Fabricated Items same as COTS

With companies now supplying items like pre-manufactured gusset plates (VEX), a team with sufficient funds could buy plenty of spare brackets and have that not count toward their Withholding Allowance. At about $2.50 per piece (or more plus shipping) this can be really expensive but for well funded teams its not that big of a deal. Our team is fortunate to have a sponsor that provides time for us to use their waterjet, all we have to do is provide sheets of material. So very quickly and cost effectively we can have the exact same brackets, however these are now Fabricated Items.

I’m not trying to argue COTS vs Fabricated; that seems clear in this situation. However, is there possibly a way that FIRST can tweak the wording or perhaps make a new category where “like-COTS” components are not counted in the Withholding Allowance? I don’t mean this to be a way around the Withholding Allowance, personally I think 30 pounds is more than enough. We use our premade/scrap brackets like these to not only fix our bot but other team’s as well at competition. We have an entire box of old brackets that others could use but would qualify as “Fabricated Items.” Could a “Community Parts Allowance” be made so that teams can legally bring Fabricated Items and not worry about burning through their Withholding Allowance?

Why don’t you buy a dozen COTS for replacement at matches, and fabricate the 100 you need and bag it with the robot?

If you were to bag all of those premade old brackets by midnight next Tuesday they will not count against your 30 lb withholding. We typically bag a whole second bag of spare parts many of which we bring for other teams.

Except in the case of the FABRICATED brackets, R12 (ie, physical robot elements may not be created before kickoff) still applies, whereas COTS brackets acquired before kickoff could be used.

In this case it is unfortunate that the rules create a distinction between functionally equivalent parts, and seemingly discourage you from benefiting (and helping other teams benefit from) your sponsor’s aid. However, if you take a hypothetical approach where the sponsor was including some special, proprietary feature on the brackets (like a fancy lightweight material) that only one team had access to, one can start to see the rationale for limiting the timeline for FABRICATED components.

It does seem like there could be room for “components functionally equivalent to COTS” where COTS rules could be applied, but capturing the intent while considering all end cases would be tough.

I’m going to say no. The difference between “COTS” (team-built) and COTS (actual COTS) could potentially be hazardous. Or not.

What I would do would be to make the rule read something: R1234: Any Fabricated Item that was built to the blueprint of a COTS item, using standard industrial methods, will be treated as a COTS item. Teams will be responsible for MARKING the item and DOCUMENTING the construction (copies of the blueprint, photos of construction, and similar items that will help to show that the item was built using standard methods). Fabricated Items that do not match the COTS item in question will be counted as Fabricated Items for the purposes of all applicable rules.The MARKING is to designate that the item was built by the team to COTS blueprints. Inspectors may request the DOCUMENTATION to verify that the item meets the same specifications as a COTS item.

Incidentally, hand-drilling holes can be a standard industrial method. Just sayin’. Also the “not match” would in general be taken to mean major departures, not “color doesn’t match” or “it’s scratched”.

I too wish that FIRST had a category like “COTS-equivalent” which could be used like COTS. It seems silly to have to fabricate simple items like corner brackets, joining plates, bearing holders, and similar hardware items year after year.

I think that there may be an issue here which has never really been looked at and that is providing parts for other teams. Parts that other teams use are not part of YOUR with holding allowance. Technically they would be part of the OTHER team’s with holding allowance. Only items used on YOUR robot would count towards your team’s allowance.

The question becomes whether because your team is fabricating them and providing them to another team does that make it ‘off the shelf’
In this case… off YOUR shelf. Of course the rules say that they are not because the are not “COMMERCIAL”

The blue box for this section gives this example:

EXAMPLE 2: A Team obtains openly available blueprints of a drive module commonly available from Wheels-R-Us Inc. and has local machine shop “We-MakeIt, Inc.” manufacture a copy of the part for them. The produced part is NOT a COTS item, because it is not commonly carried as part of the standard stock of We-Make-It, Inc.

So this means that anything you fabricate is specifically NOT COTS.

The issue is who’s withholding does it come out of?

If you intend to use it on your robot, it is, of course, part of your withholding. If it is used by another team, it is THEIR withholding.

Given that teams freely exchange a number of parts at any given event this presents an issue when it comes to the rules.

For example, Team A has some aluminum tubing stock in their pit. Another team needs a piece. Team A cuts it to the correct length and gives it to them. When the exchange is made, was it COTS or not?
I believe that in this situation, since it was fabricated in the pit of COTS materials (Stock tubing) that it would not count against your withholding.

Example, Team A has some transmissions that they have assembled/modified at home and are in TEAM A’s withholding amount. Team B needs one. They freely give it to them. Now, if Team B already had brought in 30 lbs of withholding should they be able to use this? I would hope that they could but within the rules they may not. They already brought in their with holding and this is clearly NOT COTS having been modified by Team A (who is not a Commercial Entity)

I know that this is not the type of thing that is ever looked at but it does open up issues.

I agree that at some point the rules committee needs to address this.
I would hope that anything brought in by any team could be considered legal for any team to use (as long as it does not put their team out of compliance with other robot regulations)

I do think that it is a little dangerous to allow things that are functional COTS equivalents and simply say that that is OK.

Some type of rule that allows teams to bring in fabricated materials for other teams to use would be a good one.

I will give an example from our team (and I am sure many other teams)

For many years (prior to this one) our team has brought 3/4" plywood already cut into 5" widths to events for other teams to use to fabricate bumpers. We never attempted to put this in a plastic bag. We just had it available for anyone to use that needed it to make or remake bumpers. By rule this material should have been included in the using team’s with holding (at least during the years that the bumpers needed to be bagged)

We thought we were just being good neighbors and trying to help.

Until this thread I never really thought about this as not being within the rules.

I think that this sort of thing should be encouraged and that the rule should reflect the desire of teams to help in these ways.

I applaud your idea of making these in your shop and having them ready for other teams to use to make repairs to their robots. It is an excellent idea.
It shows the true spirit of gracious professionalism.

Actually, providing fabricated items produced prior to the event and given at the event to another team isn’t allowed, as I read the rules. Check out the first paragraph of R17 (emphasis mine):

At an Event, Teams may have access to a static set of FABRICATED ITEMS, not bagged per R14, known as the WITHHOLDING ALLOWANCE, that shall not exceed 30 lbs. to be used to repair and/or upgrade their ROBOT. The WITHHOLDING ALLOWANCE may only be brought into the Venue when the Team initially loads in at the Event. Items made at an Event do not count towards this weight limit.

I’m sure that throttling GP was not the intent, but that’s how the rule is written.

And, just to cover the bases, I don’t suppose that your sponsor would be willing to make so many of these parts that you could make them available to every team (for a price), rendering these bits actual COTS items?

Very interesting read and catch…I was reading another thread about something else entirely last night, and without pointing the exact who’s or what out here…I thought the same thing (it was about the loaning of a retractable Ball blocker at Championships last year, and they were told to keep it after the event as a gift)…Now, if that was fabricated at that event only from COTS items, it would not count towards either team/robot(s) witholding allowance.

But, if it was fabricated before the event then there could be violations of the rule (unless like mini-bots of the past, there were direct rule exceptions).

Same reasoning I asked for prior CD input elsewhere in another thread a while back on a “hypothetical plan” to possibly fabricate a pr. or set of community items “at an event by multiple teams in community ownership of a certain clamp on item” to be used by many teams at an event…I wanted to see if that working around the rule legally would be accepted on a possible basic idea I had for this years game.

Very interesting question.

As I read the withholding allowance rule, I don’t think it even allows us to give another team a fabricated item. Team A brings in a fabricated bracket during load in. Team B didn’t bring in that bracket when they initially loaded in at the event, so they can’t use it.

Seems silly.

At an Event, Teams may have access to a static set of FABRICATED ITEMS, not bagged per R14, known as the WITHHOLDING
ALLOWANCE, that shall not exceed 30 lbs. to be used to repair and/or upgrade their ROBOT. The WITHHOLDING
ALLOWANCE may only be brought into the Venue when the Team initially loads in at the Event. Items made at an Event do not
count towards this weight limit.

Now, if you work out an arrangement with Andymark to sell your brackets …

For a part to count as COTS, it must be sourced from a VENDOR (definition in section 4.1) Interestingly, in your example the mentioned sponsor would probably be a legit vendor, while several popular FIRST “vendors” technically are not.

Holy Crap! You are absolutely right! We were the loanee in the situation mentioned above. I don’t remember how much weight we brought to the Championships, or how much the blocker weighed, but if we had actually used it during a match, we might have been in violation of the withholding allowance. We would have been honor bound to forfeit that match. Thank god we didn’t ever get a chance to use it.

I wish they gave an exception to Fabricated Items to allow long lengths to be cut down to more manageable lengths.

I’ve usually seen this be allowed. Since most aluminum stock comes in 20ft lengths, it would be entirely unreasonable to expect teams to not cut it down. In fact, most vendors will cut it down to managable lengths. Fabricated items is defined as “modified partially or completely into the final form in which it will be used on the ROBOT,” and I would argue that stock just cut to random lengths is not counted as a fabricated item. If it had holes in specific locations, or was cut to a specific length knowing it was going to be used for a specific purpose, then yes it would be fabricated. However, just random stock would be fine to bring in.

However, if you did things such as paint, sandblast, powdercoat the parts so they looked better, I would see that as not allowed. The only things I would as an inspector allow is cut to a shorter length to make transportation easier, or random holes that are not drilled in specific areas. Anything more then that I would consider fabricated.

The real trick is to mass produce your robot so you don’t have to bag it.:smiley: :rolleyes:

And have it cost $400 or less.

I don’t think any reasonable inspector would quibble on stock cut to manageable lengths for transport. Some of the stock we get comes in 25’ sticks. It gets cut in half immediately for storage. I don’t think of it as fabricated parts. As long as it was not cut to size for a part.