Steel or aluminum Drivetrain

What would you use for your drivetrain this year: steel or aluminum?

I would use aluminum unless you need a bunch of counter weight. If you do, use steel.

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In my opinion, an aluminum drive will usually work better because of how light it is. The lighter weight will put a bit less strain on the motors especially when accelerating.


Depends on what type of bot you want to build, aluminum is lighter and can make your robot faster, but if you were building a defensive robot that was going to be impacted many times during a match, a steel base might be better.

I would highly recommend an aluminum base for this years game. The cubes are kind of heavy and if you want to cary allot of them at once keeping your weight down will be necessary. If your a defensive bot, then maybe, but defensive only robots won’t make it to far in this game.


The only advantage to using a steel chassis is if you want to increase the weight of a defensive robot as @112659 said earlier. It can also lower the robot’s center of gravity, but 99/100 times, you don’t need to lower it. Definitely use an aluminum chassis.


If you build aluminum, you could always add steel weights later, where you need the counterweights.

The only reason to build steel is if you short on money or absolutely sure which part of the robot has to be heavy.


In my opinion, I think that if extra weight is not an issue, then Steel should be used over Aluminum, it’s much stronger, and it’s higher on the hardness scale, therefore less prone to scratching. (I know because the metal shafts andnuts can easy scratch Aluminum channels.

It is almost for certain that steel is useless for competitive Vex robotics. Not only is aluminum strong enough for most if not all cases, it’s easily modifiable to suit your needs. You need more bracing? Add some box bolts. You need more weight? Consider a redesign. If you want motors to work efficiently, you decrease the load as much as possible. Even defense bots use aluminum.

This is the only reason I’d consider using steel. And even then, steel is just not good. The only steel piece I’d use is the bar channel. Which is literally a one hole strip with no flanges which is where you’d need to add strength. The weight for steel bar is negligibly larger but when you start using steel 5 wide, it’s a whole other conversation. Just don’t do it.


But say your budget was 4K, you would be able to make more complicated mecanisms relative to the amount of money you have. Many wall bots are made of steel so they are less subject to being knocked over.

Wall bots are in a way not meant to be taken seriously. I know north cal reveal made a really cool one but it was more so a demonstration of what can be done in 3 days. If you want durability, there are much better solutions than using steel. Of course it is circumstantial, maybe steel really is the better option. In general though, you do not want a robot made out of steel.

I am also of the opinion that you should use aluminum for structural wherever possible, because the added strength of steel is often overkill in most scenarios. Oftentimes if aluminum is not strong enough, it’s because it was modified (such as cutting into half-channels) to save weight; if you’re considering using steel, than weight evidently isn’t a concern.

I also don’t buy the argument that steel can be used for counterweights. If you have a weight position issue, consider the location of heavy elements such as batteries, the brain, and drive motors before you increase the weight of the robot. For example, in ITZ, though we didn’t explicitly design with the intention of it being a counterweight, having our drive motors at the very back of the robot (with our front wheels connected via chain) did help offset the weight of a mobile goal + stack when dropping off on the field or 5 point zone.


The only time li would use steel is if I need the extra strength for high stress applications. My tilter uses a 80% steel construction with a tiny bit of aluminum. Although I would agree steel is pretty much useless. I have no idea why they provide it in the starter kits, it took me about a week to realize you couldnt use them for squat.

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But for the purposes of VEX (18x18x18 inch robots), aluminum can take all the impact that can be dished out on the field. The only thing you should be concerned about is using 1x1 L-channels which can only break under a lot (emphasis on a lot) of pressure like the bottom part of a dr4b. Even then it might take an entire season to snap.

Cutting a 1xL out of steel would very difficult to do even with power tools. My school has an industrial grade bandsaw and even it has difficulty cutting steel, it takes a while, gets extremely hot and makes a ridiculously loud sound.

Aluminum 1x1 L channel. It’s the only metal I’ve ever witnessed break in my years of VEX. Sorry for not being clear.

If you use steel for the 1x1 L channels on a lift you’ve defeated the purpose of using them in the first place.

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Aluminum drivetrain DEFINITELY. it is much lighter and better to build with. If your having troubles with strength on the drive train there are many ways to reinforce the area, making it strong but still lighter than steel.

Aluminum is great for speedy robots and quick turns.

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