Vroomba Gets Upgrades And A Spoiler

[Electrosync] is the creator and driver of the world’s fastest robotic vaccum cleaner, the Vroomba. It’s a heavily modified roomba capable of speeds of around 60 kph, well beyond the pedaling speed of most bicyclists. Despite being rejected by Guinness for a world record, we’re fairly confident that no other vacuum cleaners have gotten up to these speeds since the Vroomba first hit the streets. That’s not going to stop [electrosync] from trying to top his own record, though, and he’s brought the Vroomba some much needed upgrades.

The first, and perhaps most important, upgrades are to some of the structural components and wheels. The robot is much heavier than comparable RC vehicles and is under much greater strain than typical parts are meant to endure, so he’s 3D printed some parts of the chassis and some new wheels using a nylon-carbon fiber filament for improved strength. The wheels get a custom polyurethane coating similar to last time.

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Make Carbon Fiber Tubes With An Open Source Filament Winder

Result of winding a carbon fiber tube. (Credit: Andrew Reilley)

Carbon fiber (CF) is an amazing material that provides a lot of strength for very little weight, making it very useful for a lot of applications, ranging from rods in CoreXY 3D printers to model- and full-sized rockets. The model rocketry hobby is the reason why [Andrew Reilley] developed his own CF tube winding machine called Contraption. A tutorial video (also embedded below) shows how this machine is prepped for a winding run, followed by the winding progress and finalizing before admiring the result.

The entire machine’s design with 3D printed parts and off-the-shelf components is open source, as is the TypeScript and NodeJS-based Cyclone software that creates the toolpath specifying the parameters of the tube, including number of layers and the tow angle.

As a wet winding tow machine, the carbon fiber strands are led through the liquid resin before being wound onto the prepared mandrel. During winding some excess resin may have to be removed, and after the winding has been finished the tube is wound with shrink tape. This is followed by a heat gun session to shrink the tape and letting the resin cure. Following curing, the tape and mandrel are removed, resulting in a rather fancy looking CF tube that can find a loving home in a lot of applications, except perhaps ones that involving crushing outside pressures like those found deep below the ocean surface.

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Carbon Fiber With 3D Printing

[Thomas Sanladerer] wanted to make 3D prints using carbon fiber and was surprised that it was fairly inexpensive and worked well, although he mentions that the process is a bit intense. You can learn what he found out in the video below.

He used an advanced PLA that can endure more temperature than normal PLA. That’s important because the process uses heat and the carbon fiber resin will produce heat as it cures. The first step was to print a mold and, other than the material, that was pretty straightforward.

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Open Deck Is Your Window To Shortcuts

Once in a while, we see projects that could easily pass for commercial products. This is one of those projects: a (surprisingly) low-cost DIY macro pad from [Josh R] that was designed to be a cheaper alternative to the various stream decks out there. Between the carbon fiber top plate and the crystal-clear acrylic keycaps, this is quite the elegant solution.

This lovely little macro pad is built around the ESP8266, specifically the WEMOS D1 Mini V4. However, the most vital part to get right is the screen, which must be a 128 x 160 TFT display in order to line up with the 3D printed frame that divides it into fourths. Custom parts like the acrylic keycaps and the carbon fiber top plate are available on Tindie if you don’t have access to a CNC.

Operationally, Open Deck has a nice-looking GUI. Once programmed, each shortcut is capable of having three beneath it, with the fourth button reserved for Home. Be sure to check out the extremely satisfying build video after the break.

Want a stream deck, but don’t want to build it? Just dig up an old phone or tablet.

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Carbon Fiber And Kevlar Make This Linear Actuator Fast And Strong

When it comes to the “build versus buy” question, “buy” almost always wins. The amount of time you have to put into building something is rarely justified, especially with a world of options available at the click of a mouse.

That’s not always the case, of course. These custom-made linear actuators are a perfect example of when building your own wins. For a planned ball-juggling robot, [Harrison Low] found himself in need of linear actuators with long throw distance, high speed, and stiff construction. Nothing commercially available checked all the boxes, so he set out to design his own.

A few design iterations later, [Harrison] arrived at the actuators you see in the video below. Built mainly from carbon fiber tubing and 3D-printed parts, the actuators have about 30 centimeters of throw, and thanks to their cable-drive design, they’re pretty fast — much faster than his earlier lead screw designs. The stiffness of the actuator comes by way of six bearings to guide the arm, arranged in two tiers of three, each offset by 60 degrees. Along with some clever eccentric spacers to fine-tune positioning, this design provides six points of contact that really lock the tube into place.

The cable drive system [Harrison] used is pretty neat too. A Kevlar kite string is attached to each end of the central tube and then through PTFE tubes to a pulley on an ODrive BLDC, which extends and retracts the actuator. It’s a clever design in that it keeps the weight of the motor away from the actuator, but it does have its problems, as [Harrison] admits. Still, the actuator works great, and it looks pretty cool while doing it. CAD and code are available if you want to roll your own.

These actuators are cool enough, but the real treat here will be the ball juggler [Harrison] is building. We’ve seen a few of those before, but this one looks like it’s going to be mighty impressive.

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Building Forged Carbon Fiber Wings For Radio Control Cars

When it comes to building decent aerodynamic devices, you want to focus on getting your geometry accurate, and making sure your parts are strong enough to deal with the force they’re generating. This build from [Engineering After Hours] delivers on those fronts, consisting of a high-downforce wing for a small RC car.

The video points out that, at best, even a decent RC car will have pretty crappy aerodynamic parts from the factory, with a lift-to-drag (L/D)ratio of 2-3:1 at best. This means that, while they may create some small amount of downforce, they’re also creating plenty of drag at the same time.

The dual-element wing designed here is much more efficient, hitting an L/D ratio in the vicinity of 17:1 – a huge improvement. Even a casual eye can note that the design looks a lot more like something you’d see on a full-size car, versus some of the whackier designs seen on toys.

The wing is built with a forged carbon fiber process using 3D-printed molds, to give the wing plenty of strength. Given that it’s built for an RC car that can do over 100 mph, making sure the wing is stiff enough to perform at speed is key.

[Engineering After Hours] does a great job of showing how to prepare the molds, fill them with carbon fiber, and pour the resin, and discusses plenty of useful tips on how to achieve good results with the forged carbon process.

The result is an incredibly impressive rear wing with aerodynamic performance to match its good looks. It may be more complicated than 3D printing, but the results of the work are that much tougher.

We’ve seen other aero experiments from [Engineering After Hours] before, too. Video after the break.

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Electroplating Carbon Fibers Can Have Interesting Results

Typically, electroplating is used to put coatings of one metal upon another, often for reasons of corrosion protection or to reduce wear. However, other conductive materials can be electroplated, as demonstrated by [Michaɫ Baran].

Finer details are sparse, but [Michaɫ’s] images show the basic concept behind producing a composite metal material hand sculpture. The initial steps involve 3D printing a perforated plastic shell of a hand, and stuffing it with carbon fibers. It appears some kind of plastic balls are also used in order to help fill out the space inside the hand mold.

Then, it’s a simple matter of dunking the plastic hand in a solution for what appears to be copper electroplating, with the carbon fiber hooked up as one of the electrodes. The carbon fibers are then knitted together by the copper attached by the electroplating process. The mold can then be cut away, and the plastic filling removed, and a metal composite hand is all that’s left.

[Michaɫ] has experimented with other forms too, but the basic concept is that these conductive fibers can readily be stuffed into molds or held in various shapes, and then coated with metal. We’d love to see the results more closely to determine the strength and usefulness of the material.

Similar techniques can be used to strengthen 3D printed parts, too. If you’ve got your own ideas on how to best use this technique, sound off below. If you’ve already done it, though, do drop us a line!

[Thanks to Krzysztof for the tip]