Budget to Build Your Own BattleBot

Robots are a global fascination. The Defense Department has spent untold fortunes to create bi-pedal machine soldiers, Paramount’s Transformers franchise has generated billions in profits for the studio, and the long-loved show BattleBots is coming back on air this summer.
Battlebot hero

BattleBots are exactly what they sound like: gladiator machines designed for brutal arena death matches. And the culture around them extends beyond the TV show. It’s a full-on industry, complete with a fairly lucrative competition circuit and a surprisingly popular subreddit.

BattleBots range in size and scope. In the competition world, they are subdivided as Lightweight, Middleweight, Heavyweight, and, coming in at over 340 pounds: Superheavyweight. By all appearances, designs for the killer robots have been limited only by human imagination. Some utilize electric saws, others swing wrecking balls or swords. There’s at least one two-legged dinobot complete with razor jaws. Not to mention a fair number with flamethrowers.

You don’t need to be a mad scientist to build one of these bionic beauties, either. Whether you want to create a lightweight BattleBot with a chainsaw horn, or an axe-wielding heavyweight with spiked armor, if you dream it, you can make it.

Use this guide to get an idea of all the different components you’ll need, then start thinking about exactly what you want to build. Here are the basics of everything you’ll need.

Battlebot 2

Via Flickr

The tools

When it comes to building a BattleBot, remember that you’re building a machine, so you’re going to need tools beyond your standard hammer and nails. You’ll need utilities that can cut and drill through metal, not to mention melting it together. Specifically, you’ll need electric saws, a drill press with a range of drill bits, a soldering iron, a welder, and a sheet-metal brake so you can easily bend and fold metal into the shape you need for the frame.

Machinist tools

Frame and armor

The holy grail of BattleBot frames and armor is titanium. It’s even more durable than steel, and insanely lightweight. However, it’s expensive and difficult to work with. Most designs utilize aluminum. It’s not the sturdiest metal in the world, but it is incredibly strong considering its low weight. You can order sheets of the metal in a variety of sizes. Once you have your design for your BattleBot sketched, it should be easy to determine how much you’ll need.

Aluminum framing


LiPo (or lithium polymer) batteries are the most commonly used in the BattleBot world, prized especially for their light weight, ability to pack a lot of power, and high discharge rate. The size you buy will depend on the size of your BattleBot. Remember, unless you know some hacks for supercharging a little robot with a big battery, keep your power pack size proportionate to the frame of your robot. Controlled size and weight are key in the arena.

Lithium polymer battery pack


Here we’re getting into what really makes your BattleBot tick. The motor determines your robo-warrior’s speed, strength, stamina, resilience—all the biggest attributes you could imagine. When it comes to choosing the right motor for your battlebot, remember that the more lightweight the better, and you’ll want something that fits snugly inside the frame. Even better if there’s room inside for extra armor or cushioning around the motor to protect it from heavy blows. Brushless motors, the newer technology in the field, seem to be the favorite for BattleBot enthusiasts because of their light weight and awesome performance, but they are more expensive than the old-fashioned brushed motors.

BattleBot motor

BattleBot weapon

Now’s the time to let your imagination run wild. The weapon will probably play a major role in the name of your newborn BattleBot as well. Is your creation going to be crushing opponents with a heavy-hitting mallet or a hard-chopping axe? What if it utilizes some sort of flipping mechanism so it can send opponents flying into the air, smashing to bits when they hit the concrete? Dare we suggest a flamethrower? Whatever your weapon of choice, just make sure your motor can handle it.

BattleBot weapon

Controller and receiver

The controller and receiver are simultaneously the most important and most overlooked aspects of your BattleBot. Without them, you can’t make your glorious creation move. Or do anything, really. To bring your BattleBot to life, experts recommend an RC controller with three to four channels to specifically handle your machine’s movement and control its weapon. Go for something shelf-ready, as well, to keep things nice and easy. The reason you see most BattleBot owners controlling their warriors from the sidelines with clunky RC, rather than, say, a converted PS4 controller, is because they would have to customize the interface. And nobody has time for that when there are battles to be had!

RC controller

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Main image licensed under Creative Commons, via Flickr

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