Sheet Metal

I am in need of metal parts, and i don’t want to by them off of the Vex website because of the high cost. Would it work to buy some really thick sheet metal made of steel at the hardware store and cut them to make new parts? if i lined up the part i want to copy and drill the rivets in the right place, i think it would work. i don’t wanna put vex out of buisness, but i just need some affordable parts.

Certainly - there isn’t anything magic about the parts that Vex sells. I’ve modified Vex metal, as well as fabricated my own custom parts several times, though mostly out of aluminum plate (motor mounts, etc).

With a little time and care (and access to the proper tools) you can create pretty much anything you need. Just make sure to file down any sharp edges and burrs, both for safety and to prevent damage to the Vex wires.

There are plenty of hardware store items that can be used with Vex without modification (hinges, springs, angle brackets, turntables, etc). Just take a small ruler with you and look for parts with holes spaced on multiples of 1/2".


  • Dean

make sure the sheet metal is unconductable (hey ive found some that are, totally blew my circuit by accident)

just use a digital multimeter to find out

I’m not quite sure what you mean by “unconductable”; Vex metal parts are conductive. Pretty much any metal you find at the hardware store is going to be conductive, except perhaps decorative metal with a clear protective coating.

Also, all the Vex wires and connections are well insulated, so the conductivity (or not) of the structure shouldn’t be an issue. Though, my recommendation to file down sharp edges and burrs was specifically to avoid shorts due to insulation being breached.


  • Dean

hmm…i must find out that sheet metal then…oh well…i didnt know that vex metal was conductable

thanks guys! and wait… one more thing. what guage should i look for to find the same strength and flexibility as vex?

I’ve measured many of the Vex steel parts, and they seem to basically come in three thicknesses:

0.033" (approx 21 gauge) for the thinner pieces from the starter kit such as the gussets and the 15x5 flat plate. Note that replacements for some of these parts ordered from the VexRobotics site seem to be made from 18 gauge steel instead.

0.048" (approx 18 gauge) for most of the structural steel. This includes all the angle steel, C channel, bumpers, gussets, sliders, 25x5 flat plate and flat bar.

0.06" (approx 16 gauge) for a few thicker pieces such as the steel lock bar and the mounting bracket for the line tracker kit.

Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly what kind of steel this is, so it is hard to guarantee that the steel you buy will be exactly as strong as a Vex part even if the thickness is the same. I wouldn’t worry about it too much; just use your best judgement and buy a few sample pieces first. If you like the results you get, buy more (and post pictures!)

Hope this helps,

  • Dean

I’ve done this to make a scoop for a front-end-loader robot I built. sheet aluminum is pretty affordable and works great for making your own parts as it is easy to bend and cut.