Like any great project this one started with a pure and noble purpose: To improve my badminton skills to outperform my older brother. We've always played together and were fairly closely matched, but that all changed when I took a few years off and returned a feeble opponent. Having previously had a very brief opportunity to train at the wonderful BC Drop Shot in Netherlands (https://www.bcdropshot.nl/nl/), I knew that I needed to add skills training to my routine instead of just playing matches. Since the Netherlands is too far a commute from Canada I was left with only one possible option: to buy or build a robot friend to train me.
At first I searched online for opportunities to purchase one and there are some impressive offerings but they're mostly geared towards high performance clubs with price tags that match (>$2K). On the lower end there's a cheap option for around $200 available under a number of brand labels, but it's treated as a disposable item that cannot be serviced and provides little control over the shots.
Eventually I came across a impressive open source project by Benoit Greslebin called Baddy where he designed and built a launcher along with apps to control it. Ready to buy and build I headed to purchase a kit only to find that the project is defunct with no available parts, support, and only much older project designs on-line.
I could have stopped there, but every great story has a setback and where would that leave me? No, I had to proceed on my own. So I took the features of Baddy I liked and started designing a launcher from the ground up to be even more capable and accessible.
From this the project goals were formed:
- Low Cost - Somewhere between the cheap and professional options.
- Feature Rich - Examples:
- Maximum Court Coverage - Include head rotation & shot trajectory to allow a wide variety of shots.
- Adjustable Shot Positions - Ensure the user can reprogram shot positions based on their shuttle type & training needs.
- Adjustable Shot Patterns - User can set a shot sequence & delay.
- Portable - Since this will not stay at a club it needs to be easy to transport & set up.
- Mostly 3D Printed - With the explosion of 3D printers this makes the project more accessible.
- No phone apps - Having dabbled in these before I knew I didn't want to spend my time and money maintaining apps for Android & IOS forever after.
- Safe - While a machine like this will always have some risk I wanted to make it as safe as I could reasonably make it.
Project goals in hand I was ready to get started.