$4K to spend

We have $4000 in our account that needs to be spent by June 30. Do you have any suggestions on what we could buy? The school and robotics team already have a drill press, Shapeoko CNC, Markforged 3D printer, lathe, mill, and welding equipment.

We were thinking of a laser cutter or a more industrial CNC machine.


John Hajel


If you aren’t satisfied with your Shapeoko’s performance in aluminum, an Omio CNC router is a good call, assuming you’re okay to spend it there.


If you only have one 3D printer, maybe you could consider buying an additional one. It obviously depends on how many 3D printed parts you use, but we had only one printer in the first year and upgraded to 3 in our second year, and that definitely helped with time management because we use 3D printed parts a lot.


If you only have the Markforged, the Prusa i3 MK3S makes a fantastic complimentary printer. Unfortunately there isn’t a US distributor; that might impact your ability to purchase it using school funds.

Second on the Omio, assuming you’re currently making a substantial portion of your robot parts on the Shapeoko.


Maybe spring for a laser cutter so prototypes and any plastics going on the bot can be cut out fast.


Areas of thought:

  • Spectrum FIRST $10,000
  • We’ve started using the heck out of a portable bandsaw, which if you don’t have one for your power tool ecosystem is a wonderful way to drop a few hundred bucks.
  • We’ve had our arbor press and hex broach for years, but both saw action this year.
  • There are worse things than to stock up on fresh consumables. I could see Falcon 500s in some team videos and those are backordered to infinity and beyond, but there are enough other motors in those robots that you could make a few hundred of that go by really fast. (I’m sure any of the big three would welcome that order right now as well.)

Also not sure if this is possible, but I wonder whether it would be worth contacting HQ and seeing if you can prepay early for 2021 registration, if nothing else comes to mind.

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Aren’t the Falcon 500s out of stock right now? I might be wrong though…

I always encourage teams to stock up on all potential inventory as early as possible.

Motors, raw materials, bearings, compliance wheels. The whole lot. Plus, I’m sure FRC vendors would appreciate the business right now


+1 on the suggestions to a laser, it was probably 1720’s most used machine last build season.

Just my 2c, but I don’t think a “more industrial CNC” would be that useful. From my experience, almost all robot parts can be made in some fashion with a MarkForged/CNC router.

Something I haven’t seen mentioned is a good sheet metal brake. The option to make sheet metal parts opens up a lot of design options.


What Laser Cutter does 1720 have?

Milwaukee M12 rivet puller.


One of the 100W ebay lasers from China.

There are US-based options like Thunderlaser but I think you go out of your $4000 price range at that point.

Also venting / handling fumes needs to be on the top of your laser consideration list. If you can’t do it easily I wouldn’t even consider getting one.


My plan is to use our remaining use-it-or-lose-it funds on the consumables that will get us through all of 2021 if need be. In the event that funding is difficult to come by I figure I can mitigate the risks by stocking up now and minimizing what we need to purchase next season. It’s boring, but that means metal stock, wire, terminals, zip ties, rivets, end mills, drill bits, saw blades, etc.


Is your Shapeoko stock configuration? If you decide against getting an OMIO, it might be worth spending some money on upgrades like the improved Z-axis options, steel-reinforced belts, tool offset probe, etc.


Our Shapeoko is stock. We’ve had lots of issues getting a consistent workflow for it. One issue is keeping the bed level.

(Disclaimer: I don’t own a Shapeoko but I’ve been lurking around the communities for a while)

For Shapeoko setup, there’s a handful of good resources to check out (Both Winston Moy’s and Carbide3D’s YouTube channels, Unofficial FB group, Carbide3D forum, etc.). Depending on your goals, you might find your time better spent setting up a more capable machine like the OMIO.

In general, I’d recommend looking deeply at the pain points of your current fabrication set up. Can some of these issues be addressed with new tooling, fixtures, etc. rather than (or in addition to) a new machine?

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This seems like excellent advise to me. Did you bottleneck on waiting for operations from a certain machine? Did you have parts you had to remake or had difficulty making? Were there approaches you discarded because you didn’t have the tools to carry it out? etc.

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Honestly you might consider spending on some dedicated laptops, joysticks, and screens. Driver station equipment can be a great investment as it is not something you want a failure in at an event, and they can often take a lot of abuse during a season.

177 and 176 highly recommend Ruffy Controls for their joysticks. They are pricey but well worth the cost. The specific model we have is HE1-51-S-A-5-BK


Be sure to spec this out accordingly and for USB. 176 has used them more extensively and should be able to comment further @Shahil_FRC


Our team used the hell out of our vertical bandsaw in the past few seasons, it’s a pretty good tool to have. I also think that a sheet metal brake is a good addition to any team’s shop, we’ve actually been looking at getting one ourselves.

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