View Full Version : "Modelling" for bot builders

09-30-2008, 06:24 AM
My mech is going to be built from a variety of components, from metal brackets, to plastic and metal servo cases, to lexan structural components, etc....

Is there any good resources out there for making the robot look good?

(e.g., how do you fill in gaps between two angled lexan pieces? How do you prime and paint the various surfaces? How do you add and blend in other elements like 'vents' and other aestetic items? How do you vacuum form things?)

I am hoping that some of the more artistic bot builders can maybe contribute their favorite 'how to' sites in making bots look good, or where is a good place to start.


09-30-2008, 08:09 AM
Maybe a fiberglass shell over the robot (if it is really thin, it has the added effect of simulating battle damage, but will probably need patching...)


09-30-2008, 10:18 AM
You might look into some model airplanes or other model military machines. I'm sure a decent amount of armor parts could be cut and reused on your bot, such as vents, antenna, etc. Might be a bit spendy but would certainly be pretty easy.

09-30-2008, 11:48 AM
I've done a fair bit of modelling, but mostly either stayed to small scale models, or used simple items like plasticard / cardboard / plaster etc.

For vacforming though, the proces supposedly isn't that hard.
Most of the work goes into the molds, which you could produce from practically anything that can withstand a bit of heat (wood, plaster, baked clay, combinations of the afore mentioned,..)

Fibreglass is another option, but generally a lot messier. I think our Wall-E building friend can tell you a lot more about fibreglass than I can though :)

09-30-2008, 12:24 PM
Sienna: Thanks elios, Yes I have spent most of my life making models that fly, so a fair amount of own design and scale appearance in my models has been done. With Mech wars it's a little different as it depends on how you want to protect your bot from REAL damage, also weight is going to be a factor. Building for strength is one thing, building your bot to make it look good is another. First, to build for strength, You have a number of materials that can be used, I work in the boating industry where we use the most up to date carbon/Kevlar technology,[http://www.uscomposites.com/hybrids.html ]This is the ultimate strength materials, but at a cost,weight, Although you can make very light skins with this material as I am going to do on ED209. F/G is also cool to use with the right cloth, the key when using these materials is not to have the cloth being used wetted out to much, this makes the structure to weak, just enough resin to fill the cloth and you have a strong and light plastic. With carbon the same applies, but I like the box weave for this, as the name applies the carbon strands are at 90 degrees to each other. As well as being strong it also has a nice appearance, a range of colors make it appealing to the eye. The one I really like is the carbon/Kevlar hybrid one where you have the weave is zig zag but alternating with each other, caron/Kevlar, at 150 grams this is a nice piece of armor for a bot if kept light, HOWEVER, there is a drawback, Kevlar is an ass to cut and sand, you need ceramic scissors to cut the damn stuff and sanding the edges is a pain [trade off]. There is another product called shapelock, GWJax sent me some to use as a sample,[http://shapelock.com/] It's plastic pellets that you put into hot water and they melt forming a pliable plastic that you can shape to anything you want, even roll it out to a required thickness and put it over a former to the shape you want, let it set and cut it as required.this is also very strong.So, Seinna there are a number of products you can use. As for parts to fit on your mech, again you can use other products as Tyberius has stated, but at a cost. I generally make my own out of anything I can find material wise then mold my own molds to make the final product. I have quite an elaborate vacum forming machine that I have not long built, but have not done enough on it to make any real comments here, but will do some more on this over the coming months. Hope this has helped out a bit.

As for weathering or battle look, I use an airbrush with authentic humbrol paints and when I have finished the look that I want i mix 25% gray primer paint to Satin or flt varnish and spray the whole model, this tones down the colors and gives it that weathered look. Example here of my Focke Wolf A8 190.
When I get some spare time guys I will do a tutorial on finishing techniques.


This model was entirely painted with an airbrush using authentic humbrol tins 13 colors were used and all the makings were stenciled using an airbrush, lots of reverse stencils were used. weight added with this technique was minimal.

09-30-2008, 01:44 PM
I always look to "Instructables" when I have questions about processes I'm interested in. I was just reading this: http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-good%2c-cheap%2c-upgradeable-sheet-plastic-vacu (http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-a-good%2c-cheap%2c-upgradeable-sheet-plastic-vacu) the other day. Cheap vacuforming. It really is quite a trivial process, with so much possibility...

09-30-2008, 06:05 PM
That is also a cool site Adrenalynn, I also use that a lot, Forgot to mention it though. Thanks for adding it.

09-30-2008, 08:39 PM
When I get some spare time guys I will do a tutorial on finishing techniques.

Oh yeah. Definitely looking forward to that. I've done a little bit of basic (one color) automotive painting (many years ago), but never had much success at model finishing.

That reminds me, I have a wood finishing question for you too. Taking that one to PM tho, since it's so far off topic :)

09-30-2008, 08:48 PM
I wouldn't whack a thread discussing it in either Mechanics and Construction or even in General Robotics, Rudolph. Wood is most certainly a "qualified robot building material" and I think it'd hold a general interest - I'd be interested, 'cause I find all that stuff cool. I generally don't have enough patience to make my stuff "pretty", but I'm always interested in the techniques.

09-30-2008, 09:06 PM
My only concern was that it's not remotely robot oriented (rum/ale proofing a wooden drinking vessel ;)

09-30-2008, 09:07 PM
Unless you're building a rum-bringing-robot. :D

Steve Garrison
10-16-2008, 12:04 AM
Clear lexan looks really good by painting the inside surface.

10-16-2008, 04:29 AM
I go along with that Steve, works good for me.

heavy metal
11-27-2008, 02:59 PM
I'm a vacuum former(have a real vacuum former and a lexan dryer too). Not one of the cheaper makeshift types. If I can help, let me know. Once you have your molds, you can pull multiple copies for different paint jobs, damage replacement, etc. Bondo works good for molds, it's cheap, easy to sand and shape. Great for prototyping, but for a permenent mold you need a thermally stable material. Like a urethane casting material, costly but can take the repeated heat cycles that would eventually kill bondo or other types of temp molds. Also needs to be able to withstand about 20lbs of vacuum pressure. I just ordered a Bioloid comprehensive kit and plan on some type of a suit for him...we'll see.:veryhappy: