Swyft reached out to me asking if I’d like to evaluate their products. I figured we had little to lose, so I said yes and gave them the address.
Full disclosure 1: They gave us these parts for free.
Full disclosure 2: From 2016 until 2017, I worked for AndyMark–obviously, a competitor.
The order went in at 5:52 PM on Sunday, and I had a tracking number at 11:36 PM that night. The shipment arrived Wednesday (UPS Ground from Texas to South Carolina), and everything was well-packed. Each item was bagged with an easy-to-read label, with bubble wrap and anti-static bags around the electronic parts. I don’t know how they’re going about fulfillment, but this is not amateur-hour stuff.
We unbagged several items last night in the shop. Some observations:
Shaft collars: We received several, but tested both one-piece and two-piece 1/2" hex ones. They are of the wider variety you see from AndyMark and VEX (in high-strength form); I photographed them next to a standard VEX collar we had handy.
They seem well-built with screws I felt confident cranking down on, and both hold well on our hex shaft. Considering they’re just $2.99-4.99 (more for the two-piece units) they’re undercutting the heck out of AndyMark, VEX, and BaneBots by at least $2 a pop. Pretty strong win for them, as long as you can work with the extra thickness and OD of the larger style.
Electrical Stickers: We didn’t test these exhaustively, but I did slap one on a spare piece of lexan. It certainly had enough stick to withstand drilling as designed, though the sticker didn’t come off super clean (part remained adhered to the lexan, and I had to angle my unpeeling to get most of it off).
I still think they’re great and will help teams lay out cleaner boards, just know that’s a thing that happens if you care about style that much.
Boards: 1293 is pretty set in our electrical plans for 2019, so this was evaluated on spare equipment.
The VRM and roboRIO connector boards are both well-made and secure on their targets well. Obviously, the roboRIO board suffers from an issue with R75, in that some inspectors are going to have issues calling that a direct connection (especially when the WCP Spartan Board got a specific exception on that). If they can get it legalized for the future, I think it’ll be fine as a board. The roboRIO board connects using the two threaded locations below the USB/Ethernet ports normally used for the MXP breakout boards. That didn’t pose a problem for an Analog Devices breakout board from a couple years back that was on my tester, but a REV Digit board would not connect because it reached down below the MXP port.
The VRM board fits as well, and the removal tool (well-made plastic) makes it easy enough to get free as well. There is the R54 concern on radio power, again centering around the definition of “directly”. That aside, my one disappointment there was in the placement of the connectors. While putting them inboard of the stock VRM terminals keeps the board compact, it also means you have to disconnect everything from the VRM board to remove the board. I could see a lot of value in a board that could be mated and demated without disconnecting everything, so a team could keep its wiring largely intact when swapping out components.
The Talon SRX board looks especially promising, with lots of configuration options as well as a pass-through connection for the CTRE magnetic encoder. We plan to use one on our robot this year and will report further.
Three notable omissions in this category:
- We received many cables designed to connect with this board, but nothing was finished on the other end for connecting PWM cables. This feels like a gap in the lineup that can be fixed, but if you aren’t all-in on CAN and don’t feel comfortable soldering or crimping you will be left wanting.
- A little extra silkscreen to name what connector goes in a port would be nice to have; perhaps we’d get practiced at what goes where with time, but for now knowing which bag to look for (especially when they’re all JST-*H) is a learning curve.
- It might be useful freshman-proofing to label the two removal tools, though it’s keyed to each board so you’re unlikely to break anything.
Pneumatics Parts: We received some 1/8" NPT straight fittings and sample tubing. We didn’t plumb them up, but everything fit well and appeared well-built; the fittings had a nice detent on the tube side when unconnected.
The 1/4" tubing sample we received was packaged by Swyft but labeled on the tubing itself as Nitra brand from Automation Direct. That gives me a vote of confidence in product quality, although the per-foot price will be better at Automation Direct (but you must buy a larger length and place another order). The fittings do not appear to be Automation Direct parts.
This was also my first encounter with smaller 5/32" tubing, which will be an interesting investigation. If you can handle the lower flow, it sure is more flexible. Having the matching fittings would make that an easy swap.
Bearings: We received a Swyft hex bearing, one which all of us noticed felt rather heavy with grease or lubricant–at least heavier than the AndyMark ones we’re familiar with though we did not have a known-fresh AndyMark bearing to make a precise measurement with. It may well work itself in with use, but it is something to watch. AndyMark on the left, Swyft on the right:
Swyft undercuts AndyMark and VEX on the price of bearings as well, although I don’t know if the discount is enough to bite right now until they’re a little more battle-tested. (That doesn’t mean they’re bad bearings, it just means I’m being conservative because seized bearings inhale audibly.)
Overall verdict: It’s a solid year-one release for Swyft, who is clearly taking this seriously. Some products are slam dunks, some are solid layups, some require an assist to get in the hoop, and to really torture this basketball metaphor I guess Swyft won the opening tip-off on the bearings. We’ll probably give them a look the next time we need to do a resupply order.
If anyone wants to know more or see other pictures, let me know and I’ll try to answer them from the shop on Saturday.