Retrotechtacular: The Diesel Story

title cardThe diesel engine was, like many things, born of necessity. The main engine types of the day—hot bulb oil, steam, coal gas, and gasoline—were not so thermally efficient or ideal for doing heavy-duty work like driving large-scale electrical generators.  But how did the diesel engine come about? Settle in and watch the 1952 documentary “The Diesel Story“, produced by Shell Oil.

The diesel engine is founded on the principle of internal combustion. Throughout the Industrial Age, technology was developing at breakneck pace. While steam power was a great boon to many burgeoning industries, engineers wanted to get away from using boilers. The atmospheric gas engine fit the bill, but it simply wasn’t powerful enough to replace the steam engine.

hot bulb oil engineBy 1877, [Nikolaus Otto] had completed work on his coal gas engine built on four-stroke theory. This was the first really useful internal combustion engine and the precursor of modern four-stroke engines. It was eventually adapted for transportation with gasoline fuel. In 1890, the hot bulb oil engine was developed under the name Hornsby-Akroyd and primarily used in stationary power plants. Their flywheels had to be started manually, but once the engine was going, the bulb that drove combustion required no further heating.

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Step Right Up or Cower In Fear; the 7-Story Car-Juggling Robot Is Here

Seven story robot juggles three VW BeetlesSometimes we see a project that’s just as frightening as it is awesome. The Bug Juggler is a prime example of this phenomenon. A seven-story diesel-powered humanoid robot is one thing, but this one will pick up two VW Beetles, put one in its pocket, pick up a third, and juggle them. Yes, juggle them.

The Bug Juggler will be driven by a brave soul sitting in the head-cage and controlling him through haptic feedback connected to high-speed servo valves. A diesel engine will generate hydraulic pressure, and the mobility required for juggling the cars will come from hydraulic accumulators.

The project is in the capable hands of team members who have built special effects, a diesel/hydraulic vehicle for hauling huge sections of pipe, and mechanisms for Space Shuttle experiments. In order to attract investors for the full-scale version, they are building an 8-foot tall proof-of-concept arm assembly capable of tossing and catching a 250lb. mass.

If you prefer to see Beetles crushed, check out Stompy, the 18-foot rideable hexapod. Make the jump to see an animation of the full-scale Bug Juggler in action. Don’t know about you, but we wouldn’t stand quite so close to it without a helmet and some really good health insurance.

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Hackaday Links: November 3, 2013

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[Michael] just missed the deadline for the Trinket Contest but we still think his tablet is pretty cool. He says it predates the iPad and uses a custom aluminum case, a SoC he ripped from a Gecko Edubook, powered by eight NiMH batteries. Check out the front, the guts, and the sides.

Speaking of portable power sources, After doing a teardown of a 12V 6800 mAh Li-Po battery [Howard] strapped some prototyping equipment to either side of it and now he’s got a prototyping power supply that’s easy to take with him.

Blinky goodness doesn’t have to look hacked together (even if it is). This Raspberry Pi logo looks like a professional sign! It was cut from foam and plastic, primed and painted, then stuffed with addressable LED strips.

While we’re on the topic of refined RPi projects, check out this Raspberry Pi MAME cabinet. It’s a bit bigger than the Galaga cabinet we saw recently but still small enough to keep around the house without getting in the way.

If you’re a fan of automotive hacks you should check out this effort to build an Electronic Diesel Control.

We’ve been saving the gnarliest link for last. [Matthew] laments that his missed Halloween to show off this project. But we don’t think an almost-entirely wooden spider-like walker needs to be paired with a holiday. It’s very cool and somewhat operational, but still needs help working out all of the kinks. Our favorite moment in the video is when [Matthew] exclaims “It wants to live!”.

Diesel bike build: Round 2

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[Alex] has been hard at work on his second vegetable-oil-powered diesel bike build. The last time we checked in, he was finishing off work on his Honda CB400. Unfortunately, he felt it wasn’t quite big enough to ride comfortably, and as most first builds go, it was burdened with its share of problems. Now he’s snagged a Yamaha XJ600 off eBay, cleaned it up and started the modifications. [Alex] extended the frame to accommodate a new engine, rebuilt the gearbox, and perhaps most daunting: turned down the pulleys with a vintage 1950’s lathe.

Now that [Alex's] bike has passed the MOT inspections, he can enjoy cruising around while doing his part to save the environment. His build log details the process, and is packed with enough pictures to keep you busy for a few hours while it walks you through each step. You can watch the bike’s test-run video below. For you off-road types, check out the all-wheel drive motorcycle from last month.

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Building a homebrew diesel ECU

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Over the years automobile engines have become increasingly complex, and with this added complexity comes an increased reliance on intricate computer systems to run them. These control systems are typically the fruit of many hours of research and development, carefully protected by the auto makers who create them. Instead of relying on a closed system to power his car, a Finnish hacker that goes by the name [synkooppi] has decided to do away with his diesel engine’s ECU altogether and build one of his own with little more than an Arduino.

As you can see from his web site, [synkooppi] has created his DIY ECU using an Arduino Mega, which is capable of controlling diesel engines that employ a Bosch VP37 or other inline diesel pump. So far he has all of the basic workings in place, which allow him to run and control an Audi diesel motor.

While many details about his homebrew ECU are hard to come by, he does have a series of development videos posted on YouTube which should help satiate inquisitive minds. For those of you with a spare diesel motor laying around, [synkooppi] has made the first release of his code available to try out.

Stick around to see a video of the ECU in action.

[Thanks, perhof]

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Bodging up a diesel motorcycle

[Alex] has been working on a diesel motorcycle project for a few months now, and the project is finally bearing fruit. It’s quite an accomplishment for something [Alex] describes as an industrial Chinese engine, a modded Honda Superdream, and a few Royal Enfield parts thrown in for good measure.

[Alex] bought his Honda CB400 from someone who had already done a diesel motor conversion; a 200cc single-cylinder motor provided just enough horsepower to putt around town. [Alex] wanted a bike that could keep up with highway speeds, so he replaced the wimpy 200cc motor with a 406cc diesel engine used for industrial purposes and an amr500 supercharger.

Although we’ve seen a few insane motorcycle builds, most of Hackaday’s bike builds focus on electric or scavenged parts motorcycles. If you’ve got an awesome motorcycle build you’ve been working on, send it in on the tip line.

You can check out the video of [Alex] testing out his new motor with vegetable oil (for him, it’s easier than getting diesel fuel) after the break.

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