What are teams design and manufacturing limitations

Its late so I’ll keep this short and update later

What machines or machining sponsors does your team have access to and how does this effect your design

I want to make a drivetrain that is more optimised than a kit bot frame while still having a low bar of entry for machining requirements. If I make something good I’ll share the cad with the community

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We did get some help from a machinist this year that has a range of tools at his disposal. But the last few years we’ve basically had a manual mill and lathe, drill presses, table and band saws, arc welding, and other basic tools. No CNC tools mostly, other than we added a 3d printer (Prusa mk2s) this season.

Having a mill and lathe, does elevate us above people that only have hand tools. But below anyone with CNC capabilities, either inhouse or from sponsors. In the past, we’ve had some chances to have an sponsor help with their CNC mill, but we had trouble coordinating. Basically, we weren’t accustomed to working with them and under build season time constraints we probably would have had trouble working from scratch with them. We really needed to do an off-season project with them to gain some experience. You also run into problems where non-technical mentors have more time to interact with technical sponsors, but maybe not the know how to work with them to get something done.


In our shop we have manual lathes, mills, a drill press, 2 Haas CNC mills, and a Haas CNC lathe. We also have about 6 Lulzbot 3d printers, a laser cutter that we use for prototyping with plywood, foam, and acrylic, and a powder coating oven. Our sponsors generously gave us some time on their CNC router and laser cutter that could cut aluminum this year. We used those machines for our intake arms and belly pan. Everything else was machined in house, mostly on the Haas mills. We have way more resources than we really know what to do with. I guess that’s a really good problem to have. So much of our success as a team has come from one of our mentors/coaches being an extremely skilled and knowledgeable machinist. He’s made precision machining a critical part of our design process and the team has really stepped things up since he came on board. This offseason we’re putting a huge focus on getting more students trained and involved in the whole manufacturing process so we can better utilize the resources our school district and sponsors have graciously provided.


My current team has access to a pretty full suite of manual tools, as well as a CNC plasma cutter, laser, and (if we manage to fix it) a cnc router.

My old team, who probably is more your target audience for this, had access to a Bandsaw, Chopsaw, Drill Press, a Jigsaw as well as hand drills, hacksaws, etc.

We have a sponsor that can get us laser cut and bent aluminum sheet metal parts. People on the team also have 3D printers that we can use. However, in-house, we mostly rely on our drill press and horizontal bandsaw to make parts.

If you want to design a drivetrain that doesn’t need very advanced manufacturing, I would lean more towards designing for the second set of tools.

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Our team has a Laguna 4x4 which has been amazing, a lathe, a bridgeport mill, and 4 ultimakers which we use regularly. We also have a bunch of drill presses, a bandsaw, a sander, and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting. We also have an amazing mentor who was a machinist for a while before becoming a teacher who has really helped me learn machining.

For both design and manufacturing our biggest limitation is the amount of people who are willing to put a lot of time to become excellent in either of those fields. This is something that I’ve heard a lot of other teams having issues with and honestly there doesn’t really seem to be a good solution.


what thickness of aluminum can your laser cut

I’m not sure since it’s not our laser. I don’t think we’ve needed anything above 1/8 of an inch thick, though.

Our team has a 3 phase lathe we had rewired for single phase, drill press, drop saw, bench grinder, hacksaws, cordless drills and a jig saw. We also have access to a 3D printer and laser cutter for cutting and etching acrylic.

Our designs usually consist of stock square and rectangular extrusion cut to length and bolted/riveted together.

We (team 1989) have a hand drill, a drill press, a saws all. a cut off saw and a 3d printer (mine) that is a Pulse and can do Nylon, PETG, ABS, HIPS, PLA etc. So we are focusing more and more on 3d printing. Beyond 3D printing our tolerances are about +/- an 1/8 if we are lucky. Money is a challenge. Last year we were allowed to spend 5k on the robot by the rules we had to do with <2k Filament is cheap so for example to save money we printed about 50 bearings. They cost about 6 bucks each at andymark and we can print them for 25c. The printed ones worked great for many apps. we still use the metal once where we need a tighter fit. There is a video on that

Or our rack and pinion


We tried to use that for our elevator but unfortunately did not get it completed before bag day and then tried to finish it in the pits, misdeployed it and the “help” we got from one of our team mates destroyed it. We are probably going to finish it now but in the current configuration it works better in pulling than pushing what it was initially designed for so it will pick up a robot and probably work as an elevator if reinforced

Currently we are working on quite a few plastic 3d printing projects. It is to help us with 2 of our problem areas

1.) accuracy
2.) weight


A drill press, scroll saw, band saw and a cheapo 3D printer is about the most advance tools we have.

Lots of hammers though.


We have a small drill press, a band saw that is designed for wood but we can use it for aluminum, a small lathe that seems to be out of order or not have the tooling we need a lot of time, and occasionally a working 3d printer. At home, I have an old manual mill, and a really old lathe, a brake, welders, and various other things, these are usually in working condition. But we don’t work at my home, so when we decide that I need to do some work at home, I need a drawing to work from.

I was thinking the other day about the hundreds of thousands of dollars we’ve spent over the years, traveling to regionals in other states, and occasionally to World Championships…and how much neat equipment we might have now, if we had spent our money differently. But we still build decent robots, with what we have.

For our first three years we have a drill press, chop saw, a band saw, and a number of hand tools, drills, etc… It really makes life hard but it can be done.

We’ve got a Jet drill press, tabletop band saw, chopsaw, sucky 3D printer, a mobile high precision 3D machining tool (Dremel), and an assortment of hand tools. For a drivetrain, we’re going to try a VersaChassis offseason.

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We have a few mk3s prusa 3d printers, a CNC router, CNC plasma cutter, Laser cutters, band saw, drill press, lathe, and other basic shop tools. We don’t have a real milling machine in our shop which is a disadvantage for parts we need today but we do have sponsors with these machines.

Our team’s current capabilities:

  • 3D printer - it’s old and only accepts proprietary ABS cartridges, but it prints ABS really well
  • X-Carve CNC router - cuts wood great, but plastics and 6061 aluminum are just okay
  • CNC plasma cutter - unused for FRC
  • Epilog CNC laser cutter - mostly unused except for laser engraving wood
  • Manual combo lathe/mill, bandsaw, drill press
  • Wood shop with bandsaw, large CNC router (unused for FRC), table saw
  • Welding shop (not sure what we have there, I’m not involved in the welding classes at my school)

We used a mecanum VersaChassis this past season, and we plan on making a WCD VersaChassis in the offseason. While we do have CNC capabilities, we haven’t figured out how to make them work for cutting VersaFrame or other aluminum parts, so we use clamping bearing blocks and other COTS parts to make that level of precision unnecessary.

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What are you optimizing for? Would the target for optimization change each year? How sill you determine if your design is actually better than the KOP chassis you are using as a reference point? Can the KOP chassis be modified to achieve the same goals? What resources are needed for each approach (people, time and money).

Last year, I ran into several teams with very sophisticated scoring mechanisms that were manufactured using more advanced manufacturing techniques at the Ontario Provincial Champs. One of them had two full time machinists as part of their mentor corps. They had the skills to teach how to design and manufacture full custom chassis and shifting gearboxes but they used the KOP chassis since they could get it up and running in a day. They focused their design and manufacturing capabilities on the scoring mechanisms.

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Last year in addition to the usual lower-tech machines (bandsaw, drillpress, etc), my team had a CNC mill, manual mill, lathe, and sheet-metal break. We had three computers with SolidWorks. Our biggest choke-point was the limited number of computers and machines, which limited the number of people who could work on CAD and machining at any given time, and how many people we could really train to proficiency during the offseason. Mills are also relatively slow to turn out parts.

This year we bought a laser cutter and two small CNC routers, and switched to OnShape. The CNC routers are WAY faster and easier to operate than the mills, and OnShape can run on any computer, so we’ve mostly escaped the “not enough machines” issue. This year we were slowed down by the learning curve of using new-to-us technology. I think next year our biggest limitation will be getting enough students invested in the team enough to show up consistently and learn how to use them.

We’re spoiled.

1 Large-ish CNC router
1 Small-ish CNC router
1 Tormach CNC mill
1 Tormach CNC lathe
1 CNC plasma cutter
1 Small laser cutter
4 Manual mills
4 Manual lathes
4 Drill presses
2 Vertical bandsaws
1 Horizontal bandsaw
MIG, TIG, stick, and oxyacetylene welders
Belt sanders
Hydraulic presses

We’ve also got some sheet metal tools that aren’t quite precise enough (or we aren’t precise enough with them) to make robots with. The shop has a forge for sand casting that we’ve never made use of, along with hand-pressed plastic injection molds and a small vacuum forming table. There’s a few other odd machines that we never play with.

The large-ish CNC router made like 90% of the robot this year, with most of the others coming off of the manual lathes. The other assorted machines are used sparingly when needed.

Edit: almost all of the tools are 20+ years old. The Tormachs are the newest machines, and one of the mills is from WW2.

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Here’s some pictures of our shop:

Click me!