So I am a FRCer in China.My parents and I have come up with the idea of selling COTs low in prices.Due to the China’s industrial advantages,we will be able to sell products at the prices about 3 times cheaper than those on the market.We are now considering to sell swerve modules at the price of about 100＄. Will that be a good thing?
Thats amazing. I’m a FRCer from China too! I believe that your works will greatly improve the development in China’s other FRC teams.
My only comment is that you should go through the proper channels with FIRST for becoming a vendor. They will be way more informative than anyone here about what is required and my guess is those rules will affect your pricing model greatly.
If this is truly possible for a new custom swerve module to hit the market i’d be really happy. Just want things to be done properly or else we’ll end up with an illegal swerve module no one can use in competition
Edit: This is the supplier docs which is for donating parts mainly, I couldn’t find the exact vendor docs I was looking for but there is something similar for that process as well
FIRST-SUPPLIER-NeedToKnow-FY23.pdf (681.0 KB)
Further Edit: see my other posts below about where in the game manual you can find the requirements for Vendors. This is under section 9.
OK.I will take care of that.
Would said swerve module be an exact copy of an existing module? Or would it be a unique design?
Right now first mostly regulates electronic and pneumatic components for competition.
There may be a gray area, but I can ask a machine shop in the US to custom make anything mechanical and put it on the robot.
We’ve discussed with the producer.To be exact,we’ll be able to produce a unique swerve module which take up less space than all the swerve modules on the market by using fully enclosed gearbox .The detailed design will be finished in about 2 weeks. We’ll release the model later.
There is no “proper channel” for becoming a VENDOR. You just sell stuff and make sure you fall within the requirements to be a VENDOR as per the manual. Any product that doesn’t violate a rule in the manual is automatically a valid COTS item. The only stuff you need hq approval for are electronics—motor controllers, pneumatic controllers, power hubs; those are more strictly regulated.
Even sensor packages would get checked correct?
Maybe I’ve misunderstood what’s required of a vendor when they are making COTS parts. But I’m thinking mainly for the stockings and availability requirements
Per Game Manual Glossary which then points to Section 9
VENDOR a legitimate business source for COTS items that satisfies all criteria listed in Section 9
Page 2 of that section and I’m thinking of specifically Point C. for official processes
A VENDOR is a legitimate business source for COTS items that satisfies all the following criteria:
A. has a Federal Tax Identification number. In cases where the VENDOR is outside of the United States, they must possess an equivalent form of registration or license with the government of their home nation that establishes and validates their status as a legitimate business licensed to operate within that country.
B. is not a “wholly owned subsidiary” of a FIRST Robotics Competition team or collection of teams. While there may be some individuals affiliated with both a team and the VENDOR, the business and activities of the team and VENDOR must be completely separable.
C. should maintain sufficient stock or production capability so they are able to ship any general (i.e., non-FIRST unique) product within 5 business days of receiving a valid purchase request. It is recognized that certain unusual circumstances (such as such as a global supply chain disruption and/or 1,000 FIRST teams all ordering the same part at once from the same VENDOR) may cause atypical delays in shipping due to backorders for even the largest VENDORS. Such delays due to higher-than-normal order rates are excused. This criterion may not apply to custom-built items from a source that is both a VENDOR and a fabricator.
There are no requirements that any components get approved by HQ, beyond the motor, controller, and control system rules. You can buy any off the shelf sensor and as long as it does not break any of the rules, it is legal.
I think I speak for most people when I say that I am certainly interested in how this design will turn out.
The burden of proving that a VENDOR has (or doesn’t have) sufficient stock or production capability is on teams, inspectors, and ultimately hq. If every single vendor had to get pre-clearance, you would have very few vendors. As it stands, you can order any legal part from anyone and it’s up to inspectors or other teams to challenge its legality. Forcing vendors to all get cleared by hq would be a massive pain and really cut down on the variety of available parts.
And as we’re all aware, it doesn’t matter anyway.
This sounds like a really interesting idea. There’s clearly a need for more swerve modules on the market, so I wish you success. Keep us posted!
That makes much more sense!
That would be fantastic and you’d definitely have a large market with US teams. And if you have a way of keeping shipping times down potentially by partnering with a small supplier in the US to help with keeping a small stock and shipping internationally within the country you’d definitely be a very enticing option to low budget teams looking to do swerve.
any chance you’d make a few different swerve offerings or would it just be one standard module to start?
This is a fine idea. People here are incredibly concerned about having Vendor IDs, but given that we all buy things from online marketplaces such as Amazon and AliExpress, I don’t think you’ll have an issue as long as you sell through one of those or just have a business registration (which is generally not difficult to get). Lead times shipping from China to US will not disqualify you from being a Vendor but it might give teams trouble if they want to buy your products in a timely manner.
Lastly, make sure you’re making a profit! It will be difficult to absorb unexpected costs and time if you don’t charge enough to make a profit. Go to $150 and you’ll still be competitive while greatly increasing your odds of staying legitimate.
I’d be interested in seeing the design.
EDIT: SDS, for example, has had trouble keeping lead times under 8 weeks since December, so I wouldn’t even count lead times as a legitimate objection at this point. It’s clear FIRST is willing to let things slip.
You might want to work with someone to ship from the U.S.
I’m incredibly skeptical of this being not only smaller then any other COTS modules (MAXSwerve in particular), but also it being 3x cheaper. I don’t see realistically how that is possible without you basically selling it at cost or with barely any margin, which isn’t sustainable. Also not sure how you can be so confident about this when it sounds like the design isn’t actually completely figured out yet.
And has not gone thru destructive testing by some crazy high school students for an entire season and off season.
Much like someone else here recently who was talking about cheap electrical components, I suspect the uninitiated underestimate the cost of storefront, warehouse, shipping, customs, warranty, and support, not to mention profit. Many robotics components are already fabricated and assembled in China.