Team Shock's Beetles

After reading through some of the excellent build diaries here I have been inspired to have a look back through my beetles and document my progress over the last decade of building them. I’ll start with a brief history of my builds and then take a look at what I’m currently working on.

2013- It all begins!
Throughout 2012/13, the beetleweight scene started to kick off in the UK and as it looked interesting I thought I’d give it a go. After playing around with some ideas, I settled on a horizontal spinner for my first machine. It used a pair of Pololu 25mm gearmotors from my Uni project along with a pair of Botbitz ESCs for drive. A 28mm NTM outrunner with a belt drive to the single tooth disc provided the weapon. The chassis was made from 2 plates of waterjet cut 6mm aluminium, 3D Printed ABS provided the spacers along with the bent mild steel armour.

The result of all of this was Soundwave which competed in a handful of early beetle events in 2013/14. It was a reasonable first attempt coming 3rd in it’s first comp.

December 2013- Another beetle
Soundwave was a fun machine and I decided to build another beetle using the remaining parts from the old Uni project. I have a second set of Pololu drive motors and a large 30kg/cm servo. This led to the idea of building a beetle version of my (then new) heavyweight Manta. I printed scaled down templated of the panels on paper and cut them out of a sheet of 1.5mm Mild Steel which I carefully welded together to form the chassis.

The end result was a faithful recreation of Manta with a reasonable lifter. Dubbed ‘Mantle’, this robot never competed in full combat but had a handful of whiteboard battles over the years.

2014- New Soundwave and the first Inertia
After a couple of events with Soundwave, it was clear some improvements were needed to make it a little more competitive. The main issue was a lack of internal space which limited the size of LiPo I could fit. To remedy this, a new version was built with a larger chassis. The new version had top and bottom plates laser cut from mild steel, to hold these in place I has some aluminium spacers made by Ellis. The side armour was once again made from 1.5mm mild steel but this time welded in place.

This version was reasonably successful- the disc had a lot more power as the LiPo could put out enough power to spin it reliably and the drive was incredibly fast which helped engagement. Eventually, this version was sold and went on to compete as Zodiac.

While building Soundwave v2, I also started working on a vertical spinner based off my featherweight Inertia XL. Inertia B was a very similar concept with a large 150mm diameter disc. Laser cut steel formed the chassis with the drive setup being borrowed from Mantle. The disc had the same 28mm NTM outrunner on a belt reduction.

When the disc worked, the machine was very potent and capable of roofing opponents with ease. However some questionable design decisions (like not putting any form of bearing in the weapon) plagued it with issues and it was eventually retired in favour of a new design.

August 2015- Inertia B2
Inertia B was a decent first attempt at a beetle vertical spinner but suffered from too many flaws. In an effort to resolve these, a new version was designed.

Inertia B2 was the result of the changes and while it retained the same laser cut and welded steel construction and 28mm NTM weapon motor, almost everything else was new. To make the machine more compact, I did away with the heavy 25mm gearboxes from my other beetles and elected to run a 4wd setup with 4, N20 gearmotors. Despite being used mainly in ants, this setup actually worked quite well with no issues in any of it’s fights. The other main change was to use the same 110mm diameter, 10mm thick steel weapon discs from Soundwave. This meant the spinning mass was just under 500g and made the weapon very potent.

Throughout 2015 and 16, I entered Inertia B2 into the competitions which ran alongside events at Robots Live. It had some great fights and eventually went on to inspire the design of our Robot Wars entry Aftershock.

In 2017, I ran out of time to work on the beetles with our Aftershock build for S10 of Robot Wars so I put both Inertia B and B2 up for sale. These ended up with Shane Lale with Inertia B2 becoming the first version of the successful End Boss line of robots. I then took a break from beetles for a few years.

March 2021- back in the game
After several years away from beetles, it took lockdown to reignite the interest. During the first lockdown, I bought a CNC router with the intention of using it to make parts for my feathers. It didn’t take long to see that it could be used for beetles too. By March 2021, I had started to build Inertia B3 using a similar approach as it’s predecessor with the N20 drive and an NTM outrunner to one of my old discs which I bought back. I built the chassis from 8mm HDPE with some printed forks in the style of End Game.

While building Inertia B3 I started looking into beetles more seriously and realised that the N20 drive was no longer up to the job as they wouldn’t handle the hits that modern beetles can deliver. With that in mind, I started a new design to include the drive kit from BBB. Along with a new disc, this led to the creation of Inertia B4.

Inertia B4 attended the BBB Summer Showdown in 2021 which was my first beetle competition since 2016. It performed well making it through to the top 8 but most importantly, it got me back into beetleweights properly.

April 2021- Building Inferno
Alongside building Inertia B4, I was looking to build something new. While scouring ebay, I came across a Fingertech Beater Bar for sale and after winning the auction, I started to come up with a design to utilise it.

Inferno mk1 was the result and had a chassis machined from some leftover red HDPE I had lying around in the shed. The drive was provided by another BBB kit and the whole machine went together quite smoothly. Some 5mm HDPE was bend around the chassis to provide some spinner protection but this would prove to be weak against horizontal spinners at the Summer Showdown.

While the armour was destroyed, Inferno showed some serious promise in it’s two whiteboard battles which gave me the incentive to evolve it ahead of the BBB champs later in the year.

November 2021- BBB Champion?!
With Inferno showing the most promise of the two beetles I took to the Summer Showdown, I elected to enter it into the BBB 2021 Championship. Internally, the robot was identical to the previous incarnation as it worked well. The main change was to redesign the wheel guards and add some forks. The front end was also strengthened with some CNC machined 20mm HDPE. Ground scraping steel forks were the final part to be fitted before heading to Bristol to compete.

These small changes made a huge difference and Inferno went on to win the whole competition winning all but one fight by KO. This is by far the best performance of any beetle I’d built to this point and it was incredibly satisfying to see it work as planned.

2022- New designs & upgrades
Throughout 2022 I attended a handful of beetle events. The BBB Brawl was a humbling experience- after Inferno’s success at the previous competition it lost 2 of it’s 3 fights and was swiftly eliminated from the event. However this gave me the chance to try out the upgraded Inertia B4 and my newest build- the pneumatic flipper of Tsunami.

Inertia B4 was largely the same machine internally but with a new Megadestructo disc from Gus with larger uprights to hold it.

The new disc worked well but the hits were limited by the cheap brushless it had spinning it- the torque was not enough to get it spinning properly. This was replaced after the event with a Fingertech inrunner- the same as Inferno which kept spares consistent across both machines.

Tsunami presented a different challenge, I have wanted to build a pneumatic beetle for years and after finding a regulator that fit threaded CO2 cartridges I decided to take the plunge. What resulted was a couple of months trying different ideas and fixing leaks in the hope of getting something remotely useable. I managed to get Tsunami together for a couple of whiteboards at the 2022 beetle brawl.

While the design showed promise and generated a lot of interest from fellow competitors, I couldn’t get it working reliably enough to finish the concept. I’ve not completely abandoned the idea though so it may make a return in the future.

For the 2022 Subterranean Showdown, I built another new machine as this meant that I could take advantage of the early sign ups for new builds. This time I stayed away from pneumatics and spinners opting to build a 4WD electric lifter. As the design was inspired by an unused design we had for the S9 Shockwave, it was named Shockwave Jr. I was pleased with the build of this one, the CNC router made it easy to churn out the parts including a decent number of spares and additional configurations including forks, anti horizontal wedges, alternative lifter configs and even a grabbing arm attachment.

During the Subterranean Showdown comp, Shockwave Jr was let down by my driving and some dodgy choices of configuration. Shortly after the event I ended up selling it as I was raising funds to buy Slingshot and Polaris. Despite this, I think the design showed a lot of potential and I have plans to revisit this one soon.

My final beetle event of 2022 was the BBB Championships. After getting the call up from the reserves with a week to go, I set about making some improvements to Inertia B4. The old rubbish outrunner motor was scrapped in favour of the same Fingertech inrunner used by Inferno. Coupled with a timing belt on the TPU weapon pulley, the disc now had an incredible spin up and loads of power. A quick maths check put the weapon at 214mph on 4s but I ended up running it on 3s which still gave it plenty of speed! Other upgrades included my first attempts at printing the latest wonder material to enter the beetle class- TPU. Even with a stock Ender 3 V2, I was able to get some nice results from the cheap Amazon filament which churned out the new front armour and forks (which had been inspired by the excellent Ice Breaker at the previous event).

Inertia B4 had a great run at the event knocking out every opponent on the way to a top 8 finish after losing to Bish Bash Bosh after I managed to eject myself into the OOTA zone. The upgrades to the disc made it incredibly potent and everything seemed super reliable.

2023- not a lot of competing but some new ideas.
After a good run at the champs, I decided to keep Inertia B4 in the same configuration as everything seemed to work. Instead I turned my attention to 2 projects- improving Inferno and building an overhead saw.

Inferno would prove to be the easier of the two projects with the main core of the robot still working as expected. I elected to make a new set of wheel guards, front and rear armour from printed TPU following the good results from Inertia B4. After some hefty 24hr prints, the new pieces were fitted and looked great.

Inferno competed in the Chichester Uni event and had a great run coming second in the competition. The TPU held up great but the front weapon supports took a beating and will need remaking. The beater is in pretty bad shape too and may need to be replaced. I have some ideas on how to improve the design and it’s on the list to work on going forward.

The second project was to build something completely different for me- an overhead saw. The build for this is documented in a series of videos on my YouTube channel for anyone interested.

It was a complex build but Incision was ready for a whiteboard at the Chichester event against Cormoran. The fight was excellent with the saw getting loads of great slices in the aluminium armour. Unfortunately, the saw needed a lot of power to run and eventually detonated the brushless ESC which ended the fight early.

After the event, I took the saw mechanism out and trialled a lifter weapon. This setup never saw combat and the robot was later sold on.

I didn’t manage to get to any other beetle events in 2023 and without competing, I didn’t feel the need to work on them.

2024- Inertia B4 upgrades
So that brings us to today. I have signed up to the BBB Brawl next month with Inertia B4 so I have dug it out of storage in preparation for the event. I plugged in the link to find that everything still powers up (I had even left a battery in from the one whiteboard it did last year). I then filmed the PoM and put it back in the box ready for the event.

However a couple of weeks later I have decided that I should try and make some improvements before the event which has led to this.

I have redesigned the TPU armour to include some mounts for additional forks. The main forks have been made longer in an attempt to stop it tipping forward and pinballing around the arena when it gets a big hit. These pieces are printed at the moment so hopefully there will be an update later this week. There are a few other configuration options in the works which I’m keeping quiet for not but it should give plenty of options to suit the wide range of opponents I imagine will be competing.

So that is where I’m at currently. If anyone has made it to the end of this post- well done! I promise the updates won’t be such an essay!


Thanks for sharing some proper ol’ beetle history!

See you at Brawl! :slight_smile:

So much metal back in the early days of beetles! :open_mouth:

Great overview will! - I really like the lifter config on the saw bot

A bit of progress over the last couple of days.

Inferno has been patched up following its bruising encounters at the Chichester event last year. It now has a solid 8mm HDPE panel behind the beater which is screwed into the base and uprights to keep everything in place. The previous piece of 5mm HDPE keyed into slots in the uprights but had a habit of coming loose. This should fix that.
The front section of the TPU side armour was fairly chewed up so that was cut off and replaced with some 8mm HDPE. A set of steel forks were fitted which leaves it ready to run and looking like this.

Meanwhile Inertia B4 is taking shape for the Brawl in a couple of weeks. After a couple of false starts with printing the new TPU pieces I finally got some useable prints. With the forks fitted it looks pretty good.

At this point I felt a little worried about how heavy it was feeling so I double checked the weight.

A little too close for my liking! But this is ready to fight and I plan to save a bit of weight before the event.

With it being right on the limit a couple of planned configs are no longer viable so the next couple of weeks will be spent making spare parts and testing.

Finally while having a clear out in the shed I found a stash of parts in a box so I threw them together to create a little 4WD rambot.

The chassis rails are the originals from Shockwave Jr with some 3mm HDPE lids. The forks were also from the original machine. Drive has been provided by 4 Rotalink motors running on 4s using a Tarakan ESC. Weighs less than a kilo in the pictured setup so it may end up with a weapon eventually. It drives nicely so hopefully it will get to play in a whiteboard in a couple of weeks.

So this is where my team of beetles stands currently with a couple of weeks until the event. Will be good to get back to a beetle event after almost a year since my last one.