Weirdly Budgeted Tool Recommendations

Occasionally at events you’ll see a robot that’s too tall. I’ve seen a portaband used freehand more than once to solve the height problem. Once on one of my high school team’s bots.

I think I’ve heard of a few RI’s that bring a portaband to events for “just in case” robot shortening.


There’s one that has?


A portaband that’s hand-held shouldn’t be an issue power-wise.


Our school ordered one of those for our shop we should see it sometime this fall. Really looking forward to it as it should be a significant upgrade from the flimsy table attachment that our 4x6 horizontal band-saw has.

When we looked there was not much else easily available for vertical metal cutting band-saws at a reasonable price. The next step down is pretty much either a 4X6 like we have or a Porta-Band in a stand.

As an alternative to the Swag Off-road one it is not too hard to make your own. I made one similar for my own use as have been thrilled with it. Definitely recommend as an option for the budget and or space constrained over a chop-saw.

The saw plugs into the foot switch. The foot switch plugs into your AC supply. As s-neff stated, there is a strap around the handle of the saw to keep the saw on all the time. As soon as one steps on the foot switch, the saw runs. Those are the only two switches in the circuit and nowhere to install it. I doubt that the typical inline switches have sufficient current rating for the saw.

To prevent what you are describing, unplug the foot switch from the AC supply after use.

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We use a router table switch for our portaband table.

There are several versions of this same type of thing.


Add another to the list, just horizontal extension this time.

Appropriately in the horror stories thread. Any time you see a portaband at an event that isn’t on a stand, it is guaranteed to be a horror story in some way or another :joy:

On the CNC Router/mill. Get a router first, and get the biggest one that will fit in your space nicely. We use ours to cut Bumpers and field elements in addition to robot parts, and the space is really nice especially when you nest several parts into a single setup. Also In our experience with both an AVID router and an old HAAS, you need some sort of coolant to cut aluminum with small bits so plan on a coolant mister or something like that if at all possible.


Update, we have been forcibly relocated. Currently, we don’t have enough time to learn CNC with all the logistical nightmare of commuting that’s about to come, so we were looking at laser cutters for rapid prototyping as a couple of us have had experience using them. Any recommendations for lasers somewhere around the $7500 mark?

Also, is it worth getting a mill over a drill press to “future-proof”? (Budget for this one is roughly 5k). My one concern is that no current team members have used a mill so I have no idea how much of a learning curve this is.

Thanks for your guys’ patience, very new to having this amount of financial freedom so I’m tryna not go too crazy with the budget and maintain a good balance of tool quality to tool price.

Well, if they know how to use a drill press they can at least use the mill as that. You should be able to find good enough bridgeport or clone in that bit of washington for $5k delivered.

Laser cutter is not a great RoI unless you build your entire process around it, and they tend to have more hidden costs (chiller, upgraded tube, ventilation). The current “meta” for large machines goes Omio/other router, mill or a nice drill press, then laser or waterjet.

The problem is that with a laser cutter we can actually use it in season whereas for a CNC we would likely have to learn that in the off-season. I’m definitely planning on trying to get a CNC but not for a bit until we’ve moved in.

That’s a tougher call; I’d probably make the decision based on what funding seems to be coming down the pipeline, available shop space, lead times with the lasers/routers you’re looking into etc. Time is running out faster than you probably realize.

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If you get something like an Omio, you can try it at home and transport it to the lab in your car after your new place gets set up. It is not difficult to transport in a hatchback with fold-down seats, or a similar SUV.

The challenge may be to get the related infrastructure in place before the build season.

If you get a mill, don’t forget the initial tooling and accessories costs and the ongoing tooling and consumables costs.

Shop space isn’t an issue, due to complicated school politics we can put it in my advisor’s room which has a 220V socket. Funding is a guaranteed 5k a month with noticeable delays, however booster club has provided a grant. Lead times according to mfg is roughly 4 weeks. For CNC, Omio lead time is roughly 7 weeks from what I’ve heard which leaves us basically no room to configure it.

This is a good point, however, lead times for Omios to my general location would require precise planning for this.

My thinking exactly, I shove a laser cutter near a window and I’ve got most of it done. For CNC I would have to learn toolpaths, cam, endmill choice, how to design for it, etc.

Last I checked they can ship in a week or two. Are they on backorder, or are you located way out in the woods or something?

for us, the laser is a (not critical, but still) very important part of our CNC routering process. Before we cut anything on the Omio, we run it in the glowforge with wood to see how it will be physically and test it in its application before we spend a bunch of time CNCing it. Not saying that that is crucial for jlr, but just saying that it’s an important and functional use of a laser.

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This was our intended use case as well, if cnc parts are needed we can order them from sendcutsend or local teams that are willing.

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School purchasing delays from global vendors vs domestic vendors.

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