Now show us your shipping crate!

There were lots of stories about robots being damaged by shipping services, air lines, cab drivers, etc.

I shipped our two robots wrapped in bubble wrap in cardboard boxes via Fed Ex ground. The wheels were taken off so the robots would sit on their frames. One was slightly damaged on arrival. Both made the return trip with no damage. I’m looking for better ways to transport robots from event to event.

I’ve heard that other people built custom cases out of wood, plastic and aluminum.

Tell us about your crate, how it’s made, how it works, what you would do differently. Post pictures so we can all marvel at your crate skills.

The killer is that maximum airline size for a “normal” piece of checked luggage is 62" (height plus width plus depth). With a robot that is just slightly smaller than 18x18x18, that doesn’t leave much room for box structure or packing material. We shipped eight teams (about 22 boxes) to Dallas, with the robots packed into 20x20x20 cardboard cartons, and stuffed with *Elevation *cubes and bubble wrap. We shipped eight robots to Dallas with only one injury, and eight back with no damage.

Unfortunately, when team 575 unpacked their robot on Thursday morning, they found that all four of their aluminum primary vertical posts were bent into nice curves that could not be easily bent straight. By eight o’clock a mentor had sweet-talked the VEX people into opening the store early and selling the team an aluminum kit, and the students were tearing the robot into pieces. By 11am the robot was repaired and inspected. It was in Qualifying match 1 on Science, and was ready in time.

The cost for us of not violating the airline size limit was $100 in parts (that we will use again next year), and a scared team that had to hustle. It would have cost us $50 x 8 robots x 2 directions, or $800 for oversize charges. Since we are in Seattle, most out-of-town events we might want to attend are clearly going to be airplane trips. Dallas, for example, is nearly 2,500 miles from us.

I’m still debating what to do. If we stick with cardboard in the future, we risk more damaged robots, but if we don’t we will spend a LOT of money on oversize charges. $800 would fund most of the parts for a new team.

I’m hoping that Round Up won’t generate as many max-bots as Clean Sweep, and we can do better packing. For one thing, with 16x16x16 robots we can insert 1/4" plywood reinforcing and 1x1 posts in the corners and edges, greatly reducing crushing risks. Wood of even fairly modest dimensions has a LOT of strength in compression along the grain, and would have saved 575 from a crushed robot. I seriously expect that our students will use this as a design criteria this year.

I’m looking forward to seeing what other teams do.

ADDED: The $50 per item for oversize checked boxes is what Southwest charges. American Airlines charges $150 per box! Ack!

We used a 20x20x20 inner w/l/h box made of what seems like 1/2 inch thick plywood on all sides. The top face of the box was on a hinge with a makeshift latch of duct tape, zip ties, and a metal pin used for FRC bumpers, which remained extremely secure.

Our robot was about 17x16x16 with protruding attachments detached and placed in the center. It was tied down to four holes drilled into the bottom of the plywood box. In and around the robot we placed plastic shopping bags from Safeway full of foam packing peanuts. The air was pressed out of the bags.

Fragile stickers were stuck on all faces of the box. It was roped together in all 3 dimensions.

Robot parts went in a separate bin that was also duct taped, but it was only put in a cardboard box and duct taped and roped.

End result: Robot survived both directions.

Team 24A , 24B and 24C used Pelican cases. They are easy to find on the Internet, are a bit pricey, but are nearly indestructible even when in the hands of shipping companies and the airlines. For my day job I have shipped many piles of fragile electronic equipment all over the country using many of their cases over the past 20 years, and only ever had one latch get snapped off.

I personally think the drayage option is the way to go with shipping robots to Dallas. You pack them up and ship them by UPS or FedEx to the drayage company that VEX has contracted with. Walk in Thursday morning and they are in your pit area. No worrying about sizes with airlines, airport security, and dragging items from the hotel to Convention Center. They pick up your cases on Saturday afternoon and ship them home for you too! Of course that means teams need to part with their robots a few days early, but that gives everyone time for a break and to get rested up for the big trip.

We used the cardboard box inside a cardboard box, with a layer of bubble wrap in between. We had no trouble going down, but coming back our package did not come out with our luggage. The airline brought out to my house about 5 hours later. They said it go mixed up with cargo, I guess a good idea would be to label it as “luggage.” TSA was not so kind putting back in, they bent it up pretty good. I looked into drayage but could not afford the lead time for shipping.

Remember Ken, you were flying into Philly all bets are off on baggage. :slight_smile:

Can you tell what size you used and how you padded the robot.

We would have used the Drayage also, but the robot needed to ship much earlier than we wanted. It left here on Friday PM, it arrived noon on Wed. Long enough time to get it repaired. I guess the taxi ride to get it to the arena and then back to the FED-Ex was about the same as what the drayage cost.

Can you tell us how you held the sides together? Did you put corner bumpers to protect the joints? What is the empty weight of the box. There is a pretty major FED-Ex price jump for boxes over 60" and over 20 lbs.

I didn’t personally make it, our FRC build team made it ;D

I believe they used 2" wood screws (maybe 3/2") to hold the pieces of plywood together. No idea about the weight.

We didn’t use FedEx? We had it as check in luggage for our flight.