraulic press. Thanks to team Switchback who had so many amazing tools they continually allowed us to use.
AR500 is extremely springy. You can really get an appreciation for the strength of these robots when you try to repair the damage. I believe this is a 12 ton press we were using to undo the bend that Blacksmith put into the arm in a split second.
Blacksmith have got themselves a powerful weapon this season, still maintain their drive durability and pushing power, and are very well driven. They are 1-1, but should not be taken lightly.
Thank you to Blacksmith for a great fight, and thank you all for reading this far!
Thank you to my teammates Eric Wrigley, Paul Gancitano, and Mary Chimenti!
We are now 2-0, and look forward to our third fight. Who will it be? Will we be the second hammer robot to maintain a perfect regular season? Will we make the top 32, and at what ranking? Tune in Thursdays on Discovery Channel (or Discovery+ ) to find out!
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We'd like to thank our sponsors, without whom this wouldn't be possible:
Prismier - Manufacturing Simplified
TMS Titanium - Buy Titanium Online
MaxAmps - Award Winning Batteries
Qooos Watches - Maybe I'll eventually put these watches up for sale?