Pneumatics, the awesome devices that some teams wish they had...

I am not sure if anyone has asked this question on the forum, but i want to know how much pneumatics actually helps? if you were a really good team and have been using pneumatics for years, but if you had it taken away for one year, would you be as successful that year in any situation? do you really think the price for it is justified by its functionality? I just want to know what the ones that use it think of it.

We got pneumatics this year, and I really like working with them. Are they necessary to be successful? No, but they sure do help when building your robot.

There are many applications where pneumatics are much easier to use than a motor, and often a limited back and forth range is perfect, such as in a claw, latch, release, etc. The main advantage is that you have power that does not take up one of your ten motors, especially if it something that is not used often like a latch or release. Even though there is the limit of 2 tanks, you can still get quite a lot of actuations out of them if they are used properly and tuned.

As the pneumatics are quite expensive, I don’t think it a “necessity” that you should buy just for fun. However, if you have a good use planned, I think it’s definitely worth it.

I feel that pneumatics are the key to success.
It does not mean that anyone with pneumatics will win.
Nor does it mean that a team that has pneumatics is good.

However if you look at the pattern with teams that win worlds, regionals, etc.; it’s safe to bet that those robots had pneumatics and that they couldn’t have gotten to where they were without it.

It is a huge advantage having pneumatics v.s. teams that do not have pneumatics. You basicly have the ablility to replace components or add them on your robot without using motors, so in the end you ultimately have more options, and performance potential than robots that do not have any pneumatics.

It is still possible to do well without pneumatics, even win, but it takes much more “skill” or “robot building prowess” to defeat a robot with pneumatics using a soley motor based robot. Basicly you have to be really good at vex.

Honestly if Vex were say, a mobile game, pneumatics would be the “pay 2 win” currency.

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and thats what frustrates me about vex with pneumatics, i feel that at its price, it keeps just too many teams on the outside of being good or even great IMO. more teams had it, would it be safe to say there would be more parody if this happened?

We’ve gotten as far as we did without use of pneumatics. I feel it’s just one more thing that can go wrong on the robot, in addition to motor failure, gear skipping, wheel slippage, structural failure, VEX keys not pairing, etc.

We usually opt for simple but successful designs anyway, so we try to keep things passive when we can. I’m not saying pneumatics aren’t worth it (because they can definitely be a huge asset) they are in no way required to win, because we’ve triumphed over teams who do use pneumatics. It’s just another method of actuation, not a golden (or in this case, aluminum) ticket to success. Just another tool, and all that matters is how a team uses it.

Edit: As a side note, we still have pneumatics in our inventory, but we just aren’t using them.

I actually disagree with this. Though there may be times when I forgot to open the switch, pneumatics are one of the most reliable VEX components in my opinion (ironic they aren’t made by VEX). I think that because of its simplicity, using air pressure rather than electricity (except the solenoid), there aren’t as many reliability problems.

I feel that pneumatics can dramatically increase the performance of a team. Being able to put a couple extra motors on a drive rather than on a claw is very useful. Highly recommend and definitely worth the investment.

My team might be able to buy pneumatics before worlds. We want to put it on a swinging claw:D
I think they benefit you with something like more motors.

My kids had a pneumatic claw for a while but I noticed the procedure of refilling the air tanks caused them a lot of stress before matches. You never quite know how much air pressure is left in the tanks after you pop off the pump connector. There’s always a hiss of air when you pop off the connector, and because you’re not allowed to mount a gauge to your tank, you can’t tell if you let out too much air or what.

Also, pumping up the tanks is not always the easiest thing to do. Finally, the kids scrapped their pneumatic claw and went with a motor-driven device.

However, I can see how the more advanced teams could benefit from pneumatics. It’s another thing to use, another tool to help solve problems. But, on the other hand, it’s also another thing to go wrong.

I think the best teams make the best use of whatever systems they have on hand. This year I was amazed at how well some of the advanced clawbots could do when controlled by a driver who had lots of practice and a good strategy.

That’s why some teams hook up their pneumatic system in a way to ensure no air is lost. I usually do it as well as at least a few teams in NZ.
The trick requires the old red pump fitting so I actually purchased a few for my high school team so they could do it.

Have the switch point from the air tank to the pump.

I think I know which fitting you’re talking about. I got my kids one of those and it helped a lot but they still had troubles with dismounting the filler valve. It takes some practice to get it just right but the biggest concern is that they never know how much - if any - air they lost in the disconnect. I tried to get them to hear the difference between a kind of “pop” sound a good disconnect makes and the other, longer “hissy” noise it makes when they dismount too slowly. Pneumatics just caused us more troubles than it was worth. It’s one of those things that comes with experience, I think, of which they had little.

Normally people use the switch as a way to depressurize the pistons but instead depressurize the pump.

Tank switch pump with switch pointing towards the pump. Every time you pump you turn the switch and then turn it back before disconnecting. The switch actually cleanly saves all the air on 1 side while letting other sides air go.
Using it this way will disconnect the pump from the system while only allowing the air that is actually in the pump to be released. You can tell because no air popping sound that it conserves your pressure.

The hacky solution most teams use is just pumping to like 110 and hoping disconnecting gets them to 100.

My team has been doing much better financially this year, and got a double acting pneumatics kit. What I have noticed is that after we got it working, the only advantage was that we had a extra free motor, which was used on the drive (we had 9 on before, so replacing that motor with pneumatics meant we had a extra 2) Pumping them isn’t an issue, the only time we got low was when there was a field fault, so we had to play the match again. Even then, they lasted. I like them, but wouldn’t say they are critical.

They are great to have and very reliable. With creativity, they can do a huge amount of work - sometimes things that motors simply cannot do (example: our 2 second pneumatic low hang last year).

Are they necessary in order to build a highly competetive robot? It depends. Last year the launchers were hugely important, and you simply couldn’t be competetive at a high level without a launcher.

This year, they aren’t as important, however, they are still a valuable tool. Our state robot didn’t have any pneumatics but we were the first pick by the first seed. Honestly, I would say they are more of a learning tool than a necessity or not. Get them if you can, and get creative if you can’t.

Personally I love their speed, strength, and consistency, but I also fully understand some teams simply don’t have the funds.

I personally like having pneumatics because they seem to make the robot more “roboty”.

I know that sounds ridiculous. But they add a whole new level to the robot. It allows the students to learn a lot more in my opinion. Real robotic equipment is almost always pneumatically or hydraulically controlled in some way.

We used pneumatics for the first time this year on one of our robots and it allowed us to have a 6 motor lift, 4 motor drive and still have an active skyrise manipulator because of the use of pneumatics.

I do wish they were a bit cheaper. Our group bought one single acting kit and a double acting kit and it was more than enough for this year…but pricey.

I don’t think anyone is saying that pneumatics will automatically make you good. Most people are trying to express the idea that you most likely will not be able to seriously compete at World’s without them. (I’m talking about World Championship level robots)

I rek teams all time withot pnumatics. One time our alience was not with us and we won agnst the other 2 robots. They both have pnumatics and we did not. I think pnumatics and hidrolics just ad alot of wait to robots that make them slower and not good. somtimes pnumatics can help but u can just use motors.

i have to disagree with the weight issue, i would totally do something in my robot to gear down my drive or just make my drive out of aluminum as well instead of steal.

I fail to see how teams without pneumatics are unable to “seriously compete at Worlds” because they are just another tool, albeit a very effective tool. Perhaps last year the pneumatic catapult was a must for being competitive at Worlds, but this is no longer the case. One of the more useful applications for pneumatics I have seen this year are the pivoting skyrise builder arms, but even those haven’t been 100% reliable based on the matches I have seen.

We’ve gotten along fine without the use of pneumatics. We’ve just haven’t seen a use for them that we’re willing to take the risk to implement into our design.

Again, it’s not always the tools, it’s the driver practice. In general, a good robot design means nothing if a team doesn’t have the driver skills to back it up. We have seen this principle over and over and over again, sometimes in our own endeavors.

I should have been more specific. I don’t think you HAVE to have pneumatics to win the world championship. But I would be willing to put a fairly large sum of money down on the bet that at least the top two teams within the winning alliance will make use of pneumatics.

I would also be willing to bet that the top skills and autonomous scores in the world will come from robots that incorporate pneumatics.

As I said before, they do not automatically make you better. But they give you more tools to succeed.