The Pontoon Bridge Being Floated as an NYC Transit Fix

New York City’s L train carries about 400,000 passengers a day, linking Manhattan and Brooklyn and bringing passengers along 14th Street, under the East River, and through the neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Bushwick, Ridgewood, Brownsville, and Canarsie. About 225,000 of these passengers pass through the Canarsie Tunnel, a two-tube cast iron rail tunnel built below the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn in 1924. Like many other New York City road and subway tunnels, the Canarsie Tunnel was badly damaged when Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge inundated the tubes with million of gallons of salt water. Six years later, the impending closure of the tunnel is motivating New Yorkers to develop their own ambitious infrastructure ideas.

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Retrotechtacular: A Very British MagLev

When we look back to the 1970s it is often in a light of somehow a time before technology, a time when analogue was still king, motor vehicles had carburettors, and telephones still had rotary dials.

In fact the decade had a keen sense of being on the threshold of an exciting future, one of supersonic air travel, and holidays in space. Some of the ideas that were mainstream in those heady days didn’t make it as far as the 1980s, but wouldn’t look out of place in 2018.

The unlikely setting for todays Retrotechtacular piece is the Bedford Levels, part of the huge area of reclaimed farmland in the east of England known collectively as the Fens. The Old Bedford River and the New Bedford River are two straight parallel artificial waterways that bisect the lower half of the Fens for over 20 miles, and carry the flood waters of the River Ouse towards the sea. They are several hundred years old, but next to the Old Bedford River at their southern end are a few concrete remains of a much newer structure from 1970. They are all that is left of a bold experiment to create Britain’s first full-sized magnetic levitating train, an experiment which succeeded in its aim and demonstrated its train at 170 miles per hour, but was eventually canceled as part of Government budget cuts.

A track consisting of several miles of concrete beams was constructed during 1970 alongside the Old Bedford River, and on it was placed a single prototype train. There was a hangar with a crane and gantry for removing the vehicle from the track, and a selection of support and maintenance vehicles. There was an electrical pick-up alongside the track from which the train could draw its power, and the track had a low level for the hangar before rising to a higher level for most of its length.

After cancellation the track was fairly swiftly demolished, but the train itself survived. It was first moved to Cranfield University as a technology exhibit, before in more recent years being moved to the Railworld exhibit at Peterborough where it can be viewed by the general public. The dream of a British MagLev wasn’t over, but the 1980s Birmingham Airport shuttle was hardly in the same class even if it does hold the honour of being the world’s first commercial MagLev.

We have two videos for you below the break, the first is a Cambridge Archaeology documentary on the system while the second is a contemporary account of its design and construction from Imperial College. We don’t take high-speed MagLevs on our travels in 2018, but they provide a fascinating glimpse of one possible future in which we might have.

It does make one wonder: will the test tracks for Hyperloop transportation break the mold and find mainstream use or will we find ourselves 50 years from now running a Retrotechtacular on abandoned, vacuum tubes?

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SpaceX Joins in the Long History of Catching Stuff from Space

On February 22nd, a Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and successfully delivered into orbit an Earth-observation satellite operated by the Spanish company Hisdesat. Compared to the media coverage received by the launch of the Tesla-laden Falcon Heavy earlier in the month, this mission got very little attention. But that’s hardly surprising. With respect to Hisdesat, the payload this time around was not terribly exciting, and even the normally dramatic landing of the Falcon 9’s first stage was skipped in favor of simply allowing the booster to crash into the ocean.

As far as SpaceX launches go, this one was about as low-key as they come. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this is the first time some readers are even hearing about it. But while it didn’t invoke the same media circus as the images of a spacesuit-wearing mannequin traveling into deep space, there was still a historic “first” performed during this mission.

In an effort to increase the re-usability of the Falcon 9 booster, SpaceX attempted to catch the payload fairing (essentially a large protective nose cone) with a huge net as it fell from space. The most interesting thing about this new chapter in the quest for a fully reusable rocket system is that while SpaceX is generally considered to be pioneers in the world of bringing hardware back from space, this particular trick dates all the way back to the 1960’s.

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3D Printed Skateboard Mount for Bikes

[Matt Obal] had a problem. The local skatepark was too far to skateboard, but close enough to bike. Carrying a skateboard on a bicycle is a rather awkward (and unsafe) maneuver. [Matt’s] answer to the problem is Truck Stop, a bicycle mounted skateboard carrier he developed and is manufacturing himself.

[Matt’s] work on Truck Stop began about a year ago, with his purchase of a 3D printer. He designed a seat back mounted device that secures the skateboard by wedging between the truck and the board itself. The design is printed in PLA and is hollow. Truck Stop’s strength comes from being filled with resin and fiberglass cloth.

If you’ve worked with resin, you probably know that some formulas get hot while they harden. This caused a few melted prints until [Matt] figured out that a dunk in cold water at the right time would allow the resin to complete it’s hardening process while keeping the heat below the melting temperature of PLA. He’s since switched to a different resin formula that generates less heat.

[Matt] is selling the Truck Stop at his website, and spent quite a bit of time working on a silicon mold so he could cast as many mounts as he wanted. The problem was fiberglass poking through the final cast part. In the end, he decided to stick with the resin filled PLA of his prototypes.

Printed Motorcycle Choke Lever Goes the Distance

We all dread the day that our favorite piece of hardware becomes so old that spare parts are no longer available for it, something about facing that mechanical mortality sends a little shiver up the hacker’s spine. But on the other hand, the day you can’t get replacement hardware is also the same day you have a valid excuse to make your own parts.

3D rendering above the 2D scan

That’s the situation [Jonathan] found himself in when the choke lever for his Suzuki motorcycle broke. New parts aren’t made for his bike anymore, which gave him the opportunity to fire up Fusion 360 and see if he couldn’t design a replacement using a 2D scan of what was left of the original part.

[Jonathan] put the original part on his flatbed scanner as well one of his credit cards to use for a reference point to scale the image when he imported it into Fusion 360. Using a 2D scanner to get a jump-start on your 3D model is a neat trick when working on replacement parts, and one we don’t see as much as you might think. A proper 3D scanner is cool and all, but certainly not required when replicating hardware like this.

The choke lever is a rather complex shape, one of those geometries that doesn’t really have a good printing orientation because there are overhangs all over the place. That combined with the fact that [Jonathan] printed at .3mm layer height for speed gives the final part an admittedly rough look, but it works. The part was supposed to be a prototype before he reprinted it at higher resolution and potentially with a stronger material like PETG, but after two years the prototype is still installed and working fine. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a “temporary” 3D printed part become a long-term solution.

This is an entry in Hackaday’s

Repairs You Can Print contest

The twenty best projects will receive $100 in Tindie credit, and for the best projects by a Student or Organization, we’ve got two brand-new Prusa i3 MK3 printers. With a printer like that, you’ll be breaking stuff around the house just to have an excuse to make replacement parts.


Will John Deere Finally Get Their DMCA Comeuppance?

When it comes to activism, there are many different grades of activist aside from the few who you may encounter quietly and effectively working for change in their field. There are the self-proclaimed activists who sit in their armchairs and froth online about whatever their Cause is, but ultimately aside from making a lot of noise are pretty ineffectual. Then there are the Rebels With A Cause, involved in every radical movement of the moment and always out on the streets about something or other, but often doing those causes more harm than good. Activists can be hard work, at times.

If you are within whatever Establishment that has aroused the collective ire it is not the screamers and banner-wavers that should worry you, instead it is the people who are normally quiet. When people who spend their lives getting things done rather than complaining turn round en masse and rebel, it’s time to sit up and take notice. If people like the farmers or the squaddies are on the streets, the probability of your ending up on the wrong side of history has just increased exponentially and maybe it’s time to have a little think about where you’re going with all this.

The video below the break follows a group of Nebraska farmers fighting for the right to maintain their farm machinery, in particular the products of John Deere. Since all functions of a modern Deere are tied into the machine’s software, the manufacturer has used the DMCA to lock all maintenance into their dealer network. As one farmer points out, to load his combine harvester on a truck and take it on a 100-mile round trip to the dealer costs him $1000 every time a minor fault appears, and he and other farmers simply can’t afford that kind of loss. We’re taken to the Nebraska State Legislature and shown the progress of a bill that will enshrine the right to repair in Nebraskan law, and along the way we see the attempts by lobbyists to derail it.

We normally write Hackaday stories in the third person, but it’s worth saying that this is being written from a small farming community in Southern England, and that there is a green and yellow tractor parked outside somewhere. Thus it’s from first-hand experience that you can be told that Deere is in danger of becoming a damaged brand among its staunchest supporters. They still make damn fine tractors, but who wants to be caught with brief weather window to get on the land, and a machine that’s bricked itself? It’s hardly as though Deere are the only manufacturer of agricultural machinery after all.

This video is quite important, because it is a step towards the wider story becoming more than just a concern to a few farmers, hardware hackers, and right-to-repair enthusiasts. The last word should go to one of the farmers featured, when he points out that all his older tractors are just as capable of going out and doing the same day’s work without the benefit of all the computerized technology on their modern siblings.

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Travel in Style on an Electric Air Sled

What do you do during the winter months in Ohio? Sledding of course! Sledding normally takes place on hills, but [Peter Sripol] is no slave to the terrain. He’s built an air sled to conquer the barren wastelands of unplowed parking lots. Air sleds aren’t as outlandish as you might think — the Soviet Union had decades of success with them.

The project starts with toboggan style plastic sled. [Peter] built a frame into the plastic using an aluminum square. The frame is used to support a motor pod at the back of the sled. The motor, of course, comes from his DIY electric plane project. Don’t worry — [Peter] didn’t cannibalize his plane. The plane’s motors are being upgraded, and this is one of the originals.

The motor itself is quite a beast. It’s a 150cc equivalent brushless outrunner motor from HobbyKing. It’s not cheap either at around $450 USD.  The motor is controlled by an equally beefy brushless controller wired into a standard R/C car receiver. A pistol grip transmitter makes a great wireless throttle for the system.

Steering is a much more mechanical affair. The sled’s rudder is controlled much like that of an airplane. A steel cable pull-pull system is connected to a stick mounted in front of the pilot. The unreinforced styrofoam rudder turned out to be a weak point in the build — check out the video after the break to see the full story.

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