Retrotechtacular: The J-57 Afterburner Engine

The J-57 afterburner engine appeared in many airplanes of notable make, including the F-101, -102, and -103. This USAF training film shows the parts of the J-57, explains the complex process by which the engine produces thrust, and describes some maintenance and troubleshooting procedures.

The name of this game is high performance. Precision thrust requires careful rigging of the engine’s fuel control linkage through a process called trimming. Here, the engine fuel control is adjusted with regard to several different RPM readings as prescribed in the manual.

One of the worst things that can happen to a J-57 is known as overtemping. This refers to high EGT, or exhaust gas temperature. If EGT is too high, the air-fuel ratio is not ideal. Troubleshooting a case of high EGT should begin with a check of the lines and the anti-icing valve. If the lines are good and the valve is closed, the instruments should be checked for accuracy. If they’re okay, then it’s time for a pre-trimming inspection.

In addition to EGT, engine performance is judged by RPM and PP7, the turbine discharge pressure. If RPM and PP7 are within spec and the EGT is still high, the engine must be pulled. It should be inspected for leaks and hot spots, and the seals should be examined thoroughly for cracks and burns. The cause for high EGT may be just one thing, or it could be several small problems. This film encourages the user to RTFM, which we think is great advice in general.

Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: The J-57 Afterburner Engine”

Do You Have Any Idea How Fast Your Blender Was Going?

blenderSpeed Some people really love their smoothies. We mean really, really, love smoothies and everything about making them, especially the blenders. [Adam] is a big fan of blenders, and wanted to verify that his Vitamix blenders ran as fast as the manufacturer claimed. So he built not one, but two speed measuring setups. Scientific blender measurement method requires one to cross check their results to be sure, right?

Measuring the speed of a blender is all about the RPM. Appropriately, [Adam’s] first measurement tool was an LED based stroboscope. Stroboscopes have been around for hundreds of years, and are a great way to measure how fast an object is rotating. Just adjust the speed of a flashing light until the rotating object appears frozen. The number of blinks per second is then equal to the Rotations Per Second (RPS) of the object being measured.Multiply by 60 seconds, and you’ve got RPM. [Adam] used an Arduino as the brains behind his stroboscope. He wired a dial up on his breadboard, and used it to adjust the flash rate of an LED. Since this was a quick hack, [Adam] skipped the display and just used the Arduino’s USB output to display speed measurements on his laptop.

There are possibilities for error with stroboscopes. [Adam] discovered that if the stroboscope was flashing at a multiple of the blade’s rotation speed, the blades would appear frozen, and he’d get an erroneous RPM value. Thankfully, [Adam’s] Vitamix had asymmetric blades, which made the test a bit easier. He calculated his blades to be spinning at 380 RPS, or 23,000 RPM. Not satisfied with his results, [Adam] brought out Audacity, and ran a spectral analysis of the blender in operation. He found a peak at 378Hz, which was pretty darn close to his previous measurement. Since the blender has a 4 inch blade this all works out to a blade tip speed right around the claimed value of 270 MPH. We’re glad [Adam] found an answer to his blender questions, but our personal favorite blender hack still has to be the V8 blender created by the Top Gear crew.   [via HackerNews]

Measuring Car Engine RPM via the Cigarette Lighter


Sometimes we forget how many things we can do with a simple oscilloscope. In this video [Ben] uses one that Tektronix lent him to measure his DeLorean engine RPM. By checking the car main ~12V voltage one may notice that the voltage spikes occurring are directly related to the engine speed, as they are created by the inductive kicks from the ignition coils. Obviously the multiplication you have to do to get the RPMs from the number of spikes per second depends on your engine configuration (flat 4, v6…).

The method that [Ben] used was to search for high amplitude spikes on the (AC coupled) car 12V Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) to get a reliable measurement given the many electrical noise sources present in his car. At the end of his video, he however mentioned that it could still be possible to get a good measurement with a simple voltage comparator and a high enough voltage reference.

Continue reading “Measuring Car Engine RPM via the Cigarette Lighter”

Adding an RPM Readout for a Home Made CNC Mill


[Rui] recently put the finishing touches on his homemade CNC mill, which utilizes a dremel-like rotary tool. The problem with using rotary tools for this kind of application is you don’t really have an accurate speed readout… so he designed his own RPM gauge.

The sensor is in itself very simple. He’s using a TLE4935L hall effect sensor, a spare 16FE88 microcontroller, a Nokia LCD, and one tiny neodymium magnet. The magnet has been carefully epoxied onto the motor fan, with the hall effect sensor close by. He’s also built a guard around it, just in case the magnet decides to fly off at high speeds.

During testing he hooked up the hall effect sensor to both his home-made circuit, and an oscilloscope to confirm his findings. Once he was assured everything was working properly he sealed it off and mounted the LCD above the spindle as a nice digital readout.

Continue reading “Adding an RPM Readout for a Home Made CNC Mill”

Arduino Tachometer tutorial

This tutorial will guide you through the process of building a tachometer around an Arduino. Tachometers are used to measure rotation rate in Revolutions Per Minute (RPM). You don’t need much in the way of hardware, this version uses an Infrared beam to measure fan speed. As with last year’s PIC-based tutorial, [Chris] is using a character LCD to output the reading. Wiring and driving the LCD ends up being the hardest part.

An IR transmitter/receiver pair are positioned on either side of the fan. When the blade passes in between then, the receiver shuts off a transistor connected to one of the Arduino’s external interrupt pins. He shows how to use this interrupt to measure the amount of time between the passing of each fan blade. If you divide for the number of blades, and average the reading for greater accuracy, you can easily calculate RPM.

Another alternative would have been to use a reflectance sensor which allows to for the transmitter and receiver to both be on the same side of the fan.

Simple sensors to calculate RPM

Ever wonder how to calculate revolutions per minute using a microcontroller? This project shows you how by purposing an IR emitter and detector and a computer fan. As the fan blades spin they disrupt the beam of infrared light between the emitter and the receiver. This results in a waveform on the receiver’s circuit which can be easily used to trigger interrupts in any microcontroller. In this case a PIC 18F452 monitors the detector’s signals for a rising edge. By measuring time data between interrupts the period can be established and RPM calculated. You can see a video of the test rig after the break.

So what can you use this for? It’s the method that most spinning POV displays use to stabilize the display. You won’t be limited to an IR sensor, but can use a hall effect sensor in the same basic fashion.

Continue reading “Simple sensors to calculate RPM”

Vehicle information display hacks

We’ve had a few folks send us info about their vehicle display hacks after seeing [Will O’Brien’s] motorcycle computer a few days ago.

On the left we have a display for an electric vehicle. [S1axter] is using a 4.3″ TFT screen to display charge information for each battery cell in the car. An ATmega88 collects the data and sends it to a breakout board with an LCD controller on it.

To the right is a display from a Formula Student project. a Matrix Orbital GLK19264-7T-1U LCD display provides a lot of real estate for displaying data. Right now [Alan] is still in the early prototyping stages, but the video after the break demonstrates the RPM readout using a function generator. It’s not shown in the video, but he tells us that he’s since tried it out with the engine and has a PIC 16f877 reading temperate data from the electronic control transmission sensors in addition to the RPM data.

Correction: Thanks to [j] for correcting our mistake. This is a Formula Student car.

Continue reading “Vehicle information display hacks”