Wheel Guards: Maximum Exposure
Wheel protection is an often debated subject in the robot combat world. Exposed wheels are much more likely to be damaged during a fight, but protecting them adds weight and sometimes can actually make the situation worse. Over the years I’ve had bots with most of the common wheel guard arrangements from nothing to fully surrounded by thick structural members. They’ve each got their pros and cons, so there’s no universal right answer to the question of “Which wheelguard is right for my bot?”
First up is the fully exposed option:
My 1lb robot Algos leaves its wheels completely open to the opposition. The big benefit of this arrangement is that with highly exposed wheels it’s difficult for your opponent to put you into a position where you don’t at least have a wheel on the ground. The downside is that you’ve got absolutely zero protection for your wheels. If you opt for fully exposed wheels be prepared to replace damaged wheels between fights and watch out for robots trying to take out your wheels.
Up next is minimalist guarding:
This arrangement is the lightweight option when it comes to wheel protection. This style of guard is typically designed to cover the expected angles of attack only to minimize the weight spent on protecting the wheels. This setup is often enough to avoid severe wheel damage during a fight, but with the minimalist nature of these guards there is the risk that a hard enough hit could warp the guards and either allow the weapon clear access to your wheels or cause the guards to interfere with your wheels potentially immobilizing the wheel.
The next step up in protection are wheel pods:
Wheel pods typically serve two purposes. Not only are they protecting the wheels from damage, but they’re also an integral element of the support structure for the drive system. Being a part of the support structure necessitates them being much more durable than the minimalist guards. Wheel pods don’t offer much more protection than the minimalist guards, but the increased strength requirements and tie-in with the rest of the chassis mean they’ll typically be able to handle moderate impacts well. Integrating wheel protection with overall chassis structure is a more efficient use of weight, but there is a risk that a bent section of frame could result in jammed wheels.
The top external wheel setup is the fully wrapped guard:
With this setup there is no unprotected path to the wheel. With adequate space between your wheels and a fully wrapped guard it will take significant effort for the opposing robot to reach your wheels. If the guard can take the blows your wheels will be safe in most circumstances with this sort of guard. The major downside to this style when compared to something like the minimalist guards is that for the same weight you won’t be able to get nearly the level of protection in the most critical areas. This type of guarding is a good all around option but is lacking compared to other options when it comes to defending any specific location.
Finally, the most protected setup is the internal wheel:
At the top of the pile you’ve got this setup. The wheels are completely contained within the chassis with only a small portion of them exposed where they contact the combat surface. With internal wheels you’ve got the most protected, but most limited setup. Special consideration also needs to be given to the components in the robot near the wheels to ensure they don’t come into contact with the wheels after a heavy impact. The level of protection is unmatched by the other options. By the time your opponent has a clear shot on your wheels you’ve already likely sustained substantial damage. The main downside of this setup is that your wheels will likely have a very limited number of positions where they are in contact with the ground, making it easier to get stuck or high centered.
As I said at the start, there’s really no right answer. Everyone’s got a style that works for them. I tend to lean toward minimal protection for several reasons:
- Improved maneuverability. It might be subtle, but occasionally a bit of extra agility makes the difference.
- Lighter weight. Less weight in wheel protection is more weight that can be put elsewhere.
- Strategy. This is more hypothesis than fact, but I take the view that if you’ve got exposed wheels they become a primary target for your opponent. I take the view that if you know the target of your opponent you’re better able to defend it and in close fights this can be the strategic advantage that tips things in your favor.
Thanks for reading, if you’ve got questions or requests for future articles send me an email at MikeNCR@gmail.com or post it over here: http://sparc.tools/forum/index.php?topic=5.0