pic: Pneu Module w/ SMC Manifold

Ready to mount on our next off-season project.

This looks awesome! I may just have to steal it.

What’s that under the solenoids?

That is a Pneumatic Manifold.

That would make sense, now would it.

Thank you!

SMC manifolds are awesome. Pretty much every machine at my workplace (Arvin Sango, INC) has at least one… although being a Japanese ownwed company we use SMC pretty much exclusively for generic air stuff. I’ve seen similar manifolds from festo too.

I will say that SMC’s heavier duty stuff (overkill for FRC) does hold up. Some of our stuff with SMC solenoids/manifolds is over 20 years old and they work great (minus getting stuck in storage, nothing a little air oil won’t fix).

We have never used an air manifold.
How do they make things better?


Three things IMHO:

  1. Easier mounting: Everything is in a “block” so you only need 4 fasteners to mount the assembly.

  2. Faster solenoid replacement/servicing: All of the air lines are on the manifold, so if you bomb a solenoid you’re only an electrical connector (or two) and a few screws away from a swap.

  3. Cleaner plumbing: You only need one supply line, as the distribution is done by the manifold. This reduces the number of push-connectors and thus fewer points of failure. Also, some larger manifolds (not the one in the pic) are modular, allowing for easy expansion and, most of the time (see below), easy consolidation (to cut weight).

Potential drawbacks:

  1. Weight: The manifold adds weight, being chunks of metal. Although the smaller ones probably aren’t too bad.

  2. Customization: you’re limited to a specific solenoid plumbing architecture without any way to do weird solenoid-driven things (such as easily switching pressures w/o one way valves), although most of these IIRC are not generally FRC legal. Also, in one case I found a normally modular 4-unit SMC manifold (VQ7-6 series) whose threaded rods were not in segments, preventing easy consolidation/parting out.

For industrial use, I consider them essential as it makes things a lot more engineering and maintenance friendly. For FRC, they’re nice if you’re using more then 2 or 3 solenoids, but by no means mandatory.

Thanks for the great comments!

Every time my team has used pneumatics, we have discovered an additional robot function that significantly improves game play. This always happens relatively late in the build season, while the drive team is practicing. Leaving one or two manifold positions available to power these late additions has enabled us to rapidly add the needed functions.

Very neat wiring! This might be a stupid question but we use SMC manifolds at work too, however instead of having the output wires directly attached to the solenoid, it is attached to the manifold, then the manifold acts as a hub for the output wires which makes wiring much easier. I looked at the rules, but still a little confused if that would be legal or not.

I’ve never seen them like that before. As long as it’s all passive (no serial/ethernet encoding or the like) it’s probably legal as it’s just connectors.

All the ones I’ve used have a single square connector on the top of each solenoid.

Sorry, but I do not understand. What do you mean by “the manifold acts as a hub for the output wires”? The solenoid wires go directly from the PCM (previously the pneumatic breakout) to the solenoid, with no side trips. The only time you would legally* have use of a “hub” is if you are switching multiple solenoids from a spike relay module, which you did not mention.

*Usual caveat about rules subject to change next year

This will be clear if you browse through the SMC catalog.


Seems a little odd to start with solenoids using the 1/2 pair… Looks great and I see that wire lengths all match to the PCM, just odd to me the next solenoid will use the 0/7 pair. It’s just a name, I get it, just seems like an odd starting point.

I agree it looks odd. Our project uses the 0/7 pair for another purpose, not controlled by one of the manifold valves. That makes wiring cleaner overall if we begin as shown.