The brushless revolution

I’ve seen a lot of people allude to the brushless revolution but I don’t think there’s been an in depth discussion about what it will look like and how it will impact the future of FIRST.

For what the brushless revolution would look like I think that Vex will probably release a new brushless motor and motor controller this year and if not next year. Vex has the resources to put a bunch of money into R&D for a brushless motor and motor controller and the FRC brushless market is huge so there would probably be a really good return on investment. We will probably get a brushless replacement for the 775pro because we already have a replacement for the NEO.

As for the other companies who are in the FRC ecosystem I can’t really see any of them coming out as the front runners except for Vex because of their resources or Rev because they’re already ahead.

For how this will impact the future of FIRST I think this time will be crucial in deciding the future standards for FRC brushless motors. I’m not knowledgeable on what the best pin output is but what I do know is that whatever is commonly used now will become the standard pin output for very long time. I think this is something that Vex or any other company trying to get into the brushless market would have to look into a lot. If they do decide to go with a different output than the 6 pin on the NEO I hope they make some sort of adapter so you could still use the NEO with a different motor controller.

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I think you are right that we will get a 775 replacement instead of a CIM replacement. The NEO has already established itself as a CIM replacement, but the 775 is the go to motor for anything that isn’t drive train. Especially since VexPro has a massive ecosystem with the VersaPlanetary, VersaPlanetary Lite, VersaDM, VersaPlanetary Ratchet Kit, VersaPlanetary 90° Drive Kit, VersaPlanetary 180° Drive, and the VersaPlanetary Integrated Encoder. CTRE will most likely release the Cyclone alongside this new motor.

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What is the opinion of teams that did not convert to neos this year? Buy neos and spark maxes in the offseason and experiment and use them for next season? Buy neos and spark maxes and look for new motor/motor controller options to come out in the next few months? Wait another year to ensure brushless moter’s reliability?

I think my team is probably going to convert to neos/spark maxes in the offseason and stick with them for next year.

I think I can speak for many teams by saying that we don’t want to buy-in to a new and expensive ecosystem, which can (and probably will) become a larger market via new brushless motors. Many teams can’t justify the hundreds to thousands of dollars to switch to a new motor and motor controller when we can most likely expect new motors and controllers to flood the market soon.

I would love to get my hands on NEOs and Sparks to play with, but I don’t see a huge benefit, currently.

2220 purchased several Neo motors and Spark Max controllers for use in the offseason. The plan is to run them on this year’s drive train to make sure our controls for them are well understood, and then run them in the future assuming everything pans out.

We have a sizeable investment already in the Talon SRX ecosystem both in terms of physical equipment and knowledge. We have over 40 Talons and a bunch of equipment for making the data port cables. We have known tested code that exercises a chunk of the Talon’s black box functionality like Motion Magic, and we have programmers and controls students who are comfortable installing, configuring and programming them. And we still feel we have not fully explored all the potential that Talons can give us.

We are very interested in trying Neos but we also are not ready to throw away the investment we already made.

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Are you sure the market will be flooded? I would wouldn’t expect anybody other than Vex to go brushless, since vex/ctre are the only other big suppliers that sell motor controllers. (DigiKey doesn’t count)

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When I said flooded, I meant the options which will be provided by VEX/CTRE, REV, and maybe AM. Currently, there is only the NEO and Spark. I would consider a flood to be anything more than that (FRC standard of flood).

Are brushless motors automatically compatible with brushless motor controllers? If VEX/CTRE released a controller, would it necessarily be compatible with NEO? I would think that it would have to be specifically tested/designed for NEO and the encoder it uses, since control depends on the encoder, unlike with a brushed DC motor. I’m not really knowledgeable about this subject though, so maybe someone else could explain.

I’m also not too sure but the encoder wire gives a digital reading so as long as the ports are the same I would think you can control a motor with a different motor controller even if there’s a different resolution of encoder.

I see a lot of assumptions going on here. None of these standard FRC suppliers are public companies so how do any of you know what resources they have and what they are willing to commit to a new product.

Vex and CTRE are two completely different companies and both AM and Vex sell their products and I don’t recall Vex developing speed controllers since the old Victor line. That only leaves CTRE and REV at this point for mainstream motor controller suppliers and I don’t remember CTRE being in the motor business. So who knows what’s on the horizon.

We used NEO’s very successfully with the AM CIM Sport gearboxes and were very happy with the results. I would love to spend some money on more of the REV stuff for off season drive testing but I can’t commit that kind of cash without knowing what will be coming out next season. I sincerely hope FIRST allows these suppliers to come out with early allowed product announcements so we can do some of that testing.

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A lot of teams are gonna be furious if vex makes their 40 dollar motors obsolete.

What?

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Imagine this, you spend $1610 on 14 neos and sparks, 6 for comp bot, 6 for practice, and two spares. Now those motors are obsolete because a superior motor was released. I doubt anybody enjoys that.

The golden standard for a while has been 4 cims minimum in drive.

1323 just won champs with the equivalent of 2/3 of that at the same time NEOs were in use.

NEOs didn’t obsolete current tech, new tech won’t obsolete NEOs in terms of power.

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Fair point. With 95% peak efficiency, is there really much that could be improved? We have been feeding the same amount of power into our CIMs and MiniCIMs for years, and the NEO is simply able to output more of that power.

NEOs undoubtedly give you a competitive advantage but I don’t think it’s anywhere near big enough to say it makes them obsolete. Also when teams put in that investment one of the big factors they should have considered is whether it is better to buy them now or wait for a potentially better product to come out in the future.

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I would say that NEOs can give you a competitive advantage but from everything I’ve been reading it definitely doesn’t come for free. The Spark Max thread suggests that they definitely have software quirks and growing pains.

I’m sure by this time next year it will be a much more mature situation, and we will definitely spend a lot of time in the off-season investigating and experimenting. Things can only get better.

I’ve been designing brushless motors since the 1980s. Yes, there is always something that can be improved. A more realistic question: is it likely than anyone will offer a better FRC-legal motor for $40?

REV has done a great job with the MAX and I expect they will both (1) improve it further, and (2) face some competition, likely this year. However, they did not develop a new brushless motor – the Neo is based on production tools and equipment that already existed so that REV could buy parts. New features for REV and FRC are the CIM-like mounting face and shaft extension, and the sensor circuit card. [see below] Investment in new tools and equipment to produce the stator core, insulation and winding would not be recovered by sales of this motor to FRC teams at $40 per motor. Adjustments to the winding (wire diameter and number of turns) or to the magnet grade selection might yield small performance improvements, but I think the Neo is very close to as good as it can be given its basic design target; i.e., same DC voltage and speed as a CIM.

TL/DR; Adam is right.

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Neo is a mini cim replacement, not a cim.