We're building 20 sets of bumpers...

In the past we’ve struggled with how to best get numbers onto our bumpers. Between the Robots In The Outback project and other teams we help, we will be creating 20 sets of bumpers this build season. We recently acquired an embroidery machine, but to do the numbers on it would take nearly 2 weeks of running the machine nonstop. Clearly, this is far too time intensive.

So our question for everyone is this: how do you put numbers on your bumpers, how long does it take, and how much does it cost?

And for those wanting some stats, this build season we will create…

  • 20 sets of bumpers
  • 80 bumper sides
  • 160 sets of numbers
  • 640 individual numbers

Our team bought an embroidery machine where one of the main purposes was to create numbers for our bumpers.
After one season never again for a variety of reasons, one of which you mention taking too much time.

We tried many other methods in the past.

The best IMO is heat pressing! If you can get someone to donate the numbers, putting them on takes very little effort and time.

We got our bumpers screenprinted at a local shop the last few years (I think ~$30?) , but if recommend either heat press or the old 148 method of a rigid (water jet aluminum) stencil + sharpie. Both could probably be done in a bulk run of sorts and the students could even do the stencil thing by themselves.

We heat press our numbers. Vinyl runs about 2 buck for four sets of numbers. Cutting takes a machine that can do it, we use a vinyl cutter or our schools laser engraver. That takes around 10 minutes to cut all four sets. Pressing takes around ten minutes using a t-shirt press.

If you don’t have the equipment it would be costly to start. But once you have that stuff you can make a lot of cool things with a laser, vinyl cutter, and heat press.

We usually paint them on using a fabric paint and a template. To do 2 sets of bumpers takes a few days. Which includes the dry time in between coats.

Could you provide a link to the heat press vinyl you use?

My old team did silk screen printing for the bumper numbers, which was donated by the same supplier that helped us with signage for the robot (as I recall).

This year the team I am working with does not have such connections established, so we plan to try using these white paint markers:

I use them all the time at work, they mark on just about any surface, they dry in no time at all, and they’re cost effective. Granted I haven’t done it yet so it isn’t tried and true, but I’d be surprised if the results were unsatisfactory. Will probably use some sort of stencil or projected image to get the numbers looking neat.

This is what we use:

We are going to make this ourselves, but may decide to order it pre-made:

They also offer a service to put the numbers on for you. Given that we don’t know exactly where we want the numbers, we will iron them on ourselves.

With shipping charges to Down Under, maybe your best bet is just to order the numbers, and get the rest locally.

Sarah one option to consider is getting all of the numbers screen printed on to a small piece of bumper fabric and then sewing that “badge” onto your full sized pieces of fabric.

You can do the same trick with paint using a stencil that allows you to swap out numbers for all of the different teams. I have heard of some teams who used spray paint in the past so that might be feasible way to get a lot of numbers painted without having to hand paint every number.

AndyMark has vinyl iron-on numbers that we’ve used for several years.

Take the time to iron the numbers on properly (i.e., don’t rush it), you don’t want the numbers peeling off during competition.

We just paint on in white paint using stencils. Just a question, why so many bumpers?

Digi-cut material is nice but the easyweed is a little cheaper and can be found locally more often. I get my stuff from a local sign shop or from Coastal depending on how fast I need it.

We printed out templates that we made on Microsoft word on regular computer paper, cut them out with X-Acto knives, used the templates to paint on the bumpers with black fabric paint, and then we outlined the numbers in white fabric paint. They ended up looking pretty clean but I think this year we’ll go for solid white numbers instead of black numbers outlined in white. We’ll probably also use card-stock for the templates since we kept having to print more.

If you do go with RoboPromo reversible fabric (which we used in 2014 with very great success) and you intend to heat press the numbers yourself please remember to put some release paper between to two layers of cordura. We melted the backs of the red and blue fabrics together and it almost ended in disaster!

We use sign vinyl stencils and spray paint the numbers on…
See THIS POST for an example.

Something we’ve done in the past that is pretty easy and low cost, is to use sail repair tape. It is strong / sticky and we never had any issues with numbers coming off. Use stencils to trace out the numbers and then just cut it out - a Xacto knife works great.

A 15 ft roll is $20. You should be able to get around 40 four inch numbers out of that.

Sail Repair Tape

Of course we weren’t doing 640!!! numbers! :cool:

I can provide the heat vinyl or more info, hit me up buddy!

Hi there. Bumpers are what we do so we may be able to help. Check out the services that we can offer at robopromo.com. If you can coordinate all the teams you need to provide materials for, we can custom cut the numbers for you. Send it all in one order and we can ship it all to you together.

We can provide bumper material as well with the numbers ironed on if you want. For shipping purposes, 20 sets of bumper material would be about 100lbs. The numbers alone would be about 5lbs.

Here’s the link to our website:

Contact us at [email protected]


Thanks for sharing that tip with everyone. That is very true about the ironing process if you do it yourself.

Thanks everyone for your replies! For cost reasons, I think we’re going to try the sail tape (Thanks SoccerTaco for the suggestion) for cost/timing. We’ll let everyone know how it all works out.

With the Robots in the Outback project, we will be going to 9 teams across NSW starting in 5 days. Given the reduced build season, having bumpers pre-prepared will reduce the workload for the teams. On top of this, we help a number of teams in low income neighborhoods who we will make bumpers for. Finally, we have our 2 teams (3132 and 5331). In total, it came to 20 teams.