2022 Season - what should we get now?

Hi,

I hope to make our 2022 season a success!

We are a rookie team +1, having competed in two 2019 events (with a largely wooden robot) and two off-season events in 2018 and 2019.

We continue to have limited resources and would like to get some advice on what we should stockup on as we prepare for 2022. We have a few things, fasteners, some 1.5 x 2" rectangular tubing, a small number of Falcon motors and baby NEOs, a few cylinders and solenoids, and materials from 1-and-a-half kits-of-parts.

Here is my hypothetical: If we have some $$ to spend on stocking up / getting ready, what should we acquire by way of tools, materials, AndyMark/Studica or Vex or Rev parts? Prioritizing this would be helpful - many of our team members are aging out so it seems that this will be a reboot of our rookie season. We are running grade 9 and a grade 11 robots courses, so some funding may serve the dual purpose of meeting learning/curricular expectations and FRC competition needs. I already have a pretty good idea about known competition-related costs and related additional costs can be estimated, so advice on tools, materials and parts are particularly useful. But, if there are some other surprise expenses that teams often overlook, please share that too - thank you.

2 Likes

Tool-wise, Spectrum’s FIRST $1000 and FIRST $10,000 lists are the go-to for high priority items on very tight or slightly larger budgets.

11 Likes

For a classroom, I think you’re on the right track. We dipped our toe into the UltraPlanetary ecosystem in 2021, and we were highly impressed. For a NEO 550 of up to about 30:1, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat it on price or size or weight. And for non-competition work, you can totally leave the stock HD Hex motor on there and run for even less.

The Spectrum Guide to the FRC MCC was what really lit a fire under the Pandamaniacs, and it has buying recommendations that I would wholeheartedly cosign. In particular: Keystone 4337 brackets from Digi-Key. Those things have probably saved the Pandamaniacs triple-digit labor hours since we first used them in 2019.

Also: Save some money for the November/December timeframe. I don’t know what will come out, but I have hope that something new will come out. It’s a bit of a gamble on new things; we usually sit out new motors and controllers to avoid stock shortages and let others determine the limits and potential. But on the flip side, we adopted Versaroller in its first year and it’s shown up on every single 1293 robot at some point. It’s good to have that room for options.

2 Likes

Bumper materials. We always overlook the time (more than the budget) that good bumpers take to make. Budget-wise, it can be difficult to find the correct fabric at a local fabric store. So, purchasing ahead of time is a good idea. Also, plywood is exorbitant right now.

I guess along those lines, being particular and as consistent as you can about fasteners can be helpful. We are always running out of the fasteners we use most.

3 Likes

I helped start my team in our rookie year back in 2019, and through the years, these are the things I found myself wishing we had on hand most, and often overnight ordering in the middle of the season. Could have saved a lot of money and frustration if we had these on hand to begin with.

  • Get some thinwall 1x1 and especially 1x2” tubing (1/16”, or 0.050” VersaFrame from VEX if you’re willing to splurge a little). 1x2” tubing is by far the most common size used in FRC, and more or less all COTS parts are designed with that in mind. Buy this from a local distributor if possible - shipping is expensive for metal stock.

I would recommend having a decent stock of #10-32 fasteners, and some 1/4”-20. (#10-32 for general use, and then 1/4”-20 for tapping into the ends of thunderhex shaft).

  • I like to stock cap head #10-32 and button head 1/4”-20, so that they both use the same hex size - 5/32” (or even 4mm will work, it’s within a few thousandths of 5/32”).
  • I would start with maybe 3/8”, 1/2”, 3/4”, 1”, 1 1/4”, 1 1/2”, 1 3/4”, 2”, 2 1/2”, and 3” lengths for #10-32 and 1/2”, 3/4”, and 1” for 1/4”-20? And of course plenty of nuts and washers. A bag of 100 of each of those sizes will probably run you about $150 or so on https://www.boltdepot.com/, with shipping.
  • If you’d like to save some money, can probably cut out the larger sizes of #10-32.
  • These will almost certainly not be all the sizes you need in a whole season, but I find it’s worthwhile to start here and order any random sizes you may need from https://www.mcmaster.com/ - they have a much larger selection and faster shipping, but are more expensive.
  • For reference - my team placed a massive order that included a much, much wider variety of sizes and bolt threads, and it ran us about $550. I wouldn’t recommend starting with trying to get every bolt size you can imagine needing.

Definitely stock plenty of blind rivets. These are much cheaper, lighter, and easier than bolts. I recommend 3/16” rivets, but I know some teams use 5/32”.

  • I use mostly 1/8”-1/4”, as in, I would buy like 1000 of them. Maybe some 1/4”-3/8” as well, 250 or so.
  • I’d recommend using https://www.blindrivetsupply.com/ for this.

Stock up on some bearings and shafts.

  • My team uses a lot of 1/2” thunderhex and 3/8” tube axle from VEX - it’s more expensive but we find the convenience to be well worth it - can use round bearings and the ends can be tapped to 1/4”-20 for easily constraining things on the shaft.
  • buy bearings from https://www.thethriftybot.com/.
  • We use quite a bit of 13.75mm ID flanged, I would buy maybe 20 of these
  • We also use a decent amount of 3/8” ID flanged for “dead axle” shafts with the 3/8” tube shaft. Maybe get 10-20 of these as well, although that’s more down to preference and your team’s design style.

I would say that’s the main stuff in the way of stocking up for the season. The rest of the things depend on your design style - you may want to get some shaft collars, bearing blocks and parts like that, but I find stocking those to get prohibitively expensive and it’s just worthwhile to just go ahead and overnight ship as needed.

If your team has access to CNC machines, stock up on some 0.09” (or so) aluminum sheet for gussets, otherwise, I’d recommend buying some gussets from thethriftybot as well. I do know teams that make effective gussets with just a drill press and a bandsaw but, frankly, I don’t find this to be an effective use of time and I wouldn’t recommend it.

10 Likes

We helped FIRST HQ with their new running a team guide and updated our tool recommendations for them.

We’ll work on updating the $1000 and $10000 documents soon.

21 Likes

In all the great suggestions above, see if you can find some ideas for making mechanisms move. We usually need to get shafts, rollers, or wheels spinning at various speeds, to move game pieces in different ways. And we need to make levers, arms, etc move. You have some pneumatic stuff already, that’s great for getting lighter arms moving. You probably want a good assortment of gearboxes (such as Versaplanetary), with several different ratio gear sets, and the parts needed to assemble them, and attach stuff to them. The sooner you can get working on prototypes to move game pieces, the sooner you’ll discover the problems with all your great ideas, and be able to refine them into a great working robot.

6 Likes

This is great, as always - and of particular relevance this year to us (as is this entire thread).

I know a few teams, now, who have had luck getting a gift card (ours was for $100) from Harbor Freight. You can apply for a donation here: https://www.harborfreightgivingback.com/

It might be worth mentioning.

(We’ll probably spend it on storage boxes but maybe other stuff as well).

7 Likes

I cant believe I haven’t heard about this, thanks a ton for posting this!!

Get the throatless-shear for cutting polycarb up to 1/8" and aluminum up to 1/16". You can make really long cuts and curved cuts pretty easily. It may be helpful to have 1 or 2 other people help manoeuvre large sheets.

+1. A great tool - I actually use mine to cut 5052 at 0.09" in my garage.

I’ve also figured out a way to have a bunch of bolt-down devices without a permanent bench. I bolt each tool to a 2 x whatever plank, then clamp that plank in my workmate bench, put a foot on the step if I need torque, and get to work. Note that there are cheaper clamping workbenches without the step - I doubt they’d work as well. It seems that this setup or similar should work well in a pit.

Masks. Lots of disposable masks.

2 Likes

We’ve got those :mask:! Quite necessary these days :frowning_face:.

1 Like

Bumper fabric - as a long-time seamstress and sailor, here’s my take on bumper fabric for the non-sewer.

What has been recommended: “duck cloth” and Cordura (which is a name brand)
Problem: you’ll see descriptions including denier, weight in ounces or grams, and cotton/acrylic/nylon/polyester/blends. If you don’t sew or make sails, this means NOTHING. to you. “Cordura” is a name brand, so it’s even more confusing (and you will spend more $ for it).

What are we really looking for?
Polyester or nylon canvas that is heavy enough to take abuse. But not SO heavy that it doesn’t bend, or you can’t staple/sew through it
Polyester and nylon have a high melting point, so you can iron-on bumper numbers.
You can “seal” the edges by using pinking shears (the toothed-edge scissors)

  • All the fancy water-repellent, UV coatings (like in Sunbrella and Cordura) - not needed here, and it’s an added expense.
  • Acrylic… you are taking chances with it melting when you iron on numbers
  • Cotton - can tolerate some abuse, but will tend to rip at the staples (because we are ALL stapling this to the bumper backing right? Of course we are). Cotton or cotton/poly canvas is a good choice if you have nothing else.

Great, so what the heck do I want?
Nylon or Poly canvas (also called “Pack cloth” or “sailcloth”), 7 oz/yard.
7 oz/yard is a good baseline. You can go heavier if you like, but it will be stiffer and harder to work with.
(Fabric weights are intuitive - 1 oz/yard is parachute fabric, 11 oz/yard is super heavy, stiff canvas - much heavier than denim).
example: Seattle fabrics - nylon pack cloth 7 oz/yd

Where can I get this or something like it?
Online. Your local fabric store is probably not going to have what you need.
(If you are desperate and need something NOW - head to a local fabric store and look for the heaviest polyester, poly-cotton, or nylon canvas-woven fabric you can find. Probably in the upholstery section. DO NOT USE FELT. “Rip-stop” fabric tends to be very lightweight, but if you can find it heavy-weight it could work).

Seattle fabrics has been a great source for me (for sailing) and decent prices (not affiliated with them, just a good source I’ve used). You can even get a fabric sample set from them. Sample set I have
Sample set of all weights/types nylon fabric

Also amazon.com (naturally), fabric.com, diyardage.com, google…

FYI - you’re going to see “Denier” like it’s important or something. Its really not. “Denier” is just a measure of opacity. If the fabric is white, you can “see through” 50 denier, probably can’t see through 400 denier.

10 Likes