A community discussion about 3D printing, 2 years after the previous community discussion

With VEX Robotics allowing lexan, it allows teams the capability to cut the lexan sheets and create something that is unique to their robot. But the issue about lexan is that it is almost impossible to cut lexan like a CNC would. CNC’s give teams extreme advantages, one being the capability to do extreme measurements and cutting to be able to have efficiency so high that normal cutting is incapable of doing. Here is an example of a schematic @Chase1082b made for his CNC.
cnc image
CNC’s give so much of an advantage that it can seriously differentiate a team from being good to being one of the best in the world. And yet CNC’s themselves can cost as little as $150:

As an addition, you can order CNC cutting for as litle as $1 per part!

Now here’s another question… Considering all of this, isn’t it obvious that 3D printing would be the same?
YES. When ordering a 3D print, you will be looking to pay $20 for every 2 Ibs you print (This varies on the material, but I’m talking about ABS)
Source: https://all3dp.com/2/how-much-do-3d-printer-materials-cost/

As an addition, the cost of a 3D printer is IDENTICAL to the cost of a low-cost CNC:

As an addition, who says that you can’t build a 3D printer out of VEX parts utilizing a 3D pen for only $50?


Considering all of this, there is no reason why 3D printers shouldn’t be legal, especially when you can buy a 3D printer for the cost of two VEX Vision sensors, or make your own for the cost of one vision sensor… Why are we fighting so much about making 3D printing legal? Because it helps teach students to learn to 3D print, as it is an extremely useful prototyping tool that Engineers use today:

So, VEX… Why are you fighting so much about making 3D printing be illegal, when 3D is already available for VEX Competitors for years?


take a look at vexu, when teams are allowed to 3D print a lot fewer vex parts are used. Also 3D printing can be a bit scary for new teams, and if 3D printing was the norm in vrc, it could scare away a lot of new people.
Also even if a 3D printer isn’t that expensive, many schools aren’t going to want to make that investment.

And tbh it costs probably a couple hundred minimum to get a 3D printer that can make parts high quality enough to be worth using.

not to say I agree or disagree with these reasons, I just think that’s why 3D printing isn’t allowed.


As much as I would love to be able to use my 3d printer + CAD to help with complex design issues, $200 although its not much can be prohibitive. 3d printing also has a steep learning curve and I think that many teams might not be able to invest the time to learn a new skill. Do I think that in the future it should be allowed? Yes. But I also think that vex does not want to introduce increased complexity to a platform meant to be a starting point for middle and high school robotics programs. I do think it would be cool though.


According to grant in the livestream the reason they don’t have 3d printing functional parts is because not every team has a 3d printer. I do agree that 3d printers are cheap enough to be in widespread use across teams if it was allowed. I will say that if a team isn’t well funded enough to even get a low end 3d printer then they will likely also not have much money to spend on parts in the first place. This means that all of those poorly funded teams would find an even larger gap between them and the best teams, or even teams that could afford 3d printing parts


I do agree that a $150 3D printer isn’t as good as aa $1000 3D printer. I mean, that applies to everything. But the difference here is the ability to also commercially order 3D printed parts as well. VEX bans even wire management that is 3D printed, even though you can get 3D printed wire clips ordered commercially.

There are various programs that are easy to use for new people.
For example, https://www.tinkercad.com/

This applies to everything. Look at V5, for example. VEX allows teams to use V4, but you don’t see any V4 team making round robin within the years that had V5 as an option. But the difference here is the benefits would outweigh the negatives, as it will gives the opportunity for team members to be more creative with their designs and not be restricted to merely the parts VEX produces.


They discussed this in the livestream. Grant said that it’s a no for VRC until they can be sure that everyone has access to a 3D printer

Just to get some numbers

  • Have access to a cnc machine
  • If it was legal you could get access/buy one
  • Having a cnc machine is out of the question

0 voters

  • Have access to a 3d printer
  • If it was legal you could get access/buy one
  • Having a 3d printer is out of the question

0 voters

Please note, I enjoy 3D printing a lot, and think it would be a cool addition. I am just playing devil’s advocate.

Well, it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to build and program a Vex robot that can take the 3 dimensions of a part that you have designed and then move in a precise pattern that will extrude a structurally sound part you can use. Doable probably, but it would take a lot of commitment. However, yes you could possibly use a 3D pen alone to acheive a decent result. It just might not be good enough for a robot.

This cost goes up more when you have to pay shipping, especially if there isn’t a company in your country that would do it for you. Also, the time gap of shipping is significant for parts that are not the most reusable. Vex parts take a long time to ship (as many of us know), but they are highly reusable. 3D printing an arm for a DR4B tray can’t really be used easily if you change your design to a hood bot. A C-channel could probably be used. If you didn’t print specialized parts like a 4 bar arm, you would basically just be printing modified Vex parts.

Sigh. Our school literally has multiple 3D printers and all sorts of cool manufacturing gadgets. I would love to have 3D printing in Vex before I graduate, but I just don’t think it will happen.


Of course, it’s not impossible though to make a 3D printer in VEX using C++. For instance, look here:

The quality is not the best, but I will garuntee you that the opportunities are much better with a custom-built 3D printer rather than none at all.

Options aren’t limited to just online. After the Corona pandemic, you can probably drive to a 3D facility near you to have prints done. Or simply, you can easily find a school that would have a 3D printer.


Personally, I am in favor of disallowing CNC machines for VRC as well. I can’t create custom lexan parts like @Clown can.

It would be very nice if you can elaborate on why you can’t create custom lexan parts. You can find access to a CNC easily just as much as with a 3D printer. The only reason I can think of your reasoning is that you don’t wish to put the effort into finding the access, no offense. I will garuntee you that if your school does not have a 3D printer (or CNC), you can go to another school and they will likely allow you to use theirs for free if they know that it’s for educational purposes.

Yet again, No offense.


For those who feel like they don’t have access to 3D printers:

1 Like

Just use tinsnips mbruh

Screen Shot 2020-05-14 at 8.05.20 PM
Gotta agree with this


Scrollsaw could cut that


I know. I do use tin snips. But with tin snips, I can’t make things as neatly or accurately as a CNC can.

Pretty much no one I know in my area has a cnc. The extent of my machining abilities are a few hours once a week with a mill (that definitely can’t cut lexan well). I don’t have access to a CNC, and neither does anyone I know, VRC, FRC, or otherwise. You can’t make generalizations like this,

And I very much do take offense to this,

If there was any feasible way for me to get parts CNCed that didn’t require money I can’t spend (I would be limited to like 15 bucks for machining), I would have found it. I have looked, and it really just isn’t possible for me.


Another thing I don’t have

Doesn’t tilden have a laser cutter and he’s in your area?


I’m not gonna validate that with a response.

I mean at that rate its simply more of a geography issue. Generally speaking, if a school (or even a county at that point) is willing to support VEX I don’t see why they wouldn’t also have the mechanical tools to back that up. Even then you can do a majority of the mechanical functions that custom designed Lexan with the already given parts from VEX. Flat plates are fairly useful as a substitute. :slightly_smiling_face: