pic: Floating Zip Tie Chain Tensioner

That’s not how CCL works. It’s a form of copyright protection only.

When you copyright something, you’re asserting ownership of the work (of art, of literature, etc.), but you don’t have protection for the engineering information contained inside. So by copyrighting a drawing, you prevent someone from redistributing facsimilies of the drawing, but are not protected against someone reading it and implementing the object depicted. The CCL just changes the terms of the copyright licence to permit not-for-profit use, usually with attribution.

Hachiban, you might be surprised how flush they stayed. They actually work really well. The zip ties offer enough tension but not too much.

Thanks, hoseclamps would work so much better.:slight_smile:

I came up with the idea by myself and the chiefdelphi community gave me the idea of hoseclamps. Do I give credit to the team or to who? Semi confused, probably because I just woke up and have not had breakfast/lunch.

UHMW is pretty good and thatz why i picked it. We have using McMasters floating chain tensioners for about three years. We haven’t replaced them for 3 comps and offseason events. So uhmw is pretty good for us. The wear is minimal only if the chain isn’t too tight and has a little bit of slop. We used this on our 5th match at nationals. So we have only used these for three matches and a couple of offseason demos. You could make these out of chuncks of u channel or cnc out blocks of uhmw. We never replaced the old tensioner accept when it over tensioned or was getting stuck or when it just wasn’t working.

What if I just sell it to Andy Mark??

Thanks for your support guys

Another thing you might want to try is kevlar. It is a bit more expensive but should last longer and have less friction.:smiley:

Or you could start your own business manufaturing chain and belt tensioners. Maybe donate some to FIRST for next year’s KOP…:cool:

It would be nice, but it is way too expensive.

money complicates everything, free ideas for everyone:D
mike d

Also another question, would teams buy this if they were available???

Yes, especially if offered in multiple sizes. We’ve had some issues with our homebuilt non-floating tensioners over the years, and never had enough money to spare for several McMaster-style tensioners.

What sizes would you want? Currently we have:

1.25 x 2.5

I meant for different chain sizes. #25, #35.

They work for either one, just like mcmasters.

This is a fantastic and simple idea! Now let’s hope they don’t ban zip ties… We would want #25 chains, but probably only 1.25" in length because we have some short chain runs to deal with from the transmissions.

Have you done any efficiency experiments, e.g. how much efficiency is lost due to these tensioners when compared other methods? Examples include autotensioning (sliding a wheel out like 254/968/etc), simple rotary tensioners that use delrin or similar plastics, or the old adjustable bolt/sprocket method.

If you find that there’s more loss (due to increased contact surfact area) you could experiment with teflon or oil-impregnated plastic surfaces. Also, you could change the geometry in the channel itself to be curved convex rather than simply flat. This is how the secondary tensioners on Harley Davidson motorcycles work – turn a bolt and a convex-curved piece of teflon raises against the chain to fine-tune the tension.

< edit >
Another thing you could do is create a working relationship with a company such as AndyMark or a local plastics mold company, who can mass-produce these for teams and give your team a % of the revenue. The upside to this is that it should be low-stress supplemental revenue for your team. The downside to this is that you miss producing and selling these yourselves, which opens up a whole new can of worms in opportunities for more people from your community to learn and participate in your program.

Food for thought.
< /edit >

I can’t speak for specifically how much loss there is between different types, but the method of sliding the wheel is going to be by far the most efficient, as it’s the only style of tensioning that does not touch the chain and add more friction to the system.

There’s an easy answer to that.

It depends on your price point.

Unfortunately, with something this small and this easy to make, your labor (or mill time) is going to KILL you on pricing. Now, if you could get a plastics shop to start cranking them out by the thousands off a small injection mold so that you could sell them for a couple of bucks for a pair… well… I’ll tell you one team that would be interested!

Get in touch with AndyMark. I’m sure they go through this all the time and can help you out. Incredible idea!

An interesting design, and an interesting discussion on IP. (Intellectual Property… patents, copyright, etc.) The CD community does a pretty good job of giving solid information on the challenges and benefits of patents, and dispels some common myths such as the protection offered to engineering designs through copyright.

It looks like these could be mass produced fairly easily on a table saw with some fairly simple jigs. There are also some alternatives to UHMW that are worth considering. A local firm (North Vancouver, BC) produces a graphite/epoxy composite for lubricating the side of train wheels. This is an extremely hard-wearing, low-friction compound that can easily be shaped with wood-working tools, but has the added benefit of lubricating the chain (or wheels) as it slowly wears away. They gave us some and we used this to tension our chains three years ago, with a grooved sliding tensioner that was adjusted cam-style on just one side of the chain. It worked great. But I’ve lost their contact information, sorry.

As far as the profitability of marketing this design, the tensioners would end up being a fairly low cost item (the raw materials are commonly available and the machining steps relatively simple) so it would require a significant volume of sales to generate a large amount of revenue, and, as mentioned several times, a large amount of revenue is required to justify the cost of a patent.

However it is possible to file for a provisional patent at a much reduced cost ($500 is the ballpark figure that runs through my head), and while that only protects your design for a year, that may be enough time to test market it and/or license the design to someone who is willing to pay the costs of obtaining a full patent.

Whether or not this is a patentable or profitable design, it is a good one and one to be proud of. It may well be worth the effort of doing a patent search (google patents and freepatentsonline.com help the individual inventor get a start) as well as a search of the web for similar designs. (Remember that what matters is that you were first to invent, not first to patent. Even if you were to get a patent, if someone were to demonstrate that the device had been invented 50 years ago they could have your patent overturned… regardless of whether the original inventor had filed for a patent or not. There is a whole section of patent law on the issue of “first to file” vs. “first to invent”, but your main concern here is to look for “prior art”… ie. has anyone done this before?) It may also be worth going through the exercise of setting up a small-scale production run, developing a brand name for your product, and marketing your product just as an educational exercise. If it turns a profit… great!


P.S. Also remember that a patent doesn’t prevent someone from using your idea… it merely gives you the right to sue them for damages if they do… and a US patent only protects ideas in the USA. If a US patent is expensive, then protecting your idea world-wide is phenomonally expensive (any idea what it costs to get a patent translated in to Japanese?) That doesn’t mean don’t “go for it” if you want the experience… in many ways the educational value of developing your design is likely to be far, far greater than the commercial value… just as the educational value of building a FIRST robot is far, far greater than any commercial applications the robots might have.

P.P.S. Should you decide to patent in Canada, I can introduce you to some excellent Canadian patent agents who know a thing or two about FIRST.

I hate to be a downer, but this isn’t the first time a chain tensioning device like this has been seen in FIRST. I know for a fact that I have seen it on at least 2-3 robots some time ago (like 5-8 years ago). Can’t recall who.

I wouldn’t regard your comment as being a “downer”. It takes nothing away from the designer, who came up with the idea independently and creatively, to say that other bright and talented people have come up with similar designs. In many ways it is a compliment to the effectiveness of the design.

From a patenting point of view it is also extremely helpful to know exactly what the “prior art” is so that you can describe precisely how a design differs from the prior art and what benefits your design offers. Perhaps this design is simpler to produce, is more reliable, uses less expensive materials, or is easier to adjust. If you don’t know about prior art, and sufficiently differentiate your product from what has come before, you may spent a whole lot of time and money getting a patent only to discover that you can’t enforce it due to the prior art… so knowing that there are similar designs out there in the public domain is useful for the inventor.

It is extremely difficult to come up with a revolutionary mechanical design. After centuries of designing developments tend to be evolutionary rather than completely new. Often those incremental improvements are quite profitable and quite worth patenting, even though they may only improve performance in some small way. I can see how this design offers some incremental improvements over what I’ve seen before… and the suggestion to use a hose clamp is possibly another incremental improvement.

Given that the discussion of patents, in the absence of a business plan, is purely academic, knowing that there have been similar desgins in no way marginalizes the “great idea” factor for the designer. So rather than viewing your comments as a downer, I’d view them as evidence that this design is on the right track!


I would just like to say thanks to everyone and I am currently talking to AndyMark right now. Hopefully I can get this thing in the market.:wink:

Or, for that matter, someone re-drawing the drawing and distributing that.

I know you’re in discussions, so I won’t comment specifically on that.

One option is to simply give them the idea for free (or some minor consideration, like a 20% discount on your next order). But, that depends on whether they ‘want’ something like that, or think it will sell. They have some small risk in the cost of manufacturing and inventory, but the risk is small only because the cost is low.

Another alternative is to ask AndyMark to market the product, and you simply supply it. They have little upfront expenses, aside from a web page on their site. You have a small expense, making several samples and a small stock for them to hold on to for orders. And you can make a few dollars for the team, or for yourself.

Just beware that if a LOT of teams want these, you may need to buy materials and make hundreds or even thousands* of them in just a few days - during build season. Getting a whole team to help - who gets the money? - might ease this worry.

I’m not meaning to suggest that AndyMark will do this, I’m just using their name as an example.

*We can only hope!


So long as it was not an exact replica of the drawing, then there would be no copyright protection. For instance the drawing could be re-drawn to a different scale, show dimensions in different locations, be in first angle rather than third angle projection, have some parts with slightly different dimensions, be a SolidWorks file rather than an Inventor file… I would even go so far as to say that if the original drawing was drawn exactly to an established standard, then someone could re-draw it to that established standard and have a perfect duplicate without infringing copyright because no creative content went into either drawing. (The creatvity being in the design, not the drawing.) They may even be able to copy the drawing outright, just as they would a table of data, or a bare (non-artistic) chart or graph.

Oh, heck… here’s someone who’s written it up better and more authoritatively than I http://www.lawmart.com/searches/difference.htm

That is the value of a patent… it truly protects the idea of the design, which is the fundamental part of the invention rather than just an expression of the idea.


P.S. Good luck with manufacturing and marketing your design. It looks like a design that is extremely well-suited to mass production and once you get your jigs worked out you should be able to churn them out by the hundreds fairly quickly.