“If you’re asking ‘why,’ you don’t get it.” So said [JP] when he told us about his strandbeest bicycle build. After all, who in their right mind would graft a complex multi-leg mechanical walking mechanism to the rear end of a perfectly good bicycle? But to expand on his sentiment, to not understand his creation is to miss the whole essence of our movement. Sometimes you just have to make something, because you can.
If you aren’t familiar with the strandbeest, it is the creation of Dutch artist [Theo Jansen]. Complex skeletal walking machines powered by the wind, that in the case of [Jansen]’s machines autonomously roam the beaches of the Netherlands. Hence the name, from Dutch: “Beach beast”.
[JP]’s strandbeest bike came together over 8 months of hard work. It started with a conceptual CAD design and 3D print, and progressed through many iterations of fine-tuning the over 400 parts required to put four legs on the back of a bicycle frame. It’s an impressive achievement and it is fully rideable, though we suspect we won’t be seeing it at the Tour de France any time soon.
He’s posted several videos of the bike in action, you can see one of them below the break.
The team over at [Braille Skateboarding] is willing to ride just about anything. This week they’re testing out 3D printed skateboard wheels. We’re not just talking rolling around here, the [Braille] team takes their experiments out to the skate park and gives them to the locals to test out. Tail whips, jumps, ollies, and grinds were on the agenda. The skaters were a bit apprehensive, as this is the third time they’ve tested 3D printed wheels.
The first set shattered upon landing a jump. That set appears to have been made from PLA with about 10% infill. The second set were made from NinjaFlex, which had no shattering problems, but was so squishy that the wheels simply flattened under the weight of the riders. The third set, printed by [Nick Lindenmuth] work great. They have a bit of give, but don’t shatter. We’re guessing this set is either ABS or one of the more exotic filaments. It’s pretty amazing that 3D printers are capable of spitting out wheels that not only handle the load of rider, but the shock load of coming down from jumps and tricks.
Skateboarding is a sport that was born of hacking. The identity of the person who first nailed roller skate wheels to a board with a milk crate box is lost to history. Those crate scooters were a staple of the 1940’s and 1950’s neighborhoods. Everyone built their own scooter, so the designs evolved. Eventually the milk crates disappeared. At some point, surfers realized that they could use these wheeled boards to surf the concrete jungle. Things just took off from there. Skateboarding is now a multi-billion dollar industry, but at its heart there are still hackers trying out new designs. This week’s Hacklet is all about skateboarding projects.
We start with [brian.rundle] and Electric Longboard. [Brian] built his board using trucks and mechanical parts from a DIY skateboard online shop. The motor is a brushless outrunner R/C plane motor from HobbyKing. Batteries are of the LiPo variety. An Arduino Nano provides the PWM signal which drives the Electronic Speed Control (ESC). Throttle control is via RF link using the popular Nordic Semi NRF2401. [Brian] is focusing on building a safe skateboard. He designed it to carry two batteries, though only one is in use at a time. Rather than use a switch, he’s created a fool-proof system with arming plugs and jumpers. Each battery has its own arming plug. There is one jumper, so only one battery can be connected to the board at a time.
Next up is [suiram21] with Longboard Brake. Downhill longboarding can be a dangerous sport. Running downhill at 40MPH or more with no brakes makes for quite an adrenaline rush. [suiram21] loves longboarding but wanted the safety of having a brake if and when he needed it. He started with a Onda board, which is a longboard with large diameter wheels. He 3D printed brackets for a cable actuated braking system. The brake is activated by stepping on a lever at the rear of the board. A lever presses a bicycle brake pad into the inside edge of the tire. This brings the board to a gentle stop. [suiram21] is thinking of adding a second brake to the other wheel to increase braking authority.
Next we have [edbraun] with Skateboard Speedometer by inventED. [edbraun] wanted to know how fast he was going. A GPS would work, but GPS signals are often blocked in cities. A more accurate way to gather speed data is directly from the wheels. Two tiny magnet plugs are placed in holes drilled in the wheel. A hall effect sensor detects the magnets and passes this data on to an Arduino Pro Mini. Once the speed is calculated, it’s sent to a Bluetooth radio. [edbraun’s] Android phone receives the data and displays current speed and total distance traveled. The speedometer and its slick 3D printed case almost hide between the trucks and the board itself. Nice work [edbraun]!
Finally we have Hackaday alum [Josh Marsh] and EV Commuter Longboard. [Josh] uses an electric longboard for his daily commute. His project is an excellent overview and tutorial on building an electric skateboard from scratch. Like many others, [Josh] utilizes R/C Airplane brushless motors and speed controllers. An Arduino or similar microcontroller is all you need to drive these devices. For batteries, [Josh] loves LiPo packs. Long form six cell affairs provide 22.2 Volts with a capacity of 5000 mAh or more. Plenty of power for carving your way to work!
There’s a gritty feel to the Hackerboat project. It doesn’t have slick and polished marketing, people lined up with bags of money to get in on the ground floor, or a flashy name (which I’ll get to in a bit). What it does have is a dedicated team of hackers who are building prototypes to solve some really big challenges. Operating on the ocean is tough on equipment, especially so with electronics. Time and tenacity has carried this team and their project far.
I could have sworn that we have asked this one before, but perhaps I’m thinking of our discussion of nuclear aircraft. In my mind the two share a similar fate: it just isn’t going to happen. But, that doesn’t mean flying cars can’t happen. Let me make my case, and then we want to know what you think.
[Steve] sent in a link to a Bloomberg article on Larry Page’s suspected investment in personal flying cars. It’s exciting to hear about test flights from a startup called Zee.Aero with 150 people on staff and a seemingly unlimited budget to develop such a fantastic toy. Surely Bruce Wayne Mr. Page is onto something and tiny 2-person vehicles will be whizzing up and down the airspace above your street at any moment now? Realistically though, I don’t believe it. They definitely will build a small fleet of such vehicles and they will work. But you, my friend, will never own one. Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: Where are the Flying Cars?”→
Since then it has been completely redesigned and now has a super fat kite-surfer wheel, a front crash skid with damper, and a variable geometry which allows it to steer properly despite just having one wheel. It does this by allowing the rider to shift their position relative to the wheel, instead of the seat always being rigidly locked directly above the axle.
That steering is a pretty clever upgrade, but we do wonder if the new crash skid will have an atlatl effect and really launch the rider in a crash. Our gut feeling aside, it is designed not to plant itself in the pavement, but to slide along (without ejecting the rider) until the vehicle loses all momentum.
There is something about self-balancing unicycles that attracts experimenters, each of whom takes a different approach. We see everything from this device constructed mainly from a Razor Scooter to this more polished-looking unit based on an earlier Segway clone design. [XenonJohn] reminds us that “there is still much to learn in this area and you can genuinely innovate even as a hobbyist. Also, you can only do so much on a computer, you then have to actually build something and see how well it works. [This recent test] shows what you can do if you just keep on experimenting.” Video of the test drive is below.
If you ever encounter railroad or railway enthusiasts, you may have heard the view that at some point in the past there was a golden age of rail transport that has somehow been lost. It’s something that’s up for debate as to when that age was or even whether with a selection of new super-high-speed trains snaking across our continents we’re in a golden age now, but it’s true to say that the rail business has had its fair share of decline in the last half-century.
It’s quite likely that when they talk of a golden age, they really mean a golden age of steam rail transport. At which point depending on where you live in the world it’s easier to put your finger on a decade. For UK residents a good candidate would be the 1930s; steam locomotive design had reached its peak, the rail network hadn’t been worn out by the demands of wartime, and private car ownership hadn’t eaten into their passenger numbers. The country was divided up into a set of regional rail monopolies, each of which had their own locomotive works and designers who were in fierce competition to show that their machines were the best and the fastest.
The LMS, the London Midland and Scottish railway company, served the northwestern segment of the country, North Wales, and the West of Scotland. Their high-speed express trains were in hot competition with those of the LNER, the London and North Eastern Railway, who served the eastern side of the country, to offer the fastest service from London to Scotland. It’s difficult to grasp through an 80-year lens, but this battle was one of national excitement, with the fastest locomotives becoming household names nationwide. The railway companies were justifiably proud of their engineering expertise, and so featured their locomotives as a key part of their marketing to the general public.
And so we come to the subject of today’s Retrotechtacular piece, a film below the break from 1935 following the construction of a high-speed express locomotive from start to finish in the LMS’s Crewe railway works. 6207 was one of a class of thirteen 4-6-2 Pacific locomotives designed by the company’s chief engineer [William Stanier], built between 1932 and 1935 and known as the Princess Royal class, all being named for princesses. In the film we see the various parts of the locomotive being cut, cast and forged from raw metal before being assembled in the Crewe plant. All the machinery is human controlled, and one of the surprises is sometimes the number of people involved in each task. The level of skill and experience in precision metalworking to be found in plants like Crewe was immense, and in some cases it is very difficult to find its equivalent in our own time.