DIY Linear Actuators For A Flight Sim

linear

[Roland] has already built a few very cool and extremely realistic flight sims, but his latest project will put his current rig to shame. He’s building a six degree of freedom simulator based on homebuilt linear actuators of his own design.

The actuator is powered by a large DC motor moving timing belts along the length of the enclosure. These timing belts are connected to a shaft that’s coupled to the frame with a few bungee cords. The bungee cords are important; without them, the timing belts would be carrying all the load of the sim – not a good thing if these actuators are moving an entire cockpit around a living room.

Also on [Roland]‘s list of awesome stuff he’s building for his flight sims is a vibration system based on the BFF Shaker. This board takes data in from sim software and turns it into vibrations produced by either unbalanced DC motors or one of those ‘bass kicker’ transducers.

It’s all very cool stuff, and with all the crazy upgrades [Roland] is doing to his sim rig, he’s doing much better than paying $300/hour to rent a Beechcraft Baron.

[Read more...]

Fail of the Week: Physical Pixel Display

fotw-physical-pixel-display

This physical pixel display reminds us of a couple of different hacks that we’ve seen over the years. It looks impressive, but [Matt] couldn’t quite get it to work. It wasn’t the Kinect sensor and image interpretation that was the problem. It was a failure to get the hardware components seen above to perform reliably.

If you can’t figure out what this is supposed to do, take at look at the inFORM morphing table or the pixel wall installed at the Hyundai expo last year. [Matt's] attempt is much more modest with a grid of just 10×6. The pixels themselves are ballpoint pens (he gets bonus points for cheap and easy materials). The pens move in and out thanks to some Bowden cables connected to hobby servos. The mechanical engineers have probably already figured out the fail… the pixels seem to get hung up and despite several revisions in the materials used , it couldn’t be fixed.

The hobby servos were chosen because they are much less expensive than proper linear actuators. We thought maybe [Matt] should build his own solenoids but that’s not a great idea because you can’t have variable depth that way (can you?).  Perhaps the pens should be vertical and the servos could pull on a string attached to the pen via a pulley with gravity to return them to the starting position? There’s got to be an inexpensive and relatively simple way get this thing working. Let us know how you’d get the project back on track by leaving a comment below.


2013-09-05-Hackaday-Fail-tips-tileFail of the Week is a Hackaday column which runs every Wednesday. Help keep the fun rolling by writing about your past failures and sending us a link to the story — or sending in links to fail write ups you find in your Internet travels.

Super Angry Birds is a physical controller for the game

This role reversal is quite entertaining. While the game Angry Birds is a virtual realization of knocking over stuff with a sling-shot, Super Angry Birds adds a physical control element back to the virtual game. It’s silly, but well-executed. The main controller takes advantage a part which we don’t see used very often. It’s a motorized linear actuator which would most often be seen on a high-end audio console.

Check out the video after the break to see the controller in action. The linear encoder is used to simulate pulling the rubber sling shot back. It uses the motorized feature to spring back in place, but we’re not sure whether or not the motor also provides resistance during the pull. The laser cut case also includes a companion in the form of a TNT trigger box al-a Wile E Coyote.

If this isn’t real enough for you perhaps this slingshot controller will suffice.

[Read more...]

An easy to build cat feeder driven by a DIY linear actuator

cheap-and-easy-cat-feeder

[Will Finucane] of Revolt Labs/Mad Science Blog was looking for a way to keep his cats happily fed while away on a short vacation, so he put together a cheap and easy automatic feeder to ensure that his pets didn’t go hungry while he was away.

We’ve seen different iterations of automatic pet feeders here before, some relying on rotating false bottoms, while others use crank-style feeders to get the job done. [Will’s] solution is a bit different, employing a cheap linear actuator to deliver feedings.

He emptied out a glue stick, replacing the glue with a brass tube. This gives him the rigidity that the glue lacked, allowing him to easily move a platform full of cat food up and down. He mounted the glue stick on a continuous rotation servo, installing the actuator and a feeding platform inside a cardboard box.

Using an Arduino, he lowers the movable platform every 12 hours, allowing a bit of cat food to fall from the hole he cut in the side of the box. While his creation might not stand up to years of use, it’s a quick solution that can cost very little, depending on what you have sitting around.

Check out the video below to see [Will’s] cat feeder in action.

[Read more...]

Glue Stick + Servo = Linear Actuator

glue stick linear actuator

What do you get when you cross a glue stick with a hobby servo motor? A linear actuator, of course! Although this could be done with other household implements, the form factor of this glue stick seems perfectly suited to sit on top of a servo horn.

The servo, as you might have guessed, has to be converted to rotate fully instead of the 180 degrees or so that is typical of these types of motors. The trick to this, and what really makes it shine in our eyes, is that instead of attaching two resistors in a normal continuous rotation mod, the potentiometer is used on the glue stick allowing for position feedback.

The resulting force from this gear-reduced actuator is quite impressive, giving an “err” (over 3 Kilograms) on the scale used for testing. [Gareth] or [Chiprobot] gives a great tutorial of how to make one of these after the break, but if you’d rather just see it in action, skip to around 8:20! [Read more...]

Linear motor can be built from trash

[Raul] built a cheap linear actuator out of a drawer slide and a surplus flatbed scanner.

A few builds we’ve seen, like the PCB drill press or the horribly inefficient thermostat, used linear actuators as key components of their builds. These linear actuators are fairly expensive compared to other parts we usually have lying around so going the homebrew route to reduce costs is always a welcome idea.

The first step of [Raul]‘s build is to mount a drawer slide to a piece of wood. A stepper motor is attached to one end of the actuator and a timing belt is strung along the length of the assemblage. After a bracket is connected the drawer slide and the belt, you’ve got a very inexpensive linear motor.

In our days of dumpster diving, we can’t count the number of times we’ve passed up on drawer slides in unwanted furniture. Stepper motors, gear trains and timing belts from old ScanJets can be found for pocket change any day of the week. For cheap and accurate linear motion, we couldn’t come up with a build that does better than [Raul]‘s.

Sustainability Hacks: Automatic window control

Sometimes, changing one little bit of a green hack turns it into a build that wastes as much energy as our gaming rig. [Dr. West]‘s automatic window controller is one of these builds. The good news is the window controller can be easily modified to cut energy costs in the fall and spring.

[Dr. West] doesn’t have any control over the heat in his apartment and for the entire Canadian winter, his apartment gets really hot. He doesn’t pay for his heat, so he does what any of us would do – crack a window. Inspired by this post, he put a linear actuator in the frame of his kitchen window. [Dr. West] didn’t want to damage the window frame, so he attached the actuator to a piece of square aluminum tubing that mounts to the existing screw holes.

The electronics, [Dr. West] used a Rabbit 2000 dev board, LCD display and keypad, and built an H-bridge circuit on a bit of breadboard. Because of a port conflict and admitted laziness, an Arduino is used to read the thermistor. The display shows the current and desired temperature, and the Rabbit opens and closes the window accordingly. All the source code is posted in the forum post.

While it’s not the most ‘green’ idea to dump heat from a building’s HVAC system out into a frozen tundra, this would be a great build to automatically open and close windows in the more temperate seasons. Open windows during the day, close them at night and you’ll have no more problems coming home to a house that’s either too hot or too cold. Check out a video of the automatic window after the break.

[Read more...]

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