How to Get Started with the VEX Plastic Construction System

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The VEX plastic construction system is a snap-together toolless system which is designed for speed of assembly and versatility. Utilizing a standard three-dimensional pitch system for all VEX plastic pieces, you can build in any direction and always connect pieces back to the rest of the build.

The VEX plastic construction system consists of the following part categories:

Electronics - Robot Brain, Battery, Motors, and Sensors to bring life and intelligence to your robot.

Structural Components - Beams and Plates are the building blocks of your robot.

Fasteners - Pins, Standoffs, and Corner Connectors are used to connect the structural components.

Motion Components - Wheels, Gears, Pulleys, and other accessories provide motion and additional capabilities to your robot.

Many of these parts come in a variety of colors which allows for a customized and creative robot design.

Helpful aids when using the VEX plastic construction system are the VEX IQ Super Kit and Foundation Add-on Content Posters, which are included in each kit or available online. These posters have 1:1 life-size scale illustrations of all included parts, which allows for parts to be placed directly on the poster and matched up with the illustration for easy identification. Once the part has been identified, the name of the part and the part number can be found beside the illustration on the poster. This information is advantageous when assembling a VEX IQ Robot Build, or searching the VEX product line for a replacement part.

Sizing Systems for Parts

There are several sizing systems associated with the VEX plastic construction system. These include the Pitch system for Structural products, sizing for Connector Pins, and the sizing systems for Motion products.

Pitch is the distance between two successive corresponding points. With the VEX plastic construction system, this is one unit in a three-dimensional grid system. All normal mounting holes are 1x pitch apart (12.7 mm / 0.5"). Shafts, Standoffs, Corner Connectors, Beams, and Plates are sized in integer multiples of Pitch.

This allows structural pieces to be referred to as the “number of holes.” Using this method, a 1x12 Beam has a width of one and a length of 12 holes. The 2x Beams and the Plates have a center row of holes running between the grid set of holes. These holes are offset by 1⁄2 a hole which allows for a multitude of additional assembly options. When following a set of VEX build instructions, paying close attention to the count of the holes, is essential for success. When creating custom robot assemblies counting the number of holes can assure structures are parallel and have square corners.

Counting Holes Parallel and Square

The 1x2, 1x4, and 1x6 Beams have an additional center hole within their length giving them a line of 3 holes, 5 holes, and 7 holes. This additional hole allows for a shaft to be inserted through the center of the part, or for additional parts to be connected in the middle of the beam.

1x2, 1x4, and 1x6 Beams

Connector Pins are typically used to connect beams, plates, and corner connectors in a parallel orientation. Pins are identified based upon how many beams can be connected together (ex; 1x1 or 1x2), with the "x" in the name denoting the location of the flange. In the case of naming connector pins, the term “pitch” refers to the thickness of a beam (6.35 mm / 0.25" thick). For example, a 1x2 Connector Pin means one side of the pin can be inserted through a single beam and the other side of the pin can be inserted through two thicknesses of beams.

Example of using 1x2 Connector Pin

Corner Connectors are typically used to connect beams and plates in a perpendicular orientation. Corner Connectors come in a variety of orientations, allowing for a nearly endless number of options to create three-dimensional designs. Similar to beams and plates, corner connectors are identified based on the height and number of holes.

Example of using 1x2 Corner Connector

Motion Products fall into three categories, each with a corresponding sizing identification.

Sizing for gears and sprockets uses the number of teeth on the component. For example, a 12 Tooth Gear will have 12 teeth around the circumference of the gear, and an 8 Tooth Sprocket will have 8 teeth around its circumference. Gear teeth are smaller in size than sprocket teeth.

Pulley sizing uses the pulley’s diameter in millimeters, so a 10mm pulley has a diameter of 10 millimeters.

12 Tooth Gear 10mm Pulley 200mm Tire

Tires and Omni-Directional Wheels are classified by the circumference of the tire, which is equal to the distance in millimeters the tire will roll after one revolution. For example, a 200mm Tire will roll a distance of 200 millimeters after it has rolled for one revolution.

Tips for Assembling and Disassembling the VEX Plastic Construction System 

Assembling and disassembling the VEX plastic construction system should be a snap. After completing several builds numerous techniques will be developed. Here are a few examples.

Assembling Tips

Use a 1X Beam for extra leverage when mounting small elements on shafts. Insert the shaft into a hole in the beam above the small element then push down on the beam.

Capped Pins can be started into a hole and then placed on a solid surface. The pin can be seated by applying a downward force on the component.

Rubber Shaft Collars become softer and easier to install if they are warmed by holding them in your hand for a few seconds.

Disassembling Tips

Connector Pins can be smoothly removed from Smart Motors, Sensors, or Robot Brains using a 1X Beam. Put the 1X Beam onto the pin then twist the Beam while pulling outward.

Remove Connector Pins by pressing a Beam against the back of the Pin then pull the Pin out the other side.

Standoffs and Standoff Connectors can be separated by pushing a shaft through the Standoff Connector.

Remove Corner Connectors by inserting a metal shaft through one of the holes then pull upward.

With proper care and good building techniques, the VEX plastic construction system should last for many seasons of creating multiple robot iterations. However, small parts such as Connector Pins can become bent or broken. When this happens the parts should be discarded/recycled and replaced with new parts.