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Overcoming three assembly challenges to build better robots.

student at FIRST robotics event

How do we build better robotics products?

In today’s manufacturing landscape, we are constantly being challenged to work smarter. With the rising cost of fuel and raw materials, we must find ways to be lighter without being weaker. With access to new materials that can do new things, we must devise new ways to fit them into our processes.

We believe these trends will only continue to gain momentum. Today’s youth must be equipped with the skills to excel in tomorrow’s industry.

That’s why we love the FIRST Robotics competition. In many ways, this program is a small-scale version of our manufacturing industry – and it’s equipping students with the knowledge and skills they need to overcome real industry challenges.

FIRST Robotics Competition: building a robot fit for advanced manufacturing.

The FIRST Robotics Competition engages teams of high school students to build and battle robots. Teams face one another in challenges, where their robots must perform specific tasks on a field to score points.

The theme for the 2018 First Robotics Competition was “Power Up!” Although the graphics were reminiscent of an 8-bit arcade video game, the robots were anything but retro.

Amongst other things, the robots needed to have a climbing mechanism. As you can imagine, this meant that weight and durability (especially in case of a fall) were key considerations.

As sponsors of the Western University District competition in our Canadian hometown, we provided tools and guidance to support local students through the competition. With a little help on our part, and a great deal of ingenuity on theirs, they overcame many of the same challenges facing Canadian manufacturers today.

WATCH: FIRST Robotics Competition students share their tips for building a robot fit for battle.

Three common challenges of building a robot, and how teams overcame them.

1. Practical durability.

No robot can exist without its precious electrical circuits. The outer structures need to be strong enough to protect the electrical system from collisions on the battlefield, but also flexible enough to provide access so students can make improvements and repairs.

Team FRC 3739 – the “Oakbotics” – used a carbon final top panel to provide structural integrity. In the past, they would fasten it with zip ties, breaking and refastening them as needed throughout the competition. However, the bond wasn’t very secure and constant refastening took up a lot of their time.

This year, they upgraded to 3M™ Hook and Loop Fasteners. This product helped create a more secure bond, and that they could be removed and replaced as needed - without worrying about it getting loose or falling off.

2. Bonding dissimilar metals.

To reduce weight without reducing strength, the FIRST Robotics Competition teams used a variety of different materials.

Team FRC 3739, for example, used multiple types of aluminum and composites, like carbon fibre. When it came time to assemble the robot, this ruled out fastening methods like welding or rivets, which can’t attach dissimilar materials. 

Instead, the team used 3M™ VHB™ Tape. Unlike rivets and welds, this viscoelastic tape can effectively attach different materials.

3. Safety.

With advanced manufacturing concepts comes advanced safety considerations. When working with so many processes and materials – especially electronics – safety is a must. The FIRST Robotics Competition has very strict standards, and each robot has to be inspected before it can participate.

For Team 3739, their robot has various conductive elements, including the aluminium chassis and carbon fibre panel. To secure their electrical leads and insulate their wiring, the students used 3M™ Vinyl Electrical Tape. This product provided them with a reliable solution that could help prevent electrical hazards and maintain continuous power.


While building the robot, they also used reusable respirators and protective eyewear from 3M, to help protect themselves during welding and sanding processes.

Learn more: priming today’s youth for the tomorrow’s manufacturing industry.

Today, a better robot. Tomorrow, a brighter future.

Needless to say, the work done by these FIRST Robotics Competition students was impressive. With just a little bit of help, they were able to engineer solutions to many of the same problems professionals are facing on the job today.

This is just one small example of the power we can give today’s students to impact tomorrow’s industry. Sign up for our newsletter to learn about other ways we’re helping to put a brighter future within reach.


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Bonding and assembly solutions.