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Choosing a machine shop (Re: How important is a machine shop

Posted by Ken Leung at 05/24/2001 10:52 PM EST


College Student on team #192, Gunn Robotics Team, from Henry M. Gunn Senior High School.



The machine shop can be seen as a tool for the team to have meaningful experience in the competition. There are different kind of teams that will need different size of machine shop for building the robot, ranging from first years to experienced teams, and different degree of engineers support and budget.

The amount of machine shop usage should be determined at the beginning of the year when the teams are planning ahead for the competition. First year teams usually have to go looking for a machine shop, while some experienced teams have to find another shop due to some difficulties, and the others continue using their old shop while considering possible upgrades.

Now, the question between need and necessity¡K Couple of questions should be considered before getting into specific tools are: How big/complex of a machine shop you can afford? What kind of people will be operating the machines? What kind of robotics we are aiming to build? How much designing can your team do?

I consider hand tools and supplies to be needs for a team in order to build a robot, so the rest of the question is about what kind of power tools teams needs. As I said, it all depends on the team. There are teams like my old team 192 where their objective is a robot build by the students, and in the process the students will learn the usage of all the power tools. So in their machine shop students are the operators of the tools, which mean training in the beginning of the year of simple tools that high school student can easily learn to use. There are also rookie teams like the one GRT mentored who have access to a fine machine shop, but ended up only using some simple tools to build a simple robot because of the lack of experience in the group.

I believe teams should first look for places where it¡¦s most convenient for them. Then look at the available space and money to determine if additional tools can be bought. And make sure there are people who know how to use them. The size of the shop can be determined by many variables: Maybe the place isn¡¦t big enough for many tools, maybe getting new or used machines are too expensive, maybe there are all these machines but on one know how to use it, maybe as a first year team they will never design a complicated robot, etc.

That is why a lot of people have different answers about what kind of machine shop they have and what machines they think are necessary. It¡¦s because different teams have different ways of running their programs. Some have professional shops such as the Delphi teams like 45 and 47, some have their own shops like 237 and 192, and some have really limited access to shops like 419.

And you know what? Those teams all have competitive robots from time to time. So, my opinion is that teams should not push to have high-end tools just because they see some teams have great looking robot. They should choose the right shop and the right tool base on location and condition of the team.

Well, these are just some of my believes after doing FIRST in the shop for three years¡K Please feel free to correct me.



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what type of machine to use...

Posted by Ken Leung at 05/24/2001 11:49 PM EST


College Student on team #192, Gunn Robotics Team, from Henry M. Gunn Senior High School.


In Reply to: Choosing a machine shop (Re: How important is a machine shop
Posted by Ken Leung on 05/24/2001 10:52 PM EST:



There was a question about What tools do people think are necessary to build a competitive robot? Well, here are some thoughts that went through my mind as I was thinking about the question¡K

Basic hand tools such as wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, hack saw, tap sets are required to build a robot, and basic power hand tools such as hand drill, and dermel are highly needed if not required.

Simple Power tools such as Drill Press, Sanders, Band saw, Grinders are tools that students can easily learn and use, and will become a big part of their learning experience. Those tools are cheap to maintain and/or acquire, and take up little room. Modification of materials can be made through these tools, but not as much fabricating complex parts. They will teach students about basic manufacturing, at the same time provide accurate machining for the robot compare to free hand.

Mill and Lathe requires a bit of training and practice for the students to understand those tools and fully take advantage of. All kind of parts can be fabricated with the appropriate attachment. They are highly recommended for a more complex robot and to advance students. A real sense of manufacturing is given to the operators because these two machines are capable of making all kinds of parts by slot/plain milling, facing, turning, center hole drilling¡K etc. Basically they cut parts with simple shape of rectangles and circles in 3D by moving the parts around or spinning it really fast. ;-) Of course a mill can also be seen as a more accurate drill press.

Welding (not really a tool, but rather a technique) is just a way of attaching metal pieces together without fasteners. They are more reliable because the welds are sometimes stronger than the metal itself. If correctly designed, the welded parts can be really reliable, compare to possible failures of fasteners. The one negative about welding is that it is not as flexible as fasteners, which makes them not recommendable for prototyping. Of course a skilled welder is needed.

Finally, machines with Computer Numerical Control or more advance method of machining such as wire EDM can only be operated by professionals, which are not recommended to student. With the correct programming and operators, these machines can fabricate parts automatically, making the operator¡¦s life much easier if he/she is to make 100¡¦s of triangle cheese holes on a long piece of metal. Because they are computer controlled, complicated shapes such as gears can be made. Their advantages are quick in repetitive manufacturing and complex machining.

Now, the part I like the best about tools is that there are no set tools for making a part with certain purpose. What I mean is that when the designers are coming up with parts for the robot, they usually design the parts while thinking about the tools available. It is really useful if manufacturing is considered during the design, because once the parts is thought out, people will know exactly how to build it. Since there are so many varieties of tools, people can consider using existing small parts and modify them with simple tools like drill press and band saw, or they can make a fresh new part out of raw material using mills and lathe. Sometimes a mill can do a really good job on a piece while a grinder will produce a similar result within tolerance.

My point is that there are no really necessary tools when building a robot. You can always go around the conventional way and figure something else. Do not let the tools limit your stretch of imagination when designing, and the design limit your usage of different equipments. As Joe J. said, most engineers make decisions base on what they are most comfortable with. What I learned in a machine shop is that there are no rules that dictate how you do things around the shop. Enjoy that freedom, and have fun making whatever you want.

So, to answer the question about what tools necessary for a competitive robot¡K I say all tools that your team is most comfortable with. I don¡¦t deny that tools like drill press and band saw are needs, yet I believe that with enough energy and ingenuity from the team, a great robot can be built. Work around in the system, not against the system. If you have certain great tools, fine, take full advantage of it. If not, that¡¦s fine too, design something else that can be made easier.

Have fun!

Again, please correct me if I said anything wrong



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We have our own shop

Posted by Andy Baker at 05/25/2001 9:16 AM EST


Engineer on team #45, TechnoKats, from Kokomo High School and Delphi Automotive Systems.


In Reply to: Choosing a machine shop (Re: How important is a machine shop
Posted by Ken Leung on 05/24/2001 10:52 PM EST:



: Some have professional shops such as the Delphi teams like 45 and 47, some have their own shops like 237 and 192, and some have really limited access to shops like 419.

By all means, we do not have a professional shop. We have our own shop. Our shop consists of 2 mills, 2 lathes, 2 band saws, 2 drill presses, a small sheet metal break, a small sheet metal cutter, a grinder, and a welding station. Also, we have enough room for an office area, storage, and a full playing field.

We rarely use "professional" skilled trades shop time for our robot. This year, we used about 10 hours of their time for some complex welding.

Our students make 80% of our parts for the robot, and the other 20% is made by adults (engineers, teachers, or parents) in our team's shop, with students assisting... so, no, we don't have a professional shop. We are to the point where many of our students are better fabricators than I am (which isn't saying much).

Coincidentally, we set up this shop in '98... that's when we started having some competition success in FIRST. Having our shop had a lot to do with our success.

Andy B.


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sorry about that...

Posted by Ken Leung at 05/25/2001 11:22 AM EST


College Student on team West Coast FIRST-a-holic Anonymous from University of California, Berkeley.


In Reply to: We have our own shop
Posted by Andy Baker on 05/25/2001 9:16 AM EST:



Well, I was just trying to suggest different kinds of shops teams have. Sorry about making that comment without fully knowing the background.

It's just that when you were telling about handing shaft couplings to machinists to attach shafts to the drill motor gear box that I got the wrong impression... And the way team 45's robot is so nicely done.


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Re: We have our own shop

Posted by Dave Beck at 05/25/2001 11:44 AM EST


Coach on team #103, Cybersonics, from Palisades High School and Amplifier Research and Lutron Electronics.


In Reply to: We have our own shop
Posted by Andy Baker on 05/25/2001 9:16 AM EST:



We also have our own shop and depend on students to do 70-80% of the work. The remainder of the work is done
by our technical support staff of engineers, parents, and other volunteers. All of this work is done in our shop. In addition to what having a mill, 2 lathes, welding capabilities, band saws etc, we have a computerized router table.

: : Some have professional shops such as the Delphi teams like 45 and 47, some have their own shops like 237 and 192, and some have really limited access to shops like 419.

: By all means, we do not have a professional shop. We have our own shop. Our shop consists of 2 mills, 2 lathes, 2 band saws, 2 drill presses, a small sheet metal break, a small sheet metal cutter, a grinder, and a welding station. Also, we have enough room for an office area, storage, and a full playing field.

: We rarely use "professional" skilled trades shop time for our robot. This year, we used about 10 hours of their time for some complex welding.

: Our students make 80% of our parts for the robot, and the other 20% is made by adults (engineers, teachers, or parents) in our team's shop, with students assisting... so, no, we don't have a professional shop. We are to the point where many of our students are better fabricators than I am (which isn't saying much).

: Coincidentally, we set up this shop in '98... that's when we started having some competition success in FIRST. Having our shop had a lot to do with our success.

: Andy B.


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Re: We have our own shop

Posted by Anne Lam at 05/27/2001 7:50 PM EST


Student on team #368, Kika Mana, from McKinley High School and HECO, NASA Aimes, Weinberg Foundation.


In Reply to: We have our own shop
Posted by Andy Baker on 05/25/2001 9:16 AM EST:



Team #368 has a shop, but we only have basic tools like drill presses, bandsaws, et cetra. For more complicated things like milling and lathing we had to borrow a machinist's shop, which fortunately was only a couple of blocks from school. And for even more complicated tasks like welding or cutting thick or wide pieces of metal we had to take our robot and or parts to a university shop, which could be a real hassle as you can imagine. This incidentally had cost us some construction time. Not having a professional machine shop is not a big deal to us since we could find ways to go about getting it done, but having one would definitely save us a lot of unnecessary time taking the robot all around and risk getting it damaged.




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Re: We have our own shop

Posted by Anthony S. at 05/29/2001 8:46 PM EST


Student on team #442, Knight Riders, from Lee High School and NASA/BOEING/MEVATEC.


In Reply to: Re: We have our own shop
Posted by Anne Lam on 05/27/2001 7:50 PM EST:



My team was really blessed to have access to 2 machine shops and a full playing field. That also had a lot to do with our success. We also had a HUGE box in our pit that lots of teams took advantage of. I really hope we have the same advantages.

Anthony Steele II
Team 442
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LoL, we're spolied with ours

Posted by Tom Fairchild at 05/26/2001 11:24 AM EST


Student on team #122, The NASA Knights, from New Horizon's Regional Education Center and NASA Langley Research Center.


In Reply to: Choosing a machine shop (Re: How important is a machine shop
Posted by Ken Leung on 05/24/2001 10:52 PM EST:



Our team (122) is lucky enough to have relatively unlimited access to NASA Langley's Machine Shop and all of its machines, including their new five-access millers. Its been REALLY useful to have during the past year.
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Yes you are!

Posted by Carolyn Duncan at 05/29/2001 8:25 AM EST


Student on team #495, The Pack, from Jamestown High School and VBEP/Raytheon/Saic.


In Reply to: LoL, we're spolied with ours
Posted by Tom Fairchild on 05/26/2001 11:24 AM EST:



Brag,Brag. We work with NASA. Our mentors are cool. Ya know I'm just jokin' w/ ya. Ya'll's Robot was really cool. Just goes to show how helpful, not necessary, a shop is. 495 is proof that no shop is a disaster.
C-ya,
Carolyn

: Our team (122) is lucky enough to have relatively unlimited access to NASA Langley's Machine Shop and all of its machines, including their new five-access millers. Its been REALLY useful to have during the past year.


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Re: My team was also Blessed

Posted by Anthony S. at 05/29/2001 8:27 PM EST


Student on team #442, Knight Riders, from Lee High School and NASA/BOEING/MEVATEC.


In Reply to: LoL, we're spolied with ours
Posted by Tom Fairchild on 05/26/2001 11:24 AM EST:



My team was also blessed to had access to a machine shop, if we didn't, one of our main features of our robot would not have been made. It was constructed the last night of the 6 weeks and they worked all night into the next day. So we were really blessed. We also constructed a full playing field to practice on right outside the Machine Shop. We were really lucky. I hope we have the same advantages next year. Have a nice summer.

Anthony Steele II
Team 442
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