Frankenstein, The Open Source Engine Control Unit

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The Engine Control Unit is a vital part of every car made in the last 40 years or so, but unlike just about every other electronic device, open source solutions just don’t exist. [Andrey] is trying to change that with rusEfi, a project that hopes to bring together hardware, software, and engines in one easy to use package. He’s even designed Frankenstein, a full ECU ‘shield’ for the STM32F4 Discovery dev board.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen [Andrey]‘s adventures in building an ECU. An earlier board was also powered by the STM32F4 Discovery, and he actually drove his 96 Ford Aspire around using this homebrew ECU. It was only firing on two cylinders, but that was only a loose solder connection.

Of course building an ECU from scratch is worthless without the proper firmware that balances and engine’s fuel economy and performance. This sort of testing must be done empirically and [Andrey] has a Kickstarter going for the development of this firmware and some dyno time. No rewards, but it’s worth chipping in a buck or two. I did.

Videos below.

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Gravity-Powered Generator: Real or Fake?

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You thought we forgot about your favorite Hackaday comment game, didn’t you? Well, not only is ‘Real or Fake?’ back with a new installment, but this time it concerns everybody’s favorite impossibility: perpetual motion machines! It’s likely that you’ve already seen the photos of Brazilian energy group RAR Energia’s generator “powered exclusively by gravity” (translated). If you’re rolling your eyes and exclaiming “this is so last year..” you might want to scroll down to the bottom of the page; they’re still building this monstrosity and they’ve included some diagram imagesPerhaps someone who reads Portuguese can better translate the claim that the devices are “demonstration models with capacity to generate 30kW.” Oh, didn’t you know? There are two of them now: one in Brazil that is presumably functioning, and a second under construction in Gilman, Illinois.

Now, before you all scream “Photoshopped,” take a gander at a FotoForensics analysis of one of the images, where ELA (error level analysis) seems to indicate consistent levels of compression. EXIF data shows the pictures were shot with a Sony DSC-WX5 and saved in PhotoScape. It may be simpler than that: you can easily recognize the same employees in different shots from different angles, and there are quite a lot of photos. RAR Energia’s most recent endeavor—a second machine in Gilman Illinois—seems to have been erected in the past two months. The Gilman warehouse is located on property belonging to bio-diesel manufacturing firm Incobrasa Industries (named a “Company of the [RAR Energia] group” on the RAR Energia site). Here’s a little internet sleuthing for your consideration: a photo of the completed warehouse and a Google maps link to the location in question (40.763176, -88.012706). Note the distinctly shaped building in the background (another view here, during construction), which can be found due south of the location indicated in the Google maps link. We’re not suggesting that you completely rule out image manipulation, but if it’s Photoshopped, it’s a damned elaborate job.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any videos demonstrating motion or any explanation for how the system works other than vagaries about perpetual energy. So, does this thing exist—and did this company really build two of them? Does it work…or, well, somehow do something?

Sterling Engine Kludged Together From Whatever

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Watching [Jam BD] build this working Sterling Engine from nothing is awe-inspiring. He literally did with what he had on hand. Even his build log forgoes phrases like “I ordered a…” in exchange for “I didn’t have any so…”.

The cylinder heated by a candle is a pipe stuffed with aluminum foil which was hammered flat to get the best seal possible. The CDs prominently featured on the final product act as the fly-wheel. To ensure that there is enough mass [Jam] ganged three of them together. There is also a counter-weight affixed just off-center to help keep the wheel turning. The gears shown above were actually used more like mounting plates to build a cam. Looking at the body and frame of the device makes us wonder how in the heck this thing actually came together?

We can’t get enough of these kinds of hacks, which is why we had to go back and watch the tuna can Sterling Engine one more time.

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Producing Ozone at 3500 RPM

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Motors are fun, and high voltage even more so. We’re guessing that’s what went through [brazilero2008]‘s mind when he put together an electrostatic motor using upcycled parts he found lying around.

The electrostatic rotor works by connecting a very high voltage, low current power supply – in this case an industrial air ionizer – to a set or rotors surrounding a plastic rotor. The hot electrodes spray electrons onto the rotor, which are picked up by the ground electrodes. If the system doesn’t arc too much, you have yourself a plastic rotor that spins very, very fast.

[brazilero]‘s device is made out of an aluminum turkey pan, a few acrylic tubes, and a few cardboard disks; all stuff you can find in a well-stocked trash can. After completing the device, it was taken apart and finished and screwed onto a beautiful painted jewelry box. Very cool for something you can make out of trash, and dangerous enough to be very interesting.

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3D Printed Cutaway Jet Engine Sounds Great

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Thanks to the wonders of 3D printing, you can now have a 3D printed a jet engine of your very own. Unlike jet engines we’ve seen before, this one comes with no chance of the operator getting burned to a crisp. [Gerry] is a self-proclaimed “broken down motor mechanic” from New Zealand. He’s designed a rather awesome jet engine in 3D Software, and printed it on his UP Plus printer. The engine itself is a cutaway model of a high-bypass turbofan engine. While we’re not sure which make and model of jet engine this cutaway represents, we’re still very impressed.

This isn’t just a static display model – the engine will actually spin up with the help of compressed air.  Separate start and run tubes send air to the turbine and main fain respectively. It even has that distinctive turbofan “buzz saw” sound. While this model is relatively safe, [Gerry] does warn to keep the pressure down, or it could come apart. To that end we’d recommend adding a regulator before the quick disconnect.

The Thingiverse project is a bit light on instructions.  However this situation is remedied by [hacksaw], who posted a pictorial and build log up on pp3d. [Hacksaw] did run into a few problems with the build, but nothing a little bit of superglue couldn’t fix. It may have fewer moving parts, but this definitely puts our old Visible V8 Engine kit to shame.

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An homemade 48cc V8 engine with injection

A few months ago we mentioned [Keith]‘s first project in the works, a 1/4 scale V8 engine. Today, we are amazed to see that his engine is finished and running really smoothly. What is even more impressive is that the entire project has been completed on manual mills and lathes. The thread on the Home Model Engine Machinist forum contains his build log in which he details how all the different parts were made. The engine has an electric starter, uses a fuel injection system and [Keith] even made his own injection molds for several plastic parts. The ECU is based on the Megasquirt-II, we guess it must have taken [Keith] many tries before correctly setting its parameters. A video of the engine in action can be viewed after the break.

You can find our previous coverage of this project as well as other miniature engines on this feature from last April.

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(Please Don’t) Build a Jet Engine from a Toilet Paper Holder

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Turbo charger Jet Engines have long been considered one of the holy grails of backyard engineering. This is with good reason – they’re hard to build, and even harder to run. Many a turbo has met an untimely end from a hot start or oil starvation. [Colin Furze] however, makes it look easy. [Colin] is a proponent of crazy hacks – we’ve featured him before for his land speed record holding baby carriage, and his pulse jet powered tea kettle.

In his latest video set, [Colin] takes a toilet brush holder, a toilet paper roll holder, a few plumbing fittings, and of course a small turbocharger from the scrap yard. Somehow he converts all of this into a working jet engine. The notable thing here is that there is no welding. Some of the joints are held together with nothing more than duct tape.

Calling this a working jet engine is not really an overstatement. As every backyard jet jockey knows, the first goal of DIY jets (aside from not hurting yourself) is self-sustaining. Turbines are spun up with air hoses, vacuums, or leaf blowers. The trick is to turn the fuel on, remove the air source, and have the turbine continue spinning under its own power. Once this happens, your engine is performing the same “Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow” combustion process an F-18 or a 747 uses.

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