Building Robots at School

December 21, 2011

Robot Suppliers

Filed under: Uncategorized — dtengineering @ 11:24 am

A recent email from Kurtis at FingerTech Robotics reminded me that there are many very cool robotics and robot parts vendors that I don’t know about. I thought it would be worth listing some of my favorites here, and then asking for posts suggesting other sources. It is a bit late for the “holiday shopping season”, but never too late to find some blingy little bits to make your next project just slightly more awesome.

Locally, in Greater Vancouver, I like Lee’s Electronics for all sorts of sensors and connectors. If you’re in the area of Main and 29th, it is worth stopping by. In fact, I’d even say it is worth going there just for a visit to see all the stuff that they have. They are very friendly and helpful, even when the store is packed and busy. I also like Princess Auto, particularly their surplus section. They have bigger stuff, and a suprisingly good selection of pneumatic components at good prices. They have a wide range of #35 and larger chain and sprockets, as well as bearing blocks, so when you are dealing with a robot drive train on a larger machine (and don’t mind using heavier steel parts) you can find a lot of what you might need in stock at decent prices. Located on United Boulevard in Coquitlam, near IKEA and KMS Tools.

As far as Canadian vendors, I have to put iDesign Solutions at the top of my list for anyone interested in VEX parts. They have consistantly had the best prices (in Canadian dollars) for VEX parts over the past five years and have been strong supporters of VEX teams and tournaments in BC.

I’ve also linked to FingerTech, in Saskatoon, which has some very cool mecanum wheels in  a size and quality that I haven’t seen elsewhere, as well as some mini-sumo chassis/kits. I bought my first mini-sumo components from HVW Tech, in Calgary, over a decade ago and have been pleased with their selection and service since. I’m not sure I’d call RobotShop a 100% Canadian operation, but they do have a Canadian presence, with a website offering sales in Canadian dollars and brokerage-free shipping from Quebec, so I guess that counts. They have a very broad range of components.

The list of American suppliers is rather lengthy, so I’ll stick to some of my favorites. Most of these will specialize in the larger, FIRST Robotics Competition (120 pound and up) size robots and parts, but I’ve bought parts from all of them and have been uniformly pleased with the product and support. I’ve watched AndyMark grow from a tiny spin-off operation to a full-fledged business designing and creating some of the coolest “big robot” parts out there. They have a Canadian presence, so if you prefer to purchase in Canadian dollars and have things shipped without brokerage fees, ask them if they can help you out in that regard. Check out their gearboxes (mostly build around the indominitable CIM motor), and wheels… but they have much more than just that. The VEXPro line of components is very cool, too. Their ARM9 controller is on my “wish list” of cool robot stuff. For motors and planetary gearboxes in all sizes and ratios, I recommend BaneBots. I have to also recommend Trossen Robotics as they saved our bacon once in FRC by having the last 32:1 planetary gearbox for a speed 500 motor available in North America. They FedExed it to us overnight and while the shipping cost more than the gearbox, our machine was up and running by the end of the week.

You’ll see me refer to Polulu elsewhere, but they have not only about the cheapest prices that I’ve been able to find on the Tamiya gear boxes, but also a whole swack of other cool stuff, mostly for smaller robots and electronics projects.

Digikey is also a favorite place to shop… they take Canadian dollars and deliver, brokerage-free, faster than a neutrino in an Italian mountain. They also stock the Jaguar motor controller, probably one of the coolest speed controllers on the market.

Like I say, this is hardly a complete list of cool places to buy robot stuff. The Calgary robotics club has an even more comprehensive list, and I’m hoping people will post links to their favorite shops in the comments section. I have a great admiration for all those entrepreneurs who have turned their robot passion into robot profits and am happy to support their hard work and innovation.


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