Alternatives for VEX Parts

We went all-in on the VEX excosystem when it first launched, and our robots are pretty much (a) custom parts and (b) VEX hardware – versaframe/gussets, falcons, versaplanetary gearboxes, and talons running BAGs, with the occasional AndyMark toughbox or whatnot.

We’re likely going to continue using a bunch of the VEX stuff we already have in stock over the next couple of years–between finances and unnecessary environmental waste, I don’t have it in me to just toss it all–but need to look at alternatives (because I have a sneaking suspicion that spare parts are going to get harder and harder to come by, and I’m not spending another nickel on a VEX product without an ownership/leadership and massive culture change).

We can deal with sourcing other aluminum framing, TTB has us covered on gussets, and I’m already aware of (but not experienced with) SparkMax and NEOs as Falcon replacements.

So, without getting into the weeds on all that other stuff, for those with experience in such things, what are the non-Vex equivalents (or close-to-equivalents) for:

Thunderhex
Talons (speed controllers for non-brushed motors)
BAG motors
Versaplanetary Gearboxes
Shifting gearboxes
Aluminum gears
Aluminum chain sprockets

?

Thank you very much for your help with this.

Patrick (1551 lead mentor)

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Neo 550

Max Planetary

WCP

I believe an answer for this will be coming out soon, I don’t want to speak for any other suppliers

We take standard hex to the lathe and just sand down the edges with some emery cloth to make our own

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Sparkmax

Neo 550? kinda?

Max Planetary

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The spark max can control both brushless motors and non brushless but they are a little expensive.

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Even without the issues at IFI, the MaxPlanetary is a superior product (thus far) to Versplanetaries. Highly recommend switching to that system if you can afford it.

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I wish it had support for Dual Motor input but it appears to be awesome

REV and AndyMark have their own lines of steel gears. WCP has been in the gear game with their pocketed aluminum & steel gears.

Steel gears are making a comeback and will last far longer for a team. If a team is tight on their budget - steel is the best option given its a part your team is investing in. You’ll get more life out of it by reusing it in future seasons.

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Another option for replacing the Versa Planetary is the UltraPlanetary from REV. Great for lower load applications like intakes, conveyors, Colour wheel manipulators (from 2020) etc.

Basically, if a MAX Planetary seems like complete overkill, go UltraPlanetary, and vice versa.

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It’s worth cautioning though - they also sell gears from Vex. When shopping with WCP, look at the model numbers. “217-” indicates a Vex part, “WCP-” indicates a WCP part!

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All of the WCP pocketed gears are WCP PNs. I only brought up pocketed gears for this reason.

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Here is an interesting one though. WCP sells pocketed aluminum gears that look like machined Vex gears.

Same weird dilemma exists for the WCP gearboxes using Vex gears. How are teams thinking about handling this issue?

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I won’t speak for my team’s 2023 ordering decisions at this time, but teams can only reasonably work around finding alternatives to products to an extent.

In the past, our team has invested thousands into the Versaplanetary ecosystem since 2013 leaving us with odd, bulk quantities that will last for a few more years. Each year while we don’t need to order a whole VP gearbox for some applications, we are typically ordering some gear stages or encoder slices. While its my prefernce to limit our ordering from VEXpro, I can still see us needing to place orders with them to use legacy, out of stock alternatives, unique parts (gussets), or game specific items

Even the general topic of NEOs vs. Falcons. I’m of doubt that REV is bringing in enough inventory for 75% of FRC teams to use only NEOs for teams looking to transition off VEX motors.

I believe we will do our best to reduce, but it won’t be $0 or a ban on placing an order with them.

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Our VPs are getting worn down after years of use, and I was going to place a big replacement order this week, which clearly I do not want to do at this juncture. Having to get Spark Max controllers and Neo 550s in addition to the gearboxes makes it an awfully expensive jump, though.

Gotta jump, though.

The jump to Max Planetary is worth it, even if Vex had a fantastic company culture.

You can run Max Planetary with Falcons if you wanted to (either with the Rev supplied kit, or these) you pay a little bit in weight, but get a significantly higher output torque. Also works with Neos, Redlines, or 550s.

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A quick note about the MaxPlanetary system: It’s not necessarily intuitive that this component is required for each gearbox assembly.

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Couple of extra thoughts:

  • I’m going to start having my team default to neo over neo550s. By the time you current limit them (neo550s can not handle much current for very long), the extra gearing needed for the torque we want in most places, the weight savings is gone. The times I’d consider is are known very low load applications… Basically a turret or adjustable hood. Even an internal game piece transport, I’m going to encourage defaulting to a Neo.
  • getting some spark max as your motor controllers now will at least make the switch to big neos over falcons in the future easier.

Agreed with others too, the max planetary (and sport gearbox) are superior to the VP as well. Max planetary allows for changing gear ratios more easily than the sport gearbox though, and I really love that the slices are self contained and greased. Not 100% sold on the shaft set up (make sure to loctite that bolt holding the shaft in!) but it is a nice ability to change out the shaft or constraint the shaft in another way

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Yes, the pregreased gears are great.
And the ability to choose/change your output shaft size is honestly the best part about it imo. Those were the backbones of our climber this year

I’m confused by what you are trying to say here. If you want a full MaxPlanetary gearbox, you click on the first item on this page. If you want individual components, you click the other links. What’s the issue?

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I was going to ask the same thing :thinking:. It’s no different than needing to buy the base kit for the VersaPlanetary to have a working gearbox assembly.

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