Predicting team needs

So, I was hired at a research and education facility associated with MSU to get their CNC mill running, with the hopes of providing schools throughout mid-Michigan with custom parts for things like FRC. As part of my preparation, I’ve been trying to predict what sort of parts we’ll be tasked with producing, so I can determine what sort of additional tooling and fixtures we’ll need to invest in.

So my question, what sort of things do FRC teams typically need manufactured, or would benefit from the most? Is there something that you always seem to need in decently large numbers? Is there something really important that you only need in small numbers?

We have a Tormach PCNC 1100. While we don’t have a 4th axis kit, getting one is certainly in the realm of possibility if a good case for it were presented, like if custom gears are a popular request. I already have a list of things we need to get, but I would gladly add to it if there’s something I’ve neglected.

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Right off hand as a team without a CNC, I would say tubing for WCD.

Every team needs a drive base and we’ve been hesitant to move away from the kitbot due to hearing that you need tight tolerances on them.

Not sure if you should stock up on a couple different wheel spaces or have teams email you with what they want.

Forgive the ignorance as I know you can get pre-drilled tube from vexrobotics, but it seems that a team still has to drill/cnc holes for the axles and gearbox.

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The most glaring would be precision drilling holes in tubing. Additionally, there is always the machining of various sheet metals or angle to reduce weight.

Perhaps you could reach out to teams in your area and ask what they would like you to focus on for them?

There is a map of all the teams in Michigan on our website found here: https://firstinmichigan.us/FRC/about/ or you could reach out to Gail Alpert regarding sponsorship for local teams.

Good luck!

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I expect most of the work would be custom from team’s CAD, with 99% of it being tubing and sheet metal. The remaining 1% is going to be special purpose, not something you can crank out supplies of ahead of time.

There are plenty of items that you can already get from various vendors - brackets, tubing with 1" pre-drilled holes, wheel hubs, that sort of thing. Being a cheaper local source for those sorts of items could be beneficial for teams!

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I appreciate the responses. That definitely helps me out, especially that link to the teams in Michigan.

Much appreciated.

Creating some fixtures for 2" x 1" tubing cuts may be worthwhile. Possibly 1" x 1" tubing as well. Likely as simple as an end-stop at a known reference and some vices. Mostly just drilling holes, butsometimes pocketing as well.

Sheet metal gussets and mounting brackets are popular in FRC design, but the limited build volume of the PCNC 1100 may limit your ability to make larger ones of these. I would still prepare what you can for sheet and thin plate work.

One of the most common requests you will see are for bearing holes, typically 1.125". Some teams may want a 1.124" press fit, or to ream out a hole to 1.126" for a looser fit. Obviously there’s a few different ways to approach this, with the simplest being an endmill plunge. But for teams with a little bit more demanding results, you may want to look into reamers and/or a boring bar.

The 4th axis kit would rarely see use. COTS gears are readily available, making custom gears quite infrequent. Perhaps if a team wanted to make a custom dog shifter shaft, but even some of the most advanced teams will typically use a COTS component for this and design around it.

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