The Age before AndyMark

Hi there,
I was wondering how teams survived the age before andymark.
where did they make their gearbox, wheels…?

I’m not entirely sure when AndyMark opened up, but I know that IFI was huge when I joined, and lots of teams got stuff from there.

  • Sunny

You used to see a lot more custom parts before AM. Wheels could be found all over, though. Skyways, Home Depot’s lawnmower wheels, etc.

I kinda miss that, to an extent. I even look at our own old robots and I wonder if the kids before my time learned more by helping to design custom gearboxes and wheels than just purchasing COTS items. Even this year, I was highly opposed to purchasing swerve modules (nor did I approve of swerve in the first place but that’s another matter) but our team’s mentors went ahead and did what they felt necessary.

Then again, I do love AM, Team 221, and IFI.


Back in the day, teams would have to make their own gearboxes. The kits would usually provide a gearbox that a lot of the teams would use. However, your team had a really strong advantage if you were able to produce your own designed ideally for your particular application. Before Andymark, if you had a robot that could just consistently drive, you were quite competitive.

Sorry to thread jack a little. When I started IFI used to used to make the kit Chassis, I’m curious, when did they start doing this this?

I wasn’t around way back when, but teams used to use small parts inc. a lot. I belive each team would have a certain amount of money that they could spend on small part’s items each year something like a credit towards small parts included in the kit. Someone who was around may have to clarify/qualify this for me.

Of couse Small parts doesn’t sell half of the stuff useful to FIRST teams that AndyMark sells, but both were/are common places for FIRST teams to make purchases. (they are completely different types of businesses, just both are common to FIRST teams).

IIRC it was 04 or 05?

We made our own gear boxes. We had a two speed gear box and ever year we made two gear boxes and two spares. We did this in 2005, 2006 and 2007. It cost $1,100 a pair in machining labor, raw material, gears to be made, some gears later we switched to mcmaster carr gears but we still had a lot of money in gears.

In 2008, we decided to try the AndyMark toughbox because we where trying to save money in our budget and didn’t want our sponsor PHD, Inc. to have to spend $2,200 in 4 gear boxes for us, and the time it takes for us to fabricate our own gear boxes was a huge savings.

All of those years 2005, 2006, and 2007, the gear box was always the last part on the robot to be finished. Because of the rules of FIRST, we had to make new transmissions each year, (plus spares) because they are custom parts.

AndyMark not only makes good parts, but I don’t even THINK they realize how much money they are saving each team. Since 2008, our team has saved a little over $4,000 in just transmissions alone buy purchasing off the shelf “COTS”. We used 6 NANO transmissions this year. That would have $3,300 if we would have made them ourselves. Instead 6 AndyMark cost $468.00. That’s just good business sense, time savings and a good way for use to stretch our sponsor money for maximum return.

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This same thought process of buying verses fabricating was what changed us as well in 2008.

So what did we do before Andy Mark?

We worked longer hours.
We worried longer when our fabricated transmissions where going to get done.
We didn’t have a working prototype in 3 days with transmissions mounted.
We spent a lot more money that could of went elsewhere.
We didn’t have cool “Ask me about my Robot” t-shirts.

Sure it’s great to design and build your own. We have ours in a glass case now, been there done that…

Before the AM tough-boxes of 2005 every team would get two Bosch drill motors and transmissions that were widely used. A lot of skyway wheels were used. My team even made all-machined-aluminum omni wheels one year. We also did fully custom swerve with 2 bosch transmission and 2 CIMs geared with worm gears in 2002, with the BASIC Stamp IFI robot controller… which doesn’t have negative numbers, let alone trig functions.

It was much more challenging to do things 5-6 years ago that most teams consider common-place today both because of Andy Mark and because of the big improvements in RC sophistication.

Team 975’s first robot had drive wheels made from wood.

You mean the Copioli-IFI* kit transmissions? They would later evolve into the toughboxes! :slight_smile:

*They were designed by Paul Copioli, and manufactured by IFI. This was long before he worked for them.

2005 was also the first year of the IFI kit chassis.

This was dying out when I was a rookie in 2004. There was no longer an allowance (this was earlier 2000s), but I remember looking on their website to buy things, so it must’ve been in the FIRST documentation.

IMHO, 2005 was really the beginning of a new FIRST epoch for a lot of reasons. It started the green vision system, 3 robot alliances, and a reliable kit chassis and drive system. I believe it was also the first year of AndyMark, although they were relatively small, it seemed to me they exploded in popularity in 2006.

In the 2002 off-season, my team built a swerve drive. It had 4 drive motors and 2 steering motors, and a PBASIC processor and its 63 byte variable space. We still have it, in the basement, but most of the motors are gone.

Speaking of the kitbot and AM, the IFI Kitbot and IFI Kit transmissions (like the AM toughboxes, not identical) came around in 2005. Before that, there was kit material for a frame, and drill motors that had transmissions you could use. The AM toughboxes came to the kit in 2008, and the AM kitbot frame in 2009.

As for transmissions, before that, you built them. Dr. Joe taught us all how to build DeWalt transmissions for CIM motors, so for we used those for reliable servo shifting before we went to AM shifters. And we still use them for non-drive things.

Actually, the Basic Stamp did/does have trig functions of sorts. In 1999 we built our first three wheeled robot with only the rear wheel steered. Our software group attacked the problem of controlling the speeds of the front wheels by calculating the circumference of each wheels path and setting it’s speed relative to the distance to travel. It took weeks to solve all the overflow issues but the result was full of trig and mathematically correct.

We have been unable to recreate that algorithm in MPLab/C18 or the cRio with the same success. We resorted to using a PC algorithm to create a lookup table off-line to be able to accomplish the same thing.

AndyMark has been extremely helpful in providing parts that fit our needs at prices that are a fraction of their cost from other sources. I agree with Chris Elston that we have saved thousands of dollars over the years they have served us.

Does anyone else remember the videos that they used to show on putting the “kitbot” together? I remember one in 2003 or so where they had 3 “average Joes” (who all had better than a bachelor’s degree) put it together during kickoff… And some teams couldn’t do it in 6 weeks.

When IFI provided the kit frame and gearbox, mobility went up across the board. That’s also when the CIM limit went up to 4. AM started at about the same time, and after a couple seasons of battle-testing, word-of-mouth really took off.

2005 also saw the debut of mecanum wheels, IIRC, on 357. It took a couple of years for them to catch on as well.

I was not intimately involved in the programming that year (or any year for that matter :rolleyes:) all I know is that the work-around for the same overflow issues we had was a to compute the angles in micro-radians and use approximate polynomial expansions for trig functions… and a few other sleazy little work arounds :cool:

In simple terms, we did more with less. More hours, more design, more machining, more failures, more rebuilds, and in some respects, more learning (but that debate is a dead horse that has been beaten many times over). I think the availability of COTS parts these days is a fantastic luxury that us “old-timers” really wished for back in the day, and now finally have access to. It allows us to focus on higher level work, and get the basic stuff out of the way quicker.

Back in the day (2002), the CIM motors didn’t have the keyed shaft we’re all so familiar with now. It was a gear shaft, that only mated with a bizarre little gear that was included in the kit, and not available separately. Back in 2001 and prior, the CIM motor didn’t even exist in FIRST yet.

Andy Baker is a very well-known “pioneer” in FRC gearbox design, as I’m sure we’re all familiar with.

For me, I also gained a lot of knowledge in gearbox design from another lesser-known Andy. In 2003 and for a couple years thereafter, Andy Brockway of team 716 was also instrumental in developing easy-to-build gearbox designs that he shared and offered advise on within the FIRST community.

2005 was the first year that 6-wheel-drive became popular, after the poor performance of the large pneumatic wheels included in 2004’s kit of parts, and the success of team 980’s 6wd design in 2004.

I’d actually put the 6WD on 254/60 in 2004. That year saw the first set of twin robots in FRC–the only thing different was the color. (It also saw massive debate on collaboration such that two or more teams built the same robot.) Their joint drivetrain became known as the West Coast drive for some reason. 980 might have had something to do with it by winning IRI, but how much influence they had is unclear.

And as for the '04 KOP pneumatic wheels being poor performers, I think it appropriate to say, “to each his own”, and then go use said wheels to climb a 6" step autonomously. (And then, 15 seconds later, have no further need for them…):wink:

Going far enough back, before the days of IFI and AndyMark you were required to buy everything from the Small Parts catalog or use what was in the kit. If you wanted to build a special gear box you had to make it from parts that were in the catalog. At the end of the year you had to return your controls, after a while you could buy them for a cost.

The batteries used to be two drill batteries and you also got the two drills. Several teams would use the drill transmissions for their driveline.

Things have come a long way since then.

We started in 2003. I believe 2003 was the first year for a kit chassis. It consisted of 2 2"x4" extruded box aluminum and two aluminum tubes to connect the box aluminum. The transmission was a complex setup with a Bosch drill transmission and motor clamped into a plastic holder which was then connected by way of a hex shaft to a gearbox with one set of helical gears. We used the gearboxes for prototyping, but then went on to use just the drill transmission setup with chain reduction and eventually switched to the “Nothing but Dewalts”]( transmissions in 2005 after spectacular failures with the Bosch transmissions.

We also used to make our own omni wheels, starting in 2004. The first version used a carbon fiber/AL hub and a UHMW rim and kNex wheels. .2004 was the first year carbon fiber was legal. The design evolved over the years, changing the hub to aluminum and the rollers to hard plastic and then to a rubber material with brass inserts. These were very time consuming to build.


trying to put the history in the right order I dug back in my memory, dug to some old threads, read some stuff in this thread, and talked to some of the principles:

2002 - first year for the CIM in the kit (remember when the drill motors/trannies were the drivetrain of choice?)
2002-2004 there was a gearbox in the kit - a questionable helical one not too many folks used.
2005 - first “robust” gearbox in the kit - Designed by Paul Copioli, provided/sold by IFI, AndyMark supplied a few gears for this box.
2005 - first FULL kitbot chassis - designed by JVN @ IFI … a novice/rookie could really build a “whole robot” right out of the box for the first time.

Every year since 2005 there has been a similar gearbox and a kitbot chassis in the FRC KOP. 2007 saw Banebots take over as the kit gearbox (with mixed results). 2008 was the first year AndyMark was the sole supplier of the kit gearbox. 2009 was the first year AndyMark was the sole supplier of the kitbot chassis, IFI was the kit supplier of this item through 2008.

Really, when I think about what’s made mobility in FRC so accessible to so many, raising the bar for every team, I think about Paul, JVN, Andy and also Tony Norman and Mark Koors. We all owe a lot to these folks - even the teams who don’t use these gearboxes or chassis products. Through their selfless acts and superior design abilities the “weakest” of teams stands a chance to be competitive and the “best” of teams now have all kinds of choices and design options they can pursue.

“Questionable” is being nice. We used these in 2003 and it blew up every other match. Luckily we were able to get all the spares we wanted at events because most of the other teams weren’t using them. It was a major accomplishment when our robot managed to get to the top of the ramp…