Bearings Make for a Killer Bot

Nov. 7, 2008
Who would have thought something as ordinary as a bearing could spark a person’s imagination?
Bishop-Wisecarver Corp.,

DualVee bearings from Bishop-Wisecarver Corp., Pittsburg, Calif., did exactly that for Jamie Hyneman when he was building a fighting robot. This was long before he became a TV personality on the show MythBusters. He says designing the robot started with an idea and the imaginative use of pieces and parts.

The bearing’s elegant design and unusual grooved edge really caught his eye, according to Hyneman. He put the bearings to work in “Blendo,” a fighting robot that used centrifugal force to conquer opponents. Basing his design on an inertial weapon concept, he built the robot with a lawnmower engine and a Chinese wok.

Hyneman added stubby blades to the wok’s exterior, and bolted the whole thing to a steel ring that formed Blendo’s perimeter. He then mounted 12 DualVee bearings to the robot’s beveled chassis edge. The bearings kept the spinning mass centered on the chassis and let it withstand impacts.

”To accomplish the same thing with normal bearings would have required a more-complex design,” says Hyneman. “I would have had to have two bearings perched at an angle, which would have been complicated from a mounting point of view. In this case, all I had to do was give the grooved bearings a vertical axis and mount them on a circular flywheel. It was a simple and robust design.”

The exterior spun at 500 rpm, powering Blendo’s sinister spin and blades that sliced through the competition at 80 mph. Blendo’s exterior and blades worked as the robot’s armor and weapon — the only way to hurt it was to hammer, penetrate, or flip it over.

Easier said than done, says Hyneman. Blendo’s opponents at San Francisco’s Robot Wars and Comedy Central’s BattleBots quickly learned that hitting a spinning object means your weapon is going to fly and then crash to pieces. Battles with Blendo ended in mere seconds. Hyneman’s robot was eventually ruled so dangerous and unstoppable that event organizers banned it from the scene.

In addition to DualVee bearings, Blendo also used a Chinese wok as a body and a lawnmower engine to spin it.

DualVee grooved bearings gave the fighting robot “Blendo” stability. The insert shows how the bearing wheels typically ride on edged Vee tracks.

Sponsored Recommendations

Pumps Push the Boundaries of Low Temperature Technology

June 14, 2024
As an integral part of cryotechnology, KNF pumps facilitate scientific advances in cryostats, allowing them to push temperature boundaries and approach absolute zero.

The entire spectrum of drive technology

June 5, 2024
Read exciting stories about all aspects of maxon drive technology in our magazine.


May 15, 2024
Production equipment is expensive and needs to be protected against input abnormalities such as voltage, current, frequency, and phase to stay online and in operation for the ...

Solenoid Valve Mechanics: Understanding Force Balance Equations

May 13, 2024
When evaluating a solenoid valve for a particular application, it is important to ensure that the valve can both remain in state and transition between its de-energized and fully...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Machine Design, create an account today!