Amounts of Wire

So it’s around that time of year again where our team will be stocking up on supplies, and we were looking into our electrical department. What I’m interested in right now is how much wire a team goes through each season, and how much a team buys in the preseason. Granted the amount of wire would vary slightly from game to game, but on average, how much wire do you usually have in stock?

Pro tip: buy in bulk! There’s nothing wrong with buying a few 500 ft spools. You save a little per foot, and wire doesn’t exactly go bad sitting on the spool in your build space. So, it might take you 10 years to go through it all… plan for the future!

Also, having large spools also means you aren’t concerned when someone makes a mistake (and you know they will). Just make sure you take stock each year so you aren’t surprised when you suddenly run out at some point in the future.

Alright then. Our school district has an account with a company and just recently purchased somewhere around 5000, yes five thousand, feet of breadboard wire. While I don’t believe we would ever buy large gauge wire in such an excessive amount, I will see what the limit our teacher will put on the length we buy and work from there. The suggestion he made today was estimate how much we use per season and simply double that.

We go double on things we aren’t even 100% sure we’ll use, even if they’re pretty game specific too. I’d get more than double a season’s worth if it gets you a better deal.

For regular hook up wire 12 gauge & smaller, 500 ft spools seem to be the best price point. For most teams 500ft is several years supply. Especially if you consider you are buying different colors. Cut length pricing is generally is a lot higher than spool pricing so if you are buying smaller quantities you should compare pricing .I like type MTW for the flexibility, but building wire (THWN, ETC) is generally more available.

For smaller quantities it is worth making friends at a local electrical supply. Explain who you are & what you are doing & they might be willing to make a deal or donation.

That’s funny, our team is exactly opposite! We prefer stiffer wiring for use on the robot. We find we can keep things neater with the stiffer wiring by having straight runs and precise bends, even though it can be more difficult to work with in some situations on the robot.

We’re in the other camp. We’ve seen too many stiff wires break from repeated flexing, often in locations we didn’t expect any flexing to happen.

We buy TEW wire for #12 and smaller as it is more flexible than T90 (THHN/THWN). Quantity-wise, we buy at least a 500’ roll of each as the cost per foot is so much better.

For battery leads, we buy #6 welding cable as it is very flexible. Quantity-wise we buy 100’ whenever we get low.

That is a good point… if using stiff wire, you need to avoid too much flexing. We haven’t had any wires break because of that, though! In situations where we know the wire will be flexing significantly and repeatedly, we can often get some flexible wire donated each season. It usually doesn’t take much!