VersaFrame by VEX Robotics

Hi everyone,

I’ve been looking at the Vex pro VersaFrame. Has anyone had success with it previously? Seems like a good deal at around $20. Just seeing your opinions on it before purchasing.

Vladimir Milicevic
Team 5631 Robot Captain

We used it last year after we decided c-channel just wasn’t going to cut it any more. The 2x1 worked absolutely fabulously for the frame; we assembled it with their gussets and didn’t have a single problem. All the cutting was done (inaccurately) on a chop saw since it was all we had then and the gussets took care of the alignment for us.

We used it extensively in the 1x1 configuration last year. The thin stuff is too weak to stand up to FRC but they’ve come up with a thicker version this year that we plan on using. We built a WCD in the off-season using the 2x1 and it works great. We plan on building much of the 2015 bot with the stuff. Really great!

FRC3005 had success with it last year as well.

A few points:

The gussets and holes are helpful, but things still can move around a little bit prior to riveting. Especially for drivetrains, I think it is worth the extra effort to make sure everything is built on a nice flat table (check it) and properly squared up prior to starting to rivet.

Watch how you use the gussets. Rivets and gussets are stronger in the shear direction of the rivet. If you are putting the gussets in bending against the 1/8" dimension and pulling on the rivets, you invite failure modes.

Don’t underestimate the accuracy of what you can get with a chopsaw. The human eye is capable of resolving very fine dimensions if you have a good reference point. I like to put a rough Sharpie line where i intend to make the cut, then use a scribing tool to put an extremely thin line precisely on the mark. On smaller material where I can scribe with the sharp end of cheap calipers, I can easily hold 1/64" tolerance. On longer pieces with a tape measure, 1/32" is pretty practical. For most FRC purposes you would be using this tubing for, that is more than adequate, as the slop in your assembly will dominate the error equation.

We used the 2x1 frame for our WCD chassis last year (basically a versachassis similar to what they have on the website).Worked great, no complaints. If the game has a flat field and no climbing, we will likely run the same thing again.

The .04" wall 1x1 is too thin for all but the most well supported, protected areas. If you cover the stuff in gusset plate or use it exclusively inside your frame where nothing can hit it, it’s great. The .1" wall 1x1 should work well in most applications. We had good experiences using the 2x1 framing and all of the Vex line of gussets.

Depending on the application, you may want to drill out from 5/32nd rivets to the more standard 3/16th rivets. I really don’t know who prefers the more oddball size.

Please do NOT read what I am about to say as a knock against VersaFrame, it is a fantastic product!

If, and this is the qualifier, you have the ability to drill a 1" hole pattern accurately and repeatably, you can buy the raw materials and make most of the frame pieces your self. This will save you some $$, but not much time.

Now, when it comes to the gussets, I doubt you will be able to make the parts as easily, and accurately, and still save $$ and time. These gussets and mounts are a very quick and easy way to assembly your frames and structures.

All that said, isn’t the whole idea behind VersaFrame and Gussets that you do not need the ability to machine accurately to use them? If so, then I guess my comments are a bit unnecessary. So, just take them as food for thought.

I designed 256’s entire 2014 robot utilizing the 2x1x.1 tubing and the 1x1x.04 tubing, and it was by far the most competitive robot we’ve built to date because we were able to finish faster than we normally did even with the late shipping accident from last year, and our robot was strong and reliable. Like Chris said, the .04" thick 1x1 is not suitable for any application that takes a lot of load. Luckily 256’s design last year did not use any 1x1 under load (apart from bumper support, but they took that fine) and it all held up for us. The new .1" thick 1x1 should solve that. Also agreeing with Chris, I prefer drilling out to 3/16 and using 3/16 rivets. 5/32 rivets are great if you’re using 10 of them per joint, but with the linear fashion of the gussets we had some 5/32 rivets shear on our shooter last year, so drilling to 3/16 is helpful (and pretty easy).

In regards to the gussets, for almost every application the .09" thick gusset is great, except in some very specific high load applications we had our gussets bend over like paper (<110 degree bend). This was the one piece that held on our shooter so understandably there’d be a lot of torque there, and the easy solution for us was to just double up on the amount of gussets.

Like Bill said - the 1" hole pattern is pretty easy to replicate yourself if you have the resources and don’t mind thicker tubing, and a lot cheaper. I like the .1" and .04" thick walls that you cannot get elsewhere, and the pre-drilled holes definitely saves you time. Having been on two teams on opposite sides of the resources spectrum, I’ve experienced the versachassis from both points of view. On 256, the versachassis enabled us to quickly and easily get a competitive robot put together with hand drills and saws. As a junior mentor on 1323, a team with a lot of resources, I’ve found out that the team uses the versachassis as well because of the time saved from not having to use our machines on fancy hole patterns and because of the thinner walls.

Overall I really love the VersaChassis system designed by WCP and VEX. It is definitely not the end all be all solution for every team, but for those who can benefit from it*, it is a fantastic way to bring your team up to the next level or enable your already competitive team to do more and save time.

*Disclaimer: I would not recommend this system for teams low on monetary resources or experience. Those teams are better suited for the kitbot because of its cheaper price and the manual that comes with it. I think the teams that will benefit the most from the system are: 1) Newer teams who have their stuff together and have a bit more money to spend than rookie teams but maybe not the machining capabilities of veteran teams, 2) Veteran teams who want to save time in the build season and use their machining resources for more important things, and 3) Veteran teams who have been around for a while but still may not have a lot of resources but do have experience and want to easily bring their game up to powerhouse level.

As with all products, it’s how you implement the product that matters.
We used 1"x1"x.04" for our frame in 2014, except for the two main rails running down the center of our chassis that was bearing the load of the catapult tubing. No issues, no bending, we could have parked a bus on it. The trick wasn’t the tubing but how it was designed into the final product. We did utilize a single gusset plate for the entire chassis instead of using many Vex gussets which improved rigidity.

We also used 1"x2" Vex VersaFrame for our catapult arm assembly.
With this we used the Vex gussets and found that the aluminum rivets were loosening up. We switched from aluminum to steel rivets on the gussets where the most load was being applied and they stayed nice and tight for the rest of the season.

Here’s a link to a picture of the .04" wall chassis we used this year.

FWIW, we usually get 27 feet of 1x1" thin wall tubing for $30-something ($40-something one year) when we buy it in bulk and pick it up from our supplier ourselves. Even small online orders are substantially less expensive than VersaFrame. To me, VersaFrame isn’t economical if the team can handle appropriate drilling of holes themselves. I agree it is very quick when used with the VEX gussets - but at a price.

2x1" is a bit more worth it due to the ability to make a very quick, easy-to-connect-to, precise drive train in many cases - but again, plenty of teams are better of using their skills to cut into bulk 2x1" rather than the VersaFrame. Personally, my team may or may not have a welder this year, so we may use Versaframe due to the gussets.

Not that VersaFrame is a bad deal under certain circumstances (valuation of time during FRC is hard…). However I think it’s worth it to point out the tradeoffs in this type of thread.

It is great stuff, but I’m not sure if the pre-drilled holes and centerline on the tubing is really worth the cost. I would reccomend you heavily use Vex’s gussets and mounts, but just buy your own tubing from OnlineMetals, MetalsDepot, or some other local supplier. Having holes to quickly mount things to is nice, but some measuring and drilling on the part of your team is probably worth the extra cost.

If the goal is to save money… don’t buy from online metals.

buy full 20’ lengths from a local metal supplier that chargers by the pound.

That being said, versatubing makes a lot of sense for most teams. The average robot would only use a hundred dollars of it tops.

This is pretty much what we did (in shorter lengths out of logistical necessity). We called our homemade 1x1 Worseaframe–it saved us money, but not necessarily time.

We used a heck of a lot of VEXpro gussets last year, and they held up nicely. I’d do it again if the application was right!

Hi everyone!

Thanks for all the replies,
I think our team will end up purchasing this product for our first build. Good to note that in the future we can save money by constructing something like the VersaFrame in house if we get the machinery to do so.

Thanks again,
Vladimir Milicevic
Team 5631 Robot Captain

Glad to see you are planning to use it, it can be really useful.
I could be totally wrong here, but I’m not sure that you will get much use out of waiting until you have machinery simply to match the hole pattern in square tubing though. I wouldn’t save money by replicating the hole pattern, I would save money by going without it.

Maybe I am undervaluing the usefulness of that hole pattern, if so could someone enlighten me? I see it as something that can save you some measuring when trying to line things up, but can also cause you to waste time cutting the tubing so the holes line up perfectly, and can make mounting near a hole a serious pain as it ruins the strength of the metal at that point.

The hole pattern would immediately save an hour or two of drilling tubes/plates while simultaneously guaranteeing precision alignment with the VEX gussets. This compounds later down the road - imprecise rivet holes (1)require the piece to be re-made or (2) are more likely to fail, causing heartache during a match in addition to having to re-make the mechanism.

Depending on the game and a team’s design process, the hour or two is paramount to quick iteration, which then translates into getting a working design earlier in the season. 2014 really required fast iteration of a physical machine if a team did catapults. 2013 probably didn’t require too much physical iteration except at the disc transition points. 2012 didn’t require any physical iteration for the main game piece (since it was so squishy), but required a lot of iteration for the bridge lowering. And so on …

It’s really easy to do this. We just made a little jig that anyone with a CNC mill, 3D printer, router, or any number of machines could make. A little flat plate 2" long, 1" wide, with two hole-sized nubs sticking out of it 1" apart. Just place this in your VersaFrame part and mark the piece at the edge of the jig. If you can’t make this jig, just use a VersaChassis gusset, a few (non-installed!) rivets, and a steady hand to do the same thing.

and can make mounting near a hole a serious pain as it ruins the strength of the metal at that point.

This really isn’t the case at all. A hole less than 1/4" in diameter is going to have minimal impact on a beam’s resistance to bending, especially since the hole is not on the face normal to the hole. There is no noticeable difference in strength, certainly not even close to “ruining” the part.

An hour or two of drilling? Maybe if I was trying to replicate the hole pattern, but I just don’t see that much time used in putting a couple mount holes in tube. The time you lose cutting the tube so that multiple holes line up with multiple other holes would mitigate a lot time saved drilling in my opinion.

I could see the benefit of guaranteeing alignment with gussets, but again, only if you cut to the proper length. It is definitely a time saver to line up with gussets, no doubt, but you lose the ability to just get a length, clamp it to another piece, and drill right through.

My bad, replace the word “metal” with “mount hole”. We tore the metal in a couple places our first year by having to drill multiple holes close to each other on some sheet metal. The metal itself held up, but the bolt in the correct hole tore its way over to a nearby hole and came out. That is what I was referring to.

This, in my experience, has been fine for everything but a drive train. Getting 4 rails to line up squarely (< 1/32" deviation in the cross-diagonal measurements) using only gussets takes a LONG time. Well, maybe there’s a better way than how we used to do it. I’m all ears for that, but it has to be square.

Good point on the cut-to-length though. It’s a given for my team and often overlooked in discussions.

I guess I’m confused as to why you’re not using the existing hole pattern to mount stuff, with the possible addition of half-inch holes in order to install more rivets. With the 1x1 tubing we did have a lot of wear problems with bolting through, mostly due to the incredibly thin wall of such a tube - these problems did not persist when stepping up to 1/16 or 1/8 wall tube.

If you’re not really using the hole pattern, there is a lot less reason to buy the VersaFrame tubing profiles.

We have a lot more success by clamping the frame square using large C-clamps before riveting. Still takes awhile to get it square, but it holds very nicely once its there allowing for easy mass riveting.