Retrotechtacular: The (Long, Arduous) Birth of a Tank

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, the United States Army provided regular status reports to both its interior members and the American public through a half-hour documentary television show called The Big Picture. Since the program was produced by the government, every episode immediately entered the public domain. This particular report tells the story of the T-48 project that culminated in the 90mm M48 Patton tank.

The film opens by providing a brief history of tanks and the lessons learned about them between WWI and the Korean War. The Army sought a more robust vehicle that could handle a wide variety of climates and terrain, and so the process of information gathering began. After a series of meetings at the Pentagon in which all parties involved explored every facet, the project was approved, and a manila folder was officially designated to the project and labeled accordingly.

vesselsWe then tour the R&D facility where new tank materials and components are developed and tested. It is here that the drive gears are put through their paces on a torsion machine. Air cleaners are pitted against each other to decide which can filter out the finest dust and sand. After careful analysis, different tank shell materials are test welded together with various, well-documented electrodes, and these panels are taken outside so their welds can be directly fired upon.

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A think-tank solution for monitoring radioactive water storge tanks

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When we hear reports of radioactive water leaking into the ocean from the [Fukushima Dai-Ichi] plant in Japan we literally have to keep ourselves from grinding our teeth. Surly the world contains enough brain power to overcome these hazards. Instead of letting it gnaw at him, [Akiba] is directing his skills at one solution that could help with the issue. There are a number of storage tanks on site which hold radioactive water and are prone to leaking. After hearing that they are checked manually each day, with no automated level monitoring, he got to work. Above is the wireless non-contact tank level sensor rig he built to test out his idea.

A couple of things made this a quick project for him. First off, he just happened to have a MaxSonar MB7389 waterproof sonar sensor on hand. Think of this as a really fancy PING sensor that is water tight and can measure distance up to five meters. [Akiba's] assumption is that the tanks have a hatch at the top into which this sensor would be positioned. The box next to it contains a Freakduino of his own design which includes hardware for wireless communications at 900 MHz. This is the same hardware he used for that wireless toilet monitor.

We really like seeing hacker solutions to environmental problems. A prime example is some of the cleanup hacks we saw around the time of the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

 

Building a rather rudimentary Arduino tank bot

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The tank robot builds that we see are often quite complex. This lets them do great things, but makes the platform scary for beginners. Here’s a tank build that would be a great first project, especially if you’re more interested in the programming side of robotics than you are in the hardware itself. [Paul Bleisch] combined several different commercially available products to fabricate this Arduino-powered tank robot base.

Locomotion is provided by a double geared-motor module. This unit, the plastic wheels and treads, as well as the wooden mounting platform are all made by Tamiya. They cost very little and are already designed to work with one another. To this base he adds the Arduino and a motor shield which makes the connections dead simple. The black case on one end of the chassis holds four AA batteries which provide power for everything.

These components are all that’s really needed to start, but they provide no interactivity. So [Paul] picked up a used wireless PlayStation 2 controller. There’s a library (written by regular reader [Bill Porter]) that allows him to connect the receiver to the Arduino in order to pick up commands from the controller. He also plans to add an ultrasonic range finder to the build sometime in the future.

If you’re don’t need to do things the easy way you should consider fabricating your own tank treads.

Homemade tank joins the battle in Syria

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What does a hacker do when going into battle for the freedom of their country? He builds a tank from scratch, of course. It’s a little bit of a stretch calling it a tank as it lacks treads. But it’s got a high-caliber gun mounted on top and has been heavily armored.

There is room enough inside for two people. What may look low tech in this picture is a different story from the cockpit. A pair of LCD monitors display images from five different cameras. You can see the shrouds that protect three of them on the front of the vehicle with a fourth acting as the rear view. A fifth camera mounted on the gun gives the passenger a look at where he’s aiming. A PS1 controller can rotate it and we assume has a fire feature as well. Check out the demonstration video embedded after the break.

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Tank tread robot build aims for a smooth ride

There’s all kinds of interesting things going into this tank robot build, but that beautiful suspension system immediately caught our eye. It helps to protect the body of the robot from being shaken apart when traveling over rough surfaces. Make sure to check out the four parts of the build log which are found on the left sidebar at the post linked above.

This a Master’s thesis project and has been built from common parts. The motors for the treads are pulled from a pair of cordless drills, with some capacitors added to help combat the draw when they start up. The treads themselves are each made from a pair of bicycle chains connected with numerous PVC pipe segments. The curved section of each PVC piece goes toward the chain, leaving the edges toward the ground for great traction. The tree wheels which support the middle of the tread each have a hinge and spring to absorb the shock of running full speed into concrete sidewalk corners like we see in the video after the break.

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200 pound, WiFi deploying robot ran over my foot

[Adam Bercu] and [Dan Landers] from Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, MA brought a very, very cool toy to Maker Faire this year. It’s a two hundred pound WiFi repeater deploying robot able to amble across unforgiving terrain and my foot.

The robot is controlled through a web interface with the help of a front-mounted web cam with pan and tilt controls. All the signals are sent through a WiFi connection to a node.js web server; not the best way to communicate with a robot over long distances, but [Adam] and [Dan] have a few tricks up their sleeve.

On the back of the robot are two Pelican cases loaded up with a battery and a Linksys WRT54G wireless router. When the robot reaches the limits of its range, it activates a solenoid, dropping a WiFi repeater. This repeater has enough battery juice to stay powered for about a day and a half, meaning the robot can make multiple trips to deploy a wireless network through some very hostile terrain. Perfect for disaster and search and rescue operations.

There are two videos after the break: the first is [Dan] going over the capabilities of his tank bot and the second is a short demo of the bot tearing up the grass at Maker Faire.

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Tank router defends your pets?

The guys over at Section9 Hackerspace in Springfield, Missouri just finished building this treaded robot. Despite the juxtaposition of the cat, it really doesn’t defend anything. The project is a reconnaissance robot controlled over the network with video feedback.

The team started off with some lofty goals. They wanted to the robot to be able to climb stairs and to feature a detachable flying portion in order to get a better look at hard to reach places. Cost and complexity are cited as the reasons they ditched the idea of the flyer. The rest of the features came out much as planned. The motor controller for the treads is connected to an Arduino. This uses an Ethernet shield to connect to the WRT54G router which is also coming along for the ride. This seems a bit over-powered but it makes it easy to connect the webcam on the front (also via Ethernet).

On the software side they wrote an Android app. It controls the movement of the robot, as well as that of the camera. Of course you need to see where you’re going so they went the extra mile to include video from the webcam. Check out their show-and-tell video after the break.

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