Our team is starting to order parts for season, and I am our main electrical member. Last season we used a combination of connectors but for the majority of connections we used automotive crimp connectors. These were unreliable and caused us some issues in matches. I was wondering what others use for electrical connections. I have heard good things about Andersen connectors and we currently have some XT60 connectors but I wanted to hear what others would recommend.
We use Anderson connectors for the most part but planning to switch many of our harnesses to wagos instead, particularly for ease of replacement. Though I’m a big fan of XT-60 in the drone world, the need to solder replacements could be time consuming during critical timeframes at competition.
FYI for 3-wire brushless motors, using 3-wire wagos or a system where you use red/red, black/black, black/red for wire/connector color is how we differentiated between each wire
These powerpoles are pretty much the standard for FRC. https://www.andymark.com/products/powerpole-kit-100-red-and-black-housings-200-contacts
Unlike XT60s which are typically used for rc applications, powerpoles don’t require any soldering; only a crimper and wire stripper are needed. Being able to replace connectors in a hurry is very valuable in competition. The connection is secure for most all uses in FRC, but maybe not quite as good as an XT60. I would highly recommend you get plenty of these for your team.
Our team uses Anderson Powerpole connectors for power transmission to motors/pneumatics (wire gauges 16-12) and for sensors and can (gauges 18-22) we use Molex Micro-Fit 3.0 connectors. You can buy them in bulk on DigiKey, but you can try out small amounts on Amazon. Make sure to use high quality crimpers in both cases.
We use Anderson power poles too. They stay together really good but if you were worried about them coming apart there are clips that insert with pins that hold them together or use little zip ties, we’ve never needed to use them though. The power poles connect to each other to make a one piece assembly, only problem we have run into with power poles is if a student isn’t careful and in sures the contact is locked into the plastic housing the wire and connector can get pushed out when connecting the two connectors. For CAN we switched to wagos with ferrules this year instead of communication crimp connectors.
We stuck to solder and terminal block/cable lug combo for 4 years but we had trouble with them in the off-season comps so we plan on switching to powerpoles this build season.
Anderson Powerpoles are the way to go for all large wire connections, basically anything 16ga or larger. For smaller wires, Wago connectors are what we’ve found are best. They’re very secure but easily changed if you need to. They certainly make complex CAN configurations much easier to deal with.
I estimate this is a third of our robot failures. I tell the students have another student check their work and have a mentor check. If they’ll do this, they go to World’s and if they don’t check their work, they won’t got to World’s. Robot failed a few too many times and we didn’t go to World’s. I need a better motivational speech and process. Any suggestions?
[We have really good (expensive) Molex crimpers but they still make bad crimps for some students.]
We use exclusively xt60’s for our robot, have never had an issue. The first couple can be tough to do, but once you have done a few they are very easy to do. You can also get MT60’s which are three wire versions we use for brushless. Generally we just have motor controllers plugged into pdh or xt60’d to a extension. We then xt60 the motor controller to the motor, sometimes with an extension in the middle(xt60’d on both sides). That means we can have a spare of each component ready if we need it and only need to swap one part. We solder all our can though. Small wires are very easy and fast and it just reduces our issues with a very finicky system. We also have a battery powered ryobi soldering iron so we can do hot fixes for can anywhere.
We use XT-90s for power transmission very happily. They do require you to train and check new people so you don’t end up with cold solder joints, but they’re pretty easy once you know what you’re looking for. In competition we have found them to be very reliable. I don’t think we have ever had a properly soldered connector fail in competition. (Someone might correct me on that as I’m not always involved in electrical) XT-90s can also easily be zip tied if you have problems with them pulling apart, but this is extremely rare.
We use MT-60s for Neos and Neo550s.
We have also used XT-30s for CAN, but are moving away from that due to the much smaller joints being more susceptible to fatigue and improper soldering.
How do you use wagos for CAN? We mainly use 3-pin connectors installed on falcons and other VEX products. Wagos sound like an interesting alternative, do you have any photos of your CAN wires?
We used Andersons for about eight years but began transitioning to these Wago connectors last year. They require no tools and provide a firm connection point that is visible for inspection, and we have had no disconnects through a tough competition. Andersons are very good but are expensive and relatively time consuming. (edit to add: we used Wago connectors for CAN connections for a long time prior; first with the old style model and switching to the clear connectors several years ago, so this was not a cold switch over for us, we already knew and were happy with the product)
We use the Molex Mini-Fit Sr. connectors for all 12 AWG connections. In the past, we have used the Molex Micro-Fit 3.0 connectors for smaller gauge connections. However, we have struggled with getting a good crimp and properly inserting the terminals into the housing. At the moment, we are evaluating switching to the Molex SL series. We think these will result in more reliable connections for our team.
These are significantly cheaper than Anderson connectors which is a plus for us. We haven’t used Wagos on a bot before, do you have any advice for using them the first time? Also does REV sell them in different sizes than 12awg? I looked and will continue to look but haven’t seen anything besides 12awg so far.
Neat thing, you can use these Wagos all the way from 12ga to 22ga and they provide a firm connection. We are using them with both our motor connections and our CAN wires now.
My students designed a couple of holders that they’ve been 3d printing to pair two connectors together, and to tape them down to the robot frame. I’ll take a photo next time I’m with the robot.
We are also on the XT-60 and MT-60 train.
One thing we train our students to do is put the male connector on the power consumer, and the female connector on the power provider (PDP) (as is proper). We loaned a Neo to another team and when we got it back they had swapped the connector to a female MT-60 so we had to cut it off and put the proper connector back on making the wires shorter each time.
That’s good to know, I would love to see how you guys pair them together. Thanks for the recommendation.
That’s unfortunate. I would have just made a female-female jumper
A couple of good videos about using Wagos:
I recommend reading the top comment from a professional electrician when watching this video.
Also this video: https://youtu.be/OI5ddnK_3-8
For Power Lines and CAN line I recommend Anderson’s for the first time my team tested with Anderson’s on our CAN line after we had trouble shooting issues when it came to CAN problems. The nice thing is that you can bundle the power and CAN Andersons together and make a nice tight bundle. Here’s a pic of what the Andersons look like on CAN