Electrical Supplies

Our team is running low on supplies following this build season and are looking to replenish our stock, on this occasion I felt it would be helpful to ask those at Chief Delphi what they use and where they order it.

So where do your teams order your wire? What type of wire do you use? Do you purchase single or dual conductor? What brands do you like/prefer/trust and dislike/warn against/distrust?

What kind of quick disconnects do you use (if at all)? Where do you order them? What crimper do you use?

What products do you use for cable management/organization/routing? Where do you order them, how well do they work? Do you label/color code your wires(on the robot)?

What “rules” do you impose on your robot’s wiring beyond what FIRST already includes?

The above questions were ones I personally have at this time, but of course any general tips/tricks/ideas are more than appreciated. Thanks in advance for any and all answers/suggestions.

For all our motors that aren’t on the drive train we use this wire.


It’s really cheap and if you pull it out of the sleeve it looks like normal wire. We rarely leave the sleeve on but it helps in some places. They also sell large spools of 18 AWG which we use to wire everything that’s not motors. We use standard 10AWG from the kit or radio shack for our short drive train wires.

Speed controller power connectors use these tabs and these crimp connectors.

We use Anderson power poles for most of our motor wiring. We order from Allied electronics normally because they are in Texas so it’s faster shipping. Powerwerx is a good source as well.

Cable management is all zip ties, Fry’s carries them in purple in bags by the 1000 so that’s were we buy them.

4AWG/6AWG wire comes from Emergency Electrical Power Systems

That’s about all I can remember right now.

Thank you Spectrum for your help!

We aren’t the best at it but to help with cable management we make custom-length PWM cables. We order all of our PWM supplies from http://www.hansenhobbies.com/products/ .

While it doesn’t specifically address your question, this is a good read, and a standard to aspire to:


You’re welcome, glad to help.

I now have new purpose! :3

Look up control panel builders in your area, looks to be 3 or 4 in Sidell. Ask them if you can have their cut offs to support the team. We recycle enough wire to build many robots. They also may support you with specific tool loans when needed, we do that for our team. Mainly when you need to crimp the main power crimps, takes a proper tool and crimp on 4ga. They may be able to support you with wire ties, cable management stickies, hold down loops, etc. too.

You are looking for someone who builds with MTW (Machine Tool Wire) as it will have more strands and be more flexible than other types. Stay away from THHN, if they are building with that, smaller wire diameter, so you stuff many wires in a tighter area, but very stiff, and does not work well with robots.

Here’s a list of things that we bought from DigiKey this year:

PWM/signal cable supplies:
W121-100-ND - UNSHIELDED 22AWG UL2464 3 COND

Wire marker:
298-1269-ND - MARKER WIRE BOOK LEG 0-9 10PGS

Larger wire we get at Home Depot
For limit switch wiring, we’re starting to use 22ga shielded 2 conductor security system wire.

Power connector for webcam:

We use a combination of zip and velcro ties, depending on the situation.

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MCM Electronics is also a good source, they have great stock and deliver quickly.

Al is right, MCM is another great place for supplies, especially their zip cord. Example is part 24-1915.

We also use Digikey for connectors, housings, pots, multiturn pots, microswitches, zip ties… We use flat spade connectors (A27868-ND) on all speed controllers for quick connections, and powerpole connectors on all motors. We use color marking tape (STD-C-ND) to label all wires, motors etc.

For Anderson Powerpole connectors we use Powerwerx, with a crimper from West Mountain Radio.

For our other fun stuff, we use Sparkfun and Adafruit.

In general, we prefer paired wire like red/black zip cord. It’s got a soft pliable insulation that doesn’t act like a spring and fine strands that bend and form easily. It’s available from a number of places online.

We also like to use the smaller 30/45 amp Anderson Powerpole connectors. We’ve been using them in red/black combinations, but I saw a team this year use a number of colors to organize their wiring and it seemed to work well.

Proper crimp tools is often overlooked. We use the ratcheting tools (similar to the powerpole tool - in fact the dies can be swapped in the same tool) for crimp on connectors.

If you’re using the 10-in-one tool that strips wire, cuts screws as well as crimps wire, you are asking for trouble. They simply don’t produce a good crimp and will pinch your fingers as often as not.

Find the right crimp connectors to go with the tool as well. The ones with the hard slippery plastic shell that come in the KOP are awful. We throw them away so that they don’t accidentally get used.

I’ve collected a lot of sources for handy things for robotics here

AndyMark is a Good source for Electronics and Etc…,

Link: http://www.andymark.com/Electrical-s/41.htm


Disclaimer: I am not the electrical guy for my team.

These ties are used all over our robot to secure things. They hold all of our wires. We use them to secure our GoPro Camera (in tandem with the GoPro mount). Also, they are great for keeping pneumatic tubing straight. You can sut them on the band saw to fit them in tight places. The adhesive is really strong once firmly pressed on, and they have screw mounts if you wanted to use them for heavier things, though we mainly use them for routing. Some of our programmers use them to run cables in their computer cases at home, and I use them on my boat, exposed to the saltwater, without incident.

Also, make sure you buy good Zip-Ties that don’t break when pulled tight. We used crappy zip-ties to hold down are pneumatics tanks, and all but one snapped. Luckily we didn’t lose them onto the field, but now our air tanks are held by ~3/8" wide zip ties. By the way, in my personal opinion, zipt ties are the quintessential tool. We use them for all of our routing. They hold down all of our pneumatics except the compressor. We zip tie our battery connector each match so we don’t lose power. We even made an emergency repair on our robot and zipped down the C-RIO, which is pretty darn secure now. Additionally, if anybody saw the picture of our shooter from last year, specifically the one where it snapped off and fell at Duel on the Delaware, we made an emergency repair during Elims, and held in a ~20 lb shooter with only zip-ties. Surprisingly, the autonomous worked, though since it was the lazy susan bearing that failed, we couldn’t use our turret.

In short, Zip Ties and Square Tie Downs are awesome.

We used some big zip ties from Home Depot along with velcro to secure all the pneumatic tanks, worked really well.

We wound up doing the same. If these zip ties snap, I’d be shocked, because they are massive.

We built two robots this year for the first time, and re-wired everything a total of 5 times between the two robots, so we’ve gone through quite a bit of materials in comparison to past years.

Pictures of our final wiring this year: Image 1, Image 2, Image 3

For the past three years we’ve used the white jacketed speaker wire from monoprice for power to everything (12 AWG for 40A motors, 14 or 18 AWG for everything else). You can’t beat the price.
On our last re-wire though, we switched over to zip wire from an ebay seller mostly for aesthetics. You can see this stuff in the images linked above on the 40A circuits to motor controllers.

We had some intermittent issues last year, some questioned noise on our ethernet cables. So to avoid any concern in this area this year, we purchased a number of different length Cat6 shielded ethernet cables from monoprice. This is overkill in my opinion, but at such a low price it’s a non-issue. Plus it’s nice to be able to drop in a cable that is close to the right length and not have to coil up a bunch of extra cable. You could crimp these in house, but in my experience shielded cables require a custom crimping die.
Might as well pick up a long ethernet cable for tethered operation at competitions while you’re at it. 50ft 100ft

We didn’t use CAN this year, but if you’re planning on making CAN cables, I would also suggest getting all your supplies from monoprice. Amazingly low cost and good quality parts. There’s a bill of materials for CAN cables from monoprice here.

Parts for our PWM cables all come from Hansen hobbies. These cables are quite time consuming and difficult to make. Prices here are good, I haven’t found a cheaper source for them. But these are easily the most expensive wires on the robot.

Crimping and stripping:
Do yourself a favor and get a good set of ratcheting crimpers. The tooling can usually be swapped out depending on the type of crimps your making.
We picked up this diethis year, since it fit a ratcheting tool we already owned. Makes a huge improvement in the quality of the crimps.

For wire strippers, we jsut picked up a set of fancy Klien Katapult wire strippers.They work pretty well. Some people on the team prefer them. Personally I could live with a pair of normal wire strippers. The fancy ones can strip wires more quickly, the normal ones can strip more accurately.

If you’re making your own CAN cables, again monoprice has a great set of crimpers for pretty cheap. These will also crimp RJ45 jacks for making custom length ethernet cables.

Screw down, right angle, male spade terminals go on every connection on our motor controllers. These are a must have. The majority of our motor controllers get velcro-ed down, so this makes them quite quick to replace. We will also place a quick disconnect (male/female spade terminal) close to a motor if the wire run is long so that we can quickly replace a blown motor. without doing much re-wiring.

The self adhesive cable tie mounts are also great for wire management. We would get the bag of 100 from the local home depot. There may be a cheaper source online.