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Kevin Rustagi

2.007 Final Report

I started the term thinking I knew what the design process was about. Sure, I could crush cans. It
would be easy. And then I began to understand the reality that I had a bucket of materials in front
of me that might as well have been a large slab of stone.

I've come a long way.

Figure A. The Final Bot - REX

I started with a far-out idea. I wanted to turn the can as I crushed it. I went through the concept of
an oil filter wrench and even this crazy spring/cup idea that would allow the can to twist as you
pushed it down. This took about a week and a half to figure out.

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Figure 1. Twisting spring cup design

This oil filter wrench was capable of holding the can very well even with the can being pulled on
from below.

Figure 2. Oil filter wrench concept with string attachment

Simultaneously, I began to work on the simplest crushing bar I could imagine – a lever arm
attached to a winch. “There is no intellectual property in 2.007,” Professor Dan Frey informed
me, and I took this at face value. I was to understand that there would be a free flow of ideas and
we would be judged on system design and creativity of implementation. Someone else had
crushed using this method at week 3.25. A friend of mine, I gave her a call. She told me they had
used a program to create their lever arm's shape. I figured that this would be great practice for the
Statics class I am taking (switched into Mechanical a little later), and I spent about an hour and a
half with a TA for the class working it out.

Calculations: (Also see the Learning Summary on page 14 and Envelope Calculations, pages
15-18, for more information) What it basically comes down to is a torque-speed curve for your

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winch, the length of your lever arm (from pivot to pulling point) vs. the length from the pivot to
the point where it contacts, and also the slant of your crushing plate (geometric compatibility).

I was so caught up in each variable's dependency on each other, that my section leader told me,
“Just go build something.” Well, as I learned then, sometimes it is MUCH easier to modify and
fix an existing system than it is to repair an imaginary one. I believe this engineering concept is
counter-intuitive and based on human-nature.

So I just started plugging away, building a very large set of 3 components: the spring twister
(from earlier), the crush bar and pivot, and the winch (a large servo mated to a .3125” shaft).

Here's a quick note looking back. Modularity and simplicity are king. I drilled a bunch of holes
for 8x32 bolts through my crush bar, knowing that I might need them. Always good for a late in
the game push.

Figure 3. Three component assembly

I actually hooked each of the components to their own sheet of ABS plastic. Then, on the day
before spring break, I brought it in to demonstrate. Well, the ABS was not reinforced and as the
winch cranked down on the can, the boards began to bend. My section leader and I were holding
it down with all of our might, and it shook harder and harder. Then there was a big bang. We all
shielded our eyes. And when we looked back, there was a can, crushed to 2.01” just fitting into
the slot. Beautiful.

*Crush plate note: I was at first going to have a complicated pressing plate that was bracketed to
the crush bar and I realized that a few pieces of angle aluminum and some ABS that was actually
double-sided taped together before being drilled through would do the trick. It has never failed
and did not take that long too build. (ABS and aluminum are easy to sand.) Also, you can see
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the slots on the back of the crush plate assembly. They actually give the crush plate the
functionality of being rotationally adjustable while still having the ABS triangle touching the
main beam and relieving its strain there.

I was told about I beams and trusses as I worked to miniaturize during spring break. This meant
rebuilding to spec some of the pieces I had just thrown together. Here is where I really had to
come to terms with the machine shop. I became more adept at using the Bridgeport manual mill
(and more so through the semester - still learning the User Interface for the CNC) and the lathe.
More of a muscle memory issue, I am glad to have learned two very useful tools that will come
in handy in future design classes and rapid prototyping projects.

Here’s a look at a few of the miniaturized parts that I came out with, my smaller sleeker crush
bar and also the post to which I was going to tie the pulley system.

Figures 4 and 4a. Post and streamlined crush bar

By this point I had also dealt with the issue of interference for crush bar rotation by rounding the
bottom end. I was about to cut a hollow out of my platform when a friend reminded me about
the grinder we had access to.

The shop guys were also entirely instrumental in this learning process. I am so thankful that they
were patient with me as I fumbled around learning to use these tools, another big lesson that I've
once again been shown. The term “machine shop workers” is a dramatic understatement. What
they should be known as are robot assembly and part creation experts that can also work
machines. This reinforced the concept that the people on the ground who work with tools day in
and day out are to be trusted and given the utmost attention. Simply put, no matter how great the
design is, you have to be able to manufacture and assemble it.
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One idea that I had to leave by the wayside was the twisting crush. My system was just too big
and it was too hard to insert into the design. I even designed a system after the fact that would
have also been twisted by the winch, but that would have taken too long. Basically, the can
platform would have screwed into the base. If only I would have thought of it sooner. But time
was passing fast.

Another idea that I killed after a decent amount of work was a pulley system. My thinking was,
“Ok, I've got this great crush bar that gets pulled down, but how does it get back up?” A spring,
you might suggest. “No,” I thought foolishly, “that would detract from my force pulling down.” I
went to the lathe and made several pulleys and constructed an infallible vertical beam to be
mounted to the drive platform. I was about to assemble it, and a friend from my peer review team
suggested the spring again. I protested and he countered with the knowledge that it might detract
up to 10 N (read: 4-ish pounds) from my downward pull system. We mocked it up quickly
(Another huge lesson: Always mock it up if you can, and do so quickly so as to demonstrate the
concept!), and I realized that I had 'wasted' 6+ build hours. Not really wasted because I was
learning the lathe, but a setback nonetheless. However, fewer moving parts are always better,
and looking back, I am very glad that my crush bar does NOT work off of a circular pulley
system. It would have gone around the winch entirely and come back to the front to pull it down.
Simultaneous, yes. Apt to fail, yes.

Figure 5. Complex pulley system

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Figure 6: The spring system – lose 10 N – gain simplicity

I moved on to the platform. Once again, I took the sculptor's approach, just attaching the
mechanism as it existed now to the large piece of plywood we were given.

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Figure 7. Mounting on the platform

This allowed me to begin to conceptualize how it might move. I sought to leave space on the top
platform for getting the can in. So, I decided to put my winch on the bottom. I designed pulleys
to get the string to the underside and went through several revisions. I learned that sometimes
you don't need eye hooks. Sometimes the system is good enough. Though it may not be beautiful,
time and money are to be considered and never forgotten. In this case, time was the biggest

Figure 8. The crush system in action

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Figure 9. Trimmed platform with truss support

Going back to simplicity I crafted my drive servo mounts as simply as possible – a hole in the
support truss, large wheels (increased angular velocity, still decent control, and a high ground
clearance), and NO Gear system. Fewer moving parts = Less Failure.

Figure 10. Drive servo mounts

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Another interesting point, I embedded a few pulleys into the platform that worked just great. I
made them out of Delrin plastic on the lathe and had them spin on steel welding rod. I later
trashed them because the robot was too long for the box.

Figure 11. Motor

Figure 12. Crushed

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Figure 13. Crushed

Upon building the drive system I realized that my car was too wide for the box! This was a re-
evaluation moment. What to do?! Let's minimize what we can. I didn't want to reshape the

Figure 14. On Wheels

platform. What had I not accounted for? Well, I had missed the fact that the wheels were so wide.
I'd already put time into mounting them and didn't want to retreat. But wait a second, did I need
wheels that wide (~1.1”)? No! I turned the plastic wheels down on a lathe, and I mounted the
servos further internally, making the mounting bracket flush with the inside of the support truss.
I gained about 1.4”. Now I could fit inside the box and even back out of it!
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Too wide for the Box

Figure 15. Thinner Wheels

The Robot after Jenny Craig

By this time, I had foregone any preconceived notions of being able to correctly estimate the
time it would take to build components. Big Lesson: Seriously, problems arise, mistakes happen,
and sometimes there are simply improvements needed in the design. Always plan on a 2-3x
multiplier, increasing exponentially with respect to complexity and lack of tools (not a problem
here thankfully).

But there was more to be done. I still had to get the can into place and into the slot.

My section instructor came up with a beautiful geometrically based idea.

So as you can see, you can reel in a can and lower it into place. This actually works. I have done
it. However, there were some issues with how I was grabbing the can.

As you can see in this picture, I thought I could fish for the cans. I felt cool after having made a
hook myself on the corner cutting tool. It was actually quite sharp. However what it possessed in
cool factor and simplicity, it lost in complete lack of weight and control. Also it only reels in and
out. Forget x-y positioning.

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In response to this, I created a weighted grapple hook.

Figure 16. Grapple hook

Cool, yes, I know. But still, it took wayyyyy too long to pick up a can. Though part of this was
just bad driving on my part, it still wasn't reliable. It wasn't solid. Everything else on my robot
was built decently well, at least insofar as it worked the same way every time (with adjustments
and fine-tuning, of course, along the way – set screws never work).

So, here, with a week left. I decided once again to cut my losses and build an arm. I was allowed
2 more servos, not counting the hook spool. And here's where it all fits together. On Saturday
with a week to go, I decided to replace the hook with a sweeping arm and a hand, and they had to
be dirt simple. Because I'd made the crush bar modular, I transferred what had been the hook
spool over and made it the arm driver in a matter of minutes. After an hour or so of tinkering
with the arm I'd cut, I had it. Unbelievable. And only because I'd somewhat planned ahead.
(Initially, I was planning on using an arm to deposit the cans into the slot and also the crush
receptacle. Things stopped going to plan several weeks before the competition.) This allowed me

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Figure 17. Can guide system
Kevin Rustagi

to use my crush handle bar again! Hooray for a smaller parts list. Also, in the picture, notice the
lovely can guide system (curved steel riveted to aluminum angle pieces) as well as the sandpaper
on the wheels for traction.

I attached a simple hand for can grabbing to that, and used a geometric string constraint to turn
the can. Here is a more final picture, and also a graph of my build speed as the term went on.

Figure 18. The Can Crushing Robot

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Figure 18. The Can Crushing Robot – Ready for Action



Time Elapsed Throughout the Semester

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Now I am in the process of fine tuning, and I can't wait for the competition.

I have learned so much from this competition/class. I have learned that without simplicity,
modularity, flexibility, and openness to ideas, all is lost. I had to look at challenges in a new light
and really imagine them moving. I feel that I now have a version of the CAD program
Solidworks in my head. I had to resist the urge to build really nice-looking things, as this would
sometimes be a time sink.

And most of all, I had to really look at what the engineering constraints and tradeoffs were: Size
vs. Maneuverability, Weight vs. Speed vs. Friction, Torque vs. Speed, Mean Energy Output, and
most of all, workarounds. As the saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat. That’s
good, I would add, as long as we're skinning cats, or crushing cans.

I’m looking forward to the competition. With an average of 18 hours/week spent on this class, I
estimate that, with all the light and heavy weeks taken into account that I have put over 150 man-
hours into designing and building this robot. Being able to rethink my design was totally
necessary. And being able to change it in the real world was vital.

-Kevin Rustagi.

Learning Summary

I learned a lot throughout the course of this semester. I learned that working within engineering
limits is not really a constraint, but rather a construct for innovation. I learned that Statics has a
real application. In the structure of my robot, I implemented I-beams and L-brackets in order to
increase the bending moment greatly in order to prevent deformation and displacement. This
helped to preserve the energy going into the can and not into deforming the structure.

I began to understand not only that I had to be able to design something, but I had to learn to
design to be manufactured, at least on a prototype level. There were allowances that had to be
made and edits that had to be done. I had to know exactly how much clearance I needed and
why. Ultimately I had to know the tolerances, and those ultimately came from engineering
calculations. I needed roughly 100 lbs. of force to crush a can.

I also know that the real world contains irregularities, and to account for these, I provided for
adjustments within the building process. These include, but are not limited to, holes drilled
along the crush bar so that I could move the crush plate. Also the grooves in the plate let me
rotate it to change the angle of impact, which dealt with tougher to model shear crushing (seen in
the can above).

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Here are some back of the envelope calculations that I did:

For the crush bar:

Stall torque : 19.8 kg*cm

Radius arm of winch: .794 cm (.3125”)

Force applied by servo ideally from (rxF): 19.8/.794 = 26.26 kgs = 57.89 lbs.

Not Ideal! So use lever arm extension

from the Sum of the Moments about the Pivot P:

Assumptions: that the angle between the pull string and the rod is ~ perpendicular, Also that the
pull force has not been decreased by friction.

Countermeasures to potential issues: Angle the crush plate, Increase the stall torque of the servo
motor by powering it with a 7.6 Lithium Polymer rather than the 4.8V battery this rating is based
on. This will provide for a net gain in Torque and thus, force applied by over >~40%
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Phase Diagram for Hook System:

Problems with this Design: What happens to the hook? Do you ever let go of the can? Why not
use duct tape to hold the can? IS the hook reliable and what about redundancy?
Countermeasures: Make the hook heavy, perhaps with guy wires for specific X-Y orientation (on
top of the freedom given from driving, not fine enough a task for hooking the can.)
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End Verdict: Not reliable enough - go with an arm and a claw.

Redundancy is very important. The mechanism has to work the same way every time. That’s
why I decided to go with a claw. It is simply much more reliable. Also, I can begin to restrict
it’s movement with push clips and the spool that lets it reel down. Also with the claw I can set
the max opening to a certain distance.

Specifically holding up this new arm was a challenge. Again, Statics came to the rescue. Here
are just a few calculations that allowed me to get a hold of the situation.

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This use of the same axis for the pickup arm along with the mounting of it on an axle already in
use demonstrates the idea of minimizing part count. Fewer parts mean less things that can
potentially fail and interact with other mechanisms poorly. Also, you’ll notice in the final
picture that the U where the can be picked up is quite large, illustrating the concept that due to
real world shakes (in this case poor driving on my part) must be accounted for by very high
tolerances. One flaw, is that with my system, one must still pickup the can while upright. The
can being upright is not a small piece of concern.

And the fact that I left the design open to change until the very end meant just that, as in the
instance of the hook vs. the arm when I decided to change with less than a week left.

Overall, I feel that I have learned a lot from this class. Building things quickly and creatively,
the value of fewer moving parts, how a notebook should really be kept, and how a system might
bend and where the energy goes. It showed me how to apply engineering concepts, and I’m not
afraid of the next Apple interview (messed up the technical earlier this semester). I’m game.

Now I know where ether engineering tradeoffs come into play. Sure you may get more torque,
but you’re getting less angular velocity. How much do you really need? Lever arms are also a

My sincere thanks go to everyone who worked with me on this class. I really appreciate it.

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