Favorite New-to-You-Tool in 2019

What was your favorite new tool you used for the first time in 2019?

Without question for Team 4926, it was an ultrasonic leak detector! In a noisy pit environment, it was a revelation!

(I have no affiliation with Inficon, it was just available for us to use from a local business. But, I’ll get one as soon as I can!)


This wasn’t my favorite tool, per say, but it was definitely one of my favorite “functions”:

It helped tremendously when trying to neaten up our wiring. We could easily make custom Ethernet cables to the length we needed. I don’t know about other teams, but this was the first year we did something like this and it worked wonders. (This wasn’t the exact tool I used. I’m not sure of the brand/model of the one we have)

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Not so much a new discovery, I used to use this 6 years ago on my old team and only just remembered about them. 1640 recently started using rivets this year so I plan on introducing them to these for 2020

They’re so useful for holding riveted parts together before you’re ready for the final rivets. They can even be used for prototyping if you don’t want to put nuts and bolts everywhere.


We use rivets for 90% of our elevator and have had to drill out quite a number. How do these work? (Feel free to PM me if you don’t want to continue discussion in this thread)

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For me, it was the weidmuller ferrule crimper.
Maybe late to that game, but saved a bunch of headaches for connections on the PCMs.



Milwaukee cordless rivet gun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTGszQFn-8Y


We have a mentor who has an itchy trigger finger when it comes to solving problems with the angle grinder, so I got him a Milwaukee Hackzall.




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Not directly FRC related but the Fluke Link Runner

You would laugh at the days worth of man hours this has saved me in 2019 thus far.


My team got a Jet benchtop mill this season. It was our first “big” tool and it has made a huge difference, we’ve used it almost every day we’ve had it.

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A cleco is like a temporary rivet - you use the plier-shaped tool to install them. The reason to use them is it lets you temporarily hold the entire frame of whatever you’re riveting together, so you can easily square up this frame and make sure everything lines up before you commit to rivets. You can reuse clecos as many times as you want. The way that they work is easiest to explain with a picture:

When you use the tool, it pushes the hooks inside the cleco down. Doing that allows the barb shape to grab onto the far side of whatever you’re fastening. When you let go, the barbs expand and hold it tight. To remove them, simply use the plier-shaped tool again and yank it out. They don’t damage or mar the parts in any way.


Oh, if we’re going to include shop machines:

Our new 130W CO2 laser cutter completely changed our build. It is so fast that we can crank out robot-ready iterations in just a few minutes. We generally cut 1/4" sheet, although it will do thinner and (a bit) thicker. We cut:

  • cheap MDF for prototypes,
  • Delrin for accurate gearboxes,
  • Lexan for things that need springiness,
  • HDPE for things that will take a beating (like our entire hatch panel mech). The HDPE is right at the limit of the cutters’ ability though. It melts more than evaporates, so you need a good air blast to get rid of the melt.

All that, without changing tooling, teaching CAM, or worrying about work-holding. It’s my current favourite shop machine.


My personal favorite is the laser cutter - beautiful and accurate field elements (etched with PNs, team members faces, team logo, etc), dramatically improved prototyping capabilities, and just so much fun to watch. It was easy to learn to use, and provided an opportunity for a few more students to learn some basic CAD.

But for tangible benefit to the team’s capability, the CNC routers win. Routing plate parts is just so dramatically faster and easier than milling them.


Prusa i3 MK3 3D printer.


A great tool for measuring frame perimeters:

It’s actually 144" long. OBTW, a 4" piece of 1x1" vex polycarbonate tubing makes a great keeper for it.

+1 for clecos. We slightly undersize our rivet holes and then ream them out to get a perfect rivet fit.


Did you use this with any stainless steel rivets? If so, how well did it handle them?

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I think this is the first year that we have ready access to 3D printers. The team itself doesn’t own one, but between students and mentors we have access to between 6-8 of them. Typically students would go home with some idea, design and print overnight, then come back to the build space the following day with their part. They would iterate and improve as needed.

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We only use steel body, steel mandrel rivets. Worked fine, but it was only lent to us for one competition, so not a huge amount of use. I imagine it would jam eventually - rivet guns always seem to.

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Borrowed one of these from 58 a few times this year.

We just bought two of our own.


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