Pneumatics can be intimidating. There is a whole new set of things to understand (from basic plumbing techniques to programming) that do take a while to figure out.
There is a layer of “overhead” associated with adding a pneumatic system to the robot such as the compressor, storage tanks, regulators and manifolds that carry a certain cost and weight. However, once you have invested in that overhead, each new actuator that you add to the robot comes with minimal cost and weight such that you quickly “pay for” that overhead in terms of the overall robot cost and weight. If you are only going to actuate a single action with the pneumatic system, it may not be worth it (depending on how easily you can perform that same actuation using motors, gearboxes, etc. But by the time you have 2 or 3 or more actions being done using the pneumatic system, it is pretty much going to be worth it.
Pneumatics have limitations in terms of the types of actions that they are good at. But for linear actuation between two fixed points, pneumatics tend to be a much better choice than motors. by utilizing bell cranks or linkages, it is easy to turn that single linear actuation degree of freedom into a lot of useful types of motion.
Leaks are a reality that you have to be prepared for. But, just about any system has “gotcha” aspects that you need to be prepared to address, so there is nothing more or less tricky here. It is just a new set of “gotchas” that you need to address. There are several “best practice” ways to manage leaks in the system. First off, build up your core on a bench before mounting it to the robot to make sure everything is leak free. This includes all the components from the compressor to the manifold (regulators, tanks, pressure relief valve, pressure switch, etc.). By pressurizing the core system on the bench (even to a relatively low pressure of 10 or 20 psi, you can see if it is holding pressure and hunt and fix the leaks before you bury that core into the bowels of the robot. Using soapy water and a rag or brush, it is easy to wipe down each of the joints and find the leaks (leaks cause bubbles in the soapy water mixture). Once you have a leak-free core system, then you want to add each actuator to the system one at a time and test it to make sure that new system is leak free. You also want to make sure you are using a proper tube cutter to cut your tubing. Tubing that is not cut properly is generally the biggest cause of leaks.
I agree with others that you want to try to build up this new expertise on your team during the offseason. Building a pneumatic demonstrator is a great way to learn about the system. If you incorporate a bunch of linkage type mechanisms and bell crank actuated mechanisms, you can learn about how to design with pneumatics. This project can be combined with a CAD camp and a camp where you learn about the machine tools and a programming camp to have an end-to-end learning experience for the team. The older students who are helping to teach the skills they already know (CAD and machining) will then become the students as you learn about pneumatics. You can use some of the types of mechanisms out there in other teams’ CAD to understand how the mechanisms work and how to select the actuators that you are going to use to perform a given task. In the end you will have added this technology to your bag of tricks so that you are ready to use it if it makes sense to do so in an upcoming seasons