VEX V5 Shipping Updates, Firmware, and ESD Notes
Like you, we're frustrated with some of the delays to the V5 launch. But fortunately, things are starting to look brighter as VEX is currently working through their orders and getting them out ASAP.
Much of the following is culled from a December 5 email from VEX's director of sales.
V5 Shipping Update
I'd like to open by reiterating how much I, and the rest of the team here, appreciate your continued patience and understanding as we work together to overcome the challenges of the past few months.
We are in the middle of another all-hands-on-deck effort to clear the reseller backlog as quickly as possible.
System Bundles - Shipped through orders placed by September 1; next wave coming immediately after the holiday
Starter Kits - Shipped through orders placed by September 1; next wave coming prior to the holiday, but almost entirely accounted for by some large June orders that were missed in the first wave and emergency priorities (VEX U and such)
Super Kits - First wave currently shipping through orders placed by mid-late July; next wave coming after the holiday, exact ETA not confirmed at this time
Accessories - Individual batteries, brains, and controllers began shipping today, small quantities to begin with, but hoping to get into July or August orders next week
In general, V5 is now coming in/out with much more steady frequency, and these dates will continue to improve. The Super Kits and individual accessories may not look like much, but we learned with System Bundles that the first waves are the hardest, as you have to clear the pre-orders dating all the way back to April. Getting a few thousand Batteries and Controllers out will be a huge weight off of many competition teams' shoulders.
V5 Quality Updates and Electrostatic Discharge Notice
Now that V5 units are making their way out to classrooms and competitions, the engineering team has been able to work with an enormous amount of field data to identify and solve various quirks that have been popping up. Any new technology is going to have a "learning" phase, and they have been doing a great job squashing different bugs as we go.
Make sure you are using the most updated firmware. Firmware updates are coming 1 to 2 times a month, and each one includes bug fixes that will have a significant impact on user experience.
The initial battery problems have been identified and largely rectified with firmwares 1.0.2 and 1.0.3. Some batteries with many hours on earlier firmware may still experience problems; contact us as necessary.
Mid-match competition field disconnects have been largely eliminated with 1.0.3, and will continue to get more stable with future updates.
The most significant concern at this time is the effect of electrostatic buildup and discharge from operating on foam tiles. (Electrostatic discharge, referred to as ESD, is the buildup of an electrical charge on non-conductive surfaces and the eventual discharge, like lightning, to a grounded item.) With Cortex, ESD could cause radio disconnects or other odd behavior. With V5, we have confirmed that ESD is the root cause of some more severe issues that could potentially lead to damage. Our testing has verified that these issues are 99% prevented by the use of commercially-available anti-static spray. This prep has always been a recommendation, but is now considered a requirement for practice and competitions.
VEX recommends the following safeguard to minimize ESD and possible component damage.
The use of anti-static spray on the EDR foam field tiles is a safe and effective method to eliminate static buildup.
This is already done at VEX Robotics World Championship and other large events. This critically important step ensures ESD protection and a smooth, glitch-free robot operation.
Spraying field tiles annually is very strongly recommended for all VEX EDR events. Foam tiles should be sprayed at the beginning of the winter season and again at any state championship or higher level event. This applies to only the VEX Robotics Competition foam tiles and not the plastic VEX IQ Challenge field tiles.
Apply static guard to your practice field tiles. Use Heavy Duty Staticide made by ACL Inc. As always, please follow the manufacturer's recommended instructions for use and safety precautions. A one-quart bottle treats four fields.
Watch this video to see how much staticide to spray on the field.
When driving on unprotected surfaces, you can apply static guard directly to your robot wheels and allow the moisture to evaporate. Use Heavy Duty Staticide or the Staticide Wipes made by ACL Inc. As always, please follow the manufacturer's recommended instructions for use and safety precautions.
Do not allow any cables on your robot to drag on the ground. Keep cable lengths as short as possible.
Be aware of ESD around you and take precautions. Understand that static buildup is caused by friction between non-conductive parts, like sliding your shoes on carpet, or wheels rolling on a field. When possible avoid static buildup.
Discharge static from your body prior to working on your robot by touching something conductive and grounded, like a power strip or wall outlet screw.
Discharge static from your robot by touching your robots' metal frame to the metal field perimeter prior to placing the robot on the tiles.
The RECF and VEX Robotics Competitions will be working diligently during the winter months to apply anti-static spray to fields and practice fields prior to events, but we obviously cannot guarantee that all fields will be static-free.
The use of anti-static wipes or spray on robot wheels is legal, provided it is used in moderation, and it does not leave any sort of residue on the field. See the current season's Game Manual and Field Appendix for further details. To ensure that there is no risk of residue or concerns about over-use, we recommend wiping or spraying your wheels well before the robot is placed on the field.