Favorite new-to-you tool in 2020

Pretty much what it says. A couple of really neat similar discussions in recent years where I heard about some neat tools and tips, so I wanted to start a new one for 2020. For purposes of this topic, a “tool” doesn’t necessarily have to be a physical tool in the classic sense, but may be a new-to-you fabrication technique or even a new-to-you software library or smart sensor. So far, this is the only new real tool for me. I’ll hold off on reporting a technique I’m going to try until I know it works.

Evolution Rage4 chop saw.
Quite affordable low-speed chop saw suitable for cutting aluminum and mild steel at FRC scales (OBTW, I’m certain you can cut 2"x1" at a 45 degree miter if you use some spacer blocks.) If you need larger, the (much heavier) Rage4 is available with a 14" blade for less than $250. I’ve been surprised too many times by high speed chop saws, even running aluminum blades, to do that again. This is somewhat less expensive and MUCH lighter than even the cheapest horizontal band saws, which is what I started out searching. Even though the stock blade is multi-material, including aluminum, I ordered Evolutions aluminum cutting blade because I already have a wood chop saw and don’t intend to do a lot of steel cutting that I can’t do with my portable band saw.


M12 Rivet Tool


A mentor has that along with this, it was used so many times on our robot last year. Definitely a time (and blood) saver, we’ve had too many injuries with the manual ones in the past.


Two new favorite pieces of software: Fusion 360 and KiCAD.

Fusion is a lot like Inventor, but it feels a lot more modern. There are a few things that really annoy me (like how STLs are always exported in the same units as the part as if anyone on the planet intentionally uses STLs in inches) but I like it a lot more than Inventor as someone who isn’t primarily a CAD person.

As for KiCAD, I haven’t even finished my first design yet but I really like how easy it is to use for something that would seem complicated going in. Once I figured out getting the schematic editor and board editor working together, it was pretty easy to get a board together and check it in the 3D viewer. (Plus it has a literal RTX ON* button to make a very nice render to show off)


The raytracing feature in KiCAD is in no way affiliated with Nvidia’s RTX raytracing technology


That would be our Vulcan MigMax 140 welder, with spool gun for welding aluminum. We’ve been a team that uses welded steel components for a few years now, but this gives us the capability we’ve needed to weld aluminum structures for mechanisms and frames.


my favorite team tool we got this season has to be a Deburing tool we added onto our first Andymark order of build season.
It just works so much better and faster than freshmen with a file…
And also has the added benefit of being quite soothing to use.

While my personal favorite new tool is my ender 3 pro that I decided to impulse buy over break…
It’s helpful to be able to print parts without having to bug mentors at odd hours (I tend to cad more last at night and our head mentor operates all of our team printers due to storage reasons.)
Worked great for when I wanted to try using the 125 mecanums on our intake prototypes!

I’m hoping laser cutting will be a new method of manufacturing we can add to our arsenal. At least for prototyping. Plan to take our first real crack at it tomorrow.

I’ve never designed anything for laser cutting so I’m just kind of taking my best guess and winging it. I should have probably looked something up first but naa.


These have been handy for building WCD chassis:

Yost Right Angle Clamps We lay out our tubing and clamp everything in squarely in place using 4 of these. They go for around $40/ea but I found ours on Woot for $17.

Cleco fasteners Once clamped into place, we use Cleco fasteners to position our gussets.

Rivet gun drill adaptor We have a pneumatic rivet gun for the shop that is awesome, but we needed something for the pit and didn’t want to pay $200 for the Milwaukee riveter. At about $16 this thing beats manually riveting, and gives new purpose to some of our older drill motors. Plus, if it breaks its no biggie.


Regarding your problem with F360 exporting stl files in inches,

Inventor pro 2018 can export as stl files with custom settings by going here:

and changing this setting to millimeters, which I assume you are trying to export as:

This works in Inventor Pro 2018, but I bet my strongest shaft collar that its the same in Fusion.

Hope this helps!


My favorite as of now is our school’s new laser cutter. Super fast for making wood protostuff and we can finally engrave wacky pictures on our belly pan. It was kinda finicky to configure it, but I got it down before the season so its been super helpful.


Unfortunately, it’s not like that in Fusion. The 3D printing specific export menu is heavily simplified compared to Inventor’s (though it does have useful features like opening it directly in a slicer) and the generic export menu doesn’t have the options button.

Is there an export menu that is directly from the part? Also, what slicer software does it open in? Our team uses Solidworks and we slice it with Simplify3D.

Also, I lost the bet, so here ya go…


Do software tools count? We’ve started using the new WPILib Robot Characterization tools, and they’ve made characterizing + tuning a lot easier. So far we’ve only used it on a drivetrain, but we’re also planning on using it on an arm and our flywheel, once flywheel support is available.


1 Like

This isn’t specifically an FRC tool, but I used to write all the vision code without the use of any libraries except opencv. This year I included the TensorFlow library and it’s been a huge time saver and miracle worker!

1 Like

So far, the Stanley 10- and 25-cup organizers. Not exactly a tool per se, but we’ve been an unorganized team for a while (lots of bags and boxes and not really knowing what we have) and these have been very helpful to start organizing our smaller items.

1 Like

Restaurant grade first-in-first-out condiment dispensers for Anchorlube

Regular condiment bottles for oils

(Note: pictures for example only, in a safe workspace bottles are correctly labeled with their contents)


A digital protractor such as this one

Most popular new tool in 2021. I’m calling it.

Onshape. I was one of those doubters who didn’t really believe in web browser cad or it being the “Google Docs of CAD”, but it really has been. The level of collaboration you are able to achieve with it is really quite amazing.