R/C Rock Crawler Prepped to Become Stair Climbing Robot

rc-robot-frame

[Starlino] is working on an autonomous mobile robot. Like many before him, he looked to the radio controlled car world for a base frame. He found a good candidate in a rock crawler model called “Mad Torque”. Crawlers have been around for years, but they’ve recently been getting more popular. As always, popularity leads to lower priced entry-level models, which puts this crawler at a reasonable price for a robot frame. As the name implies, rock crawlers are all about crawling. Relatively low speeds, locked differentials, four-wheel drive, and (optional) four-wheel steering.

Of course, [Starlino] had to test drive his frame out before tearing it down to install electronics. As long time R/C modelers ourselves, we can’t blame him. Testing uncovered one major problem. The Mad Torque wasn’t quite mad enough to climb the stairs in his house. The front tires would grab and pull over the first step, but the wheelbase wasn’t quite long enough for the rear wheels to grab hold.

[Starlino's] solution was to extend the wheelbase. For most 4WD R/C cars or trucks this would be a major problem, as the motors are mounted amidships. An extended wheelbase would mean also extending the drive shafts or belts. This isn’t a problem with rock crawlers. Crawlers need to support huge amounts of suspension articulation. Rather than create complex drive linkages, the common design is to place an electric motor on each axle. This isn’t the greatest idea in terms of unsprung mass, but it does make for easy wheelbase changes. [Starlino] found that the design was so modular he could bolt a second chassis up to the original. The new rear chassis bolted to the front at the top shock mounts. An extra set of battery brackets formed a lower brace. The new extended truck was long enough to clear the steps, though it does still struggle a bit, as can be seen in the video. We think larger diameter tires might help a bit here. [Starlino's] next step is to ditch the R/C unit and give this ‘bot a brain!

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