You do have a $450 AM voucher because you opted out of the kitbot. That would definitely get you the frame, but won’t get you a full kitbot…
That said, if I had to guess you’ve got a fair amount of COTS gearboxes around and some motors. (Any veteran team that doesn’t I’d be worried about.) You could use that frame with the gearboxes and motors you have, and then get some part upgrades and not be out of voucher space.
Yeah we have a bunch of falcons, cims, mini cims, basically any motor you can think of. We actually don’t have a ton of COTS gearboxes because we would use swerve or a custom mecanum drive system. We also have a bunch of versa planetaries for mechanisms so I’m not too worried about that.
Unfortunately it looks like the kitbot is out of stock right now on andymark, so I’ll have to wait for that to come back in stock.
People above have covered a lot of great ideas. I have a couple of practical things you can do:
The Evolution Rage 4 is an incredible deal for a metal-cutting shop saw. It’s $150 on Amazon right now and is totally portable and metal-cutting ready.
Woodcutting tools can often be used with plastic, although you should make sure this doesn’t cause issues with mixing materials in the dust collector. Polycarb is very easy to cut on bandsaws and tablesaws, so mechanisms that extend outside the robot can be flexible.
You can use a tablesaw to cut down large sheets of aluminum, but you need to have an experienced person running the saw and a metal-cutting blade. However, this is a fast way to turn large sheets into small gusset-sized ones of regular size (by making use of stops). I’ve made bulk gussets this way before.
The 2014 game Aerial Assist was our first. Team leadership didn’t understand the stop build date and thought they were allowed to keep building right up till competition. Luckily a student reread the rules and had the courage to confront a wrongly confident mentor and we got the robot bagged in time. What went in the bag was a scrap plywood and PVC pipe mock up of what we had planned to machine from aluminum. Our first competition, we broke a pvc arm but wrapped it with cast material (like what Doctors use for broken arms) and continued winning. Earned Rookie All Star and a place at World Champs with a mock up on a kit base.
You will do just fine with whatever you have. If you have conviction, the support available at regionals won’t let you fail.
I’m pretty sure our 2014 robot was built with a band saw, drill press, a sheet metal brake (though that certainly wasn’t critically important), a 3d printer, and a bunch of hand tools. It was kind of ugly, but was #1 seed and event finalist. Used the old c-base kit chassis, though we should probably haven been using the AM14U because a chain breaking is what made us finalist instead of winner. Our 2015 robot was similar, but I think didn’t use the sheet metal brake (but was again the c-base kit chassis), was 2x #6 seed, event finalist, and Archimedes division captain of the #6 alliance.
My point is that a lot of robot can be built with barely any power tools as long as you can cut stock and sheet and drill holes.
I based my own team’s purchase list off of it. We had a drill press, band saw, and some wrenches, but here’s about 5k in tools (and 1k in COTS parts for prototyping) I spec’d on top of that (thanks @s-neff for the help).
Best of luck! I’ll forward any other resources I come across.
Bandsaws often show up cheap on resale sites like Craigslist and Facebook marketplace. People buy them, use them too little to justify the space they require, and sell them. You could probably find one for less than the price of a Falcon 500 that would work fine for the season.
If any of your parents have a cricut type machine or if the new school has a large format paper printer, you can cut or print layouts (e.g. for a custom intake arm plate) on vinyl with reusable adhesive or on paper. Then stick those layouts (using movable spray glue in the case of the paper) onto aluminum, polycarb, even baltic birch plywood sheet. And finally use bandsaw (or even scroll saw or jigsaw for plywood) to cut the outside shape & drill press for bearing and mounting holes. It’s slower than CNC but can yield a similar result.
Maybe try to add some manufacturing sponsors or at least relationships. A quick search of your area in NY revealed there are several working machine shops that have been in business for decades. One of the experienced metal fabricators in your area may be intrigued when they find out high school students are building cool robots out of metal & might like to help. Heck, you might even find a mentor for the team. As I look across FRC, building relationships like this can be truly game changing for teams.
We worked out of a high school wood shop in our first two years. We purchased a cheap horizontal bandsaw for cutting stock, and refit one of the shop’s vertical bandsaw with a metal cutting blade.
Since we had a minimum of tools, we made heavy use of COTS components. Usually Versaframe and gussets bolted to a kitbot chassis (with a birch plywood belly pan). You can’t do as much as you can with CNC, but it’s still possible to build a competitive robot.
The last thing I’d advise us to buy a good toolbox, and a bunch of totes. Organized, portable storage will be essential if you have to clean everything into a closet at the end of every meeting.
In all seriousness, one of my teams from the get go is going to build the Everybot. Their primary goal is to strengthen their building, programming, and driving skills. After that, they will then work on their abilities to iterate on a design. By having a base to work from, every improvement must be an improvement, or it doesn’t go on the robot.
This isn’t even a low resource team, it’s just one that realized that the everybot better achieves their goals than trying to build one from the group up.
Can’t say I know the situation you’re in because we have lots available to us, however I do know that none of the fancy stuff is necessary to build a functional robot. Drills and saws can do a lot, you just may have to get a little creative. I don’t know enough to give specific tips but I’m sure that y’all will figure it out!
We were a very low manufacturing resource team for a long time (but have reasonable but not amazing funding), having recently upped our game with a shop bot CnC router (plywood/polycarbonate) and a CnC mill (aluminum)–we still don’t have a CnC lathe, and there’s no prospect for getting one in the near-to-distant future for a variety of reasons that aren’t relevant here.
Here’s my advice for teams that don’t have a lot of manufacturing capability but who have enough money:
Use the kitbot. If you think about not using the kitbot, slap yourself in the face and use the kitbot. Then be happy that you used the kitbot. [For your first year, consider replacing ‘kitbot’ for ‘everybot’ in this instance. I’ve never done it, but we’ve been around a while…]
Use premade structure and COTS components–Versaframe and thrifty gussets are enormously helpful for both prototyping and in final robot construction. (The new 3D printed thrifty prototyping blocks and Hype Blocks will go a long way toward making an effective robot, especially once you dial things in and replace the thrifty things with proper aluminum gussets.) The versaplanetary system is fantastic for making adjustments to torque/speed, not quite on the fly, but pretty fast. Then there’s Greyt elevators (and thrifty elevators and Andymark elevators), and the Greyt hooded shooter, etc. Lots and lots and lots of out-of-the-box solutions, near-solutions, and adult tinker toys are on the market for your prototyping and building pleasure. Take good advantage of them.
Polycarbonate + band saw + jig saw can make a whole lot of things that don’t need to be dialed-in perfect–shields, paneling, hopper walls, etc. Figure out when close enough is close enough, and let it be close enough.
Design for your capability. There’s no reason to CAD things you can’t build, and wishing won’t make it so. If you can’t CnC that plate with the bearing holes just so, and it’s not going to work unless they line up just right, design so you can use tubing and bearing gussets instead. (The pre-made holes in versaframe go a long way toward making things line up–use the same spacing on each side, rivet, and done.)
What can be 3D-printed (and can safely be used as a 3D-printed part), should be. CAD + “hit print” on finicky parts is so, so much faster than trying to make something by hand over and over again. If you can’t get carbon fiber, PLA+ can do a lot of jobs pretty darned well, and there are a lot of relatively inexpensive printers on the market.
Cheat #1: Rather than paper and tracing, 3D print spacing tools (for rivets, bearings, or what-have-you) to use as templates on polycarb or metal sheet/plate–instead of bearing holes, for example, print holes just big enough for your punch, clamp (or screw or bolt) the template in place, then punch your holes before transferring to the drill press. It ain’t CnC, but it’ll get you close.
Cheat #2: When using cheat #1 to make something for timing belt, go a little smaller than your calculated center-to-center distance and budget room in your design for a tension idler–that way you can change the idler pulley size to make up for any slop in construction, and keep your belts nice and tight/wrapped around your pulleys. Slop isn’t a great thing, but when you know you’re going to have it, plan for it, and you can usually deal with it pretty easily.
I cannot express how helpful having an in-place construction infrastructure is. We are basically a hybrid of VEX’s versa-everything and Thriftybot, and make sure to have a rich inventory of stock to choose from out of our supply closet right from the get-go, so we’re not waiting on parts.
Make that a cold saw (lower RPM). No matter how well you clamp things, sometimes those high speed teeth hitting metal will cause a kickback. The last time I cut aluminum on a chop saw (using a Diablo brand blade meant for aluminum), nothing flew, but no one could get cuts straight on it the next day. It turned out the main fence was bent about 5 degrees out of straight. I managed to get it off and do some percussive maintenance, but that swore me off of cutting aluminum on such a saw. You can get a basic one for about $150, a fancier one for $30 more. The Rage Evolution line also includes larger (e.g. 10") saws, but this seems like it could handle most FRC cuts.
Also, I can’t recommend the kit chassis too strongly for a team with limited machining resources. It can be built to a rather wide array of geometries just within what AndyMark advertises the straight kit can do. It can be built even more ways using AM COTS options. It can be built even more even more ways with some creativity. One of the best strokes of luck for 3946 was forgetting to opt out of the KoP chassis in 2015. Every 3946 robot after that was built on the KoP chassis, but not all of them had six wheels. Five (later four) omnis (H-drive) in 2015, ten (overlapping, two tracks) in 2016, four in 2017 and four again post-season 2018. The ten wheel drive was a bit of a fiasco, but could have been done better with some tensioners. The 2017 and 2018 four wheel drives were done by cutting off the back third (11") of the chassis. I personally built a 16" x 16.3" robot built on the AM14U3 with a battery mounted horizontally in the chassis just to show how far you can go without anything more than the tools in my garage. There’s a picture of it well along this topic:
If you do decide to go this route, you may want to see if there are teams nearby who meant to opt out but forgot to do so, and do some horsetrading. If you already have some AM Mini TB gearboxes, purchase the “frame only” option. 3946 opted out, but purchased two “frame only” prior to kickoff several years, and that worked out well for us, because we could build two robots, which let us develop and drive at the same time, AND have easy to acceess purchases in the first few days after kickoff [no approval from the school or even booster club required].