Tools/Parts for Rapid Prototyping?

I’ve been inspired by looking at other teams to really step up our prototyping game, not in terms of quantity of ideas prototyped but in terms of the quality of the few we choose. I would want higher quality prototypes to get a better idea of how such a design would function on a real robot, but we still don’t want to spend so much time on prototypes that our main bot suffers.

Are there any tools or parts that have helped you prototype effectively? Really just trying to get away from pieces of aluminum duct taped to plywood (as we’re an embarrassing number of our prototypes last year). I’d appreciate the help!

Laser cutter. Laser cut plywood prototypes work really well and take just minutes to cut out. You can design them so they just snap together.

The single reduction clamping gearboxes on Vexpro and also the sliding motor mounts also on vexpro allowed us to make a mock intake within 3 hours. Preformed the exact same

An Arduino set up with the servo library and a potentiometer can go a long way when testing prototypes, since you can then hook up a motor controller and test motors at different speeds.

Variety of VersaPlanetary stages are great; especially since you begin to stockpile them over the years.

There might be a white paper or two running around on the subject, but if you have any old or cheap drills, tearing out the “head” and replacing it with quick connects so you can gun it also works in a pinch.

Couldn’t recommend something like this more, they are a GIGANTIC help when testing and prototyping.

Get a bucket of clamps:

Quick Grip Clamps
Kant-Twist Clamps (my personal favorite are the 9 inchers)

I can’t express enough how much help clamps are for prototyping the robot. We often build our shooter on the bench with lots of clamps to allow for maximal adjustability and then clamp that prototype to the robot chassis.

Pillow block bearings are great for throwing together quick prototypes made from wood or 80/20.

The growing 1/2" hex ecosystem is a great benefit to prototyping. We normally stock up on 1/2" hex or Thunderhex pre-season, and have accumulated over the last two years a large variety of wheels/belts/pulleys/sprockets that interface with it. We do most of our prototyping in wood, but the ability to hook up shafts, bearings and motors quickly is invaluable. We use pretty much all of it (and more) during the season on our robots after prototyping so we’re not really spending “extra” money on prototyping materials.

In general, our early prototypes are 2x4’s and 3/4" plywood with 1-1/8" holes drilled in them with a hole saw to seat hex bearings, and either a Versaplanetary, a CIM with a 1/2" hex adapter or a drill with a 1/2" socket driving some kind of shaft. The VexPro Versaplanetary Face Mount plate (217-3627) are great for attaching CIM’s or VP’s to a prototype with wood screws.

We also keep a stock of scrap 1/16" and 1/8" polycarb, various traction materials and surgical tubing to augment the prototypes.

We occasionally do a higher fidelity prototype to validate a complex/integrated design before we commit to it on the robot. For that we use mostly the Versaframe gussets with the above 1/2" hex stuff, and 1/16" wall box tubing (Versaframe box tubing is great, but it’s pricier so we save that for the real robots). Here’s an example of our fuel feed system prototype from 2017: