Black Neoprene vs Blue Nitrile Tread

Maybe we can have a more general data set to analyse if the teams indicate which tread they are using with swerve.

Black Neoprene vs Blue Nitrile, Swerve Drive
  • Black Neoprene
  • Blue Nitrile

0 voters

Honestly, I think you are asking the right questions. Voting on design choices doesn’t tell you what’s right. It just tells you what’s popular. These aren’t necessarily the same thing.


I’d recommend that folks understand that all “blue nitrile” is not made equal.

(So it would probably be a mistake to assume that all “black neoprene” is made equal as well.)

The blue nitrile that shipped from the various FRC suppliers throughout 2021 was great, but my impression is that this material appears to have dried up throughout the supply chain.

The blue nitrile that is shipping from SDS nowadays is (I think) the same as what you can get from McMaster. This material delaminates-- but not at the interface between the rubber and the fiber backing like you’d expect!! For us, the delam occurs midway through the thickness of the rubber.

People are saying that ThriftyBot’s blue nitrile is significantly harder durometer and much more durable than the other options.

ThriftyBot is now stocking black neoprene in 1" and 1.5" strip widths. This is supposed to be the same as the material you can get from McMaster.


We had the same issue on our modules. The tread that initially came with them was great, we then ordered spares and they have been terrible. We have tried black and blue. The blue tread with the black backing we ordered through Andymark has been awesome. We change at the beginning of the competition and the tread has been phenomenal. We go through maybe a set per competition. The stuff we ordered through Swerve Drive Specialties with the brown backing has been really bad and doesn’t really even last through practice sessions. I highly recommend trying Andymark tread Blue Nitrile Roughtop Tread 1.5 in. Wide 10 ft. Long - AndyMark, Inc as all others have failed us.


5804 here. To add to Todd’s post. We used the black neoprene from McMaster to see if we could get something to hold up better than the blue. We had to change the blue tread about 3 times in a one day event. Through a weekend of 19 matches the neoprene is still good. We also noticed that the neoprene has greater traction with carpet. We were able to pop a wheelie we couldn’t do with the nitrile. We felt we were able to push other swerve bits around using nitrile but I don’t have any data on that, just my biased observations. As per Todd’s comments about marks. Yes it does leave marks. Take a look at fields in California. Ours left more marks then usual due to an issue with a firmware update in our cancoders. One of our modules didn’t get the absolute angle from can coder from time to time and was dragged leaving significantly more marks then it should have. I recommended to all our friends in Chesapeake that I talked to, to at least try the neoprene in the off-season to see if they like it.


Our team has used Blue Nitrile and Black Neoprene tread from SDS. Between the two we’ve had better durability from the neoprene, and no noticeable difference in traction. SDS themselves say they have had a similar experience with the tread. I don’t know where they get the tread they sell from, though.

it is from mcmaster carr, here is the product link Thrifty bot sells it in rolls already cut to 1.5in wide

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2910 started using the 3-ply black Neoprene material from Mcmaster 5994K1 this year. Compared to the blue nitrilewe were using, we have found it to be much longer lasting. It wears evenly instead of breaking off in chunks. All SDS swerve modules are now shipping with the Mcmaster 3-ply black Neoprene material. Also, we now offer the induvial MK4 wheels and precut/drilled tread in black Neoprene. More will be in stock soon. A batch of the material is being received this week.


Thanks Patrick. Could you give some background about the blue nitrile material with the black fiber backing? Did it become unobtainable? It is still pictured on the product page BTW.


Will the same drill jig work for the blue vs black material

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We bought some of the black tread and tried the same drill pattern as the blue tread. It was close but did not fit. Has anyone found the drill whole pattern for the black tread.

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I spent several hours working out a new drill pattern for the black nitrile, it wasn’t much fun. I’ll see about putting it to paper and posting it during our Saturday build day.


That would be great. Thanks a lot. How did you go about finding the right hole distance.

Here is our drill fixture & pattern for black neoprene on the SDS 4” x 1” wheels. 4” x 1.5” uses this same spacing, just an extra 1/2” between the holes.


Thanks a lot for posting this. How did you figure these out?

Empirical testing. Made a couple tread by hand and reverse engineered them.

SDS wheels have the bolts at 120deg spacing, with 5/16” offsets for the 4 near the joint. So figure out how long the tread should be, divide that by 3 for the inner 4, then put the 4 near the joint inboard from the edge 5/16” to account for the offset.


Several days of drive practice on blue nitrile and our robot was floating off the ground. Weeks of driving like a maniac on black neoprene and so far I’ve done virtually zero damage to the treads.

The black marks are also probably more favorable compared to chips of blue tread covering the field.

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Taste wise, blue nitrile tread has a significant advantage over the black neoprene tread.


This is not exactly true. While still nominally 4" MK4/MK4i wheel is slightly smaller in diameter than the MK3 billet wheel. Enough that for a perfect fit the overall tread length would want to be adjusted.

Below are the drill patterns for that I use when making the SDS predrilled tread. All the holes are drilled with a 5.5mm drill bit. I find that the final holes end up a bit smaller than the drill bit size.

MK4/MK4i 1.5" Width 3-Ply Blue Nitrile Tread Specs:

MK4/MK4i 1.5" Width 3-Ply Black Neoprene Tread Specs:

MK2/MK3 1" Width 3-Ply Blue Neoprene Tread Specs:

I have not figured out the official tread specs for 1" wide 3-ply black Neoprene, but I would expect the overall length to scale by the same factor as it was the 1.5" width tread this would result in an overall length of 11.341".


One reason there’s been much discussion on this topic is that some batches of the blue nitrile had serious issues with delamination. This is the worst we saw – one or two matches on new treads: