Motorized Mini Excavator Rises From Sheets of Plywood

Fathers of Hackaday, we’ve got bad news — you’ve been out-fathered. Behold the mechanism of your undoing: a working miniature excavator, executed in plywood.

To be fair, the rules of the game have changed lately. Time was when a nipper would ask for the impossible, and we dads would never have to deliver. But with CNC routers, 3D-printing, and industrial-grade CAD software you can use for free, the possibility hurdle is getting ever shorter. Still, when his son put in this request, [Alex Lovegrove] really delivered. Everything on this excavator works, from tracks to boom to bucket. There are hundreds of parts, mostly machined from plywood but with a smattering of 3D-printed gears and brackets. The tracks and slew gear are powered by gear motors, while linear actuators stand in for hydraulic rams on the boom. The videos below show the machine under test and the unbearable cuteness of it being loved.

Hacker parents need not despair, of course. There’s plenty of room left for your imagination to run amok. For inspiration, check out this working railway system, or any of the several backyard roller coasters we’ve featured.

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We Dig This LEGO Excavator Conversion

[Frank] was lucky enough to score a bucket wheel excavator LEGO set as a birthday present, and we won’t lie – we’re jealous. However, out of the box, the kit is somewhat limited; there is only one motor to animate the entire machine and it can’t be fully remote controlled. But don’t worry — [Frank] set out to change that (Google Translation).

The first part of the build was to add motors to control the different functions of the excavator. One motor was added for each of the two tracks to allow the machine to drive forwards, backwards, and turn. Two more motors were added to raise and lower the digging buckets, and spin the tower. Finally, the original motor was left in place to turn the conveyor.

With that done, [Frank] then used a Raspberry Pi 3 to control all the hardware, being sure to house the new electronics in LEGO for an original look. The Raspberry Pi might be a lot of muscle to simply control a few motors, but it made it quick and easy for [Frank] to implement a Wiimote as a controller over Bluetooth. You can check out a couple demo videos in his most recent update.

It’s a great project, and we’d love to see the Raspberry Pi put to good use by allowing control over the Internet so we can dig in the sand over lunch breaks. We’ve seen some great LEGO hacks before, like this method of modifying cheap gear motors to work with LEGO parts.