The James Webb Space Telescope has had a long and sometimes painful journey from its earliest conception to its ultimate arrival at Lagrange point L2 and subsequent commissioning. Except for the buttery-smooth launch and deployment sequence, things rarely went well for the telescope, which suffered just about every imaginable bureaucratic, scientific, and engineering indignity during its development. But now it’s time to see what this thing can do — almost. NASA has announced that July 12 will be “Image Release Day,” which will serve as Webb’s public debut. The relative radio silence from NASA on Webb since the mirror alignment was completed — apart from the recent micrometeoroid collision, of course — suggests the space agency has been busy with “first light” projects. So there’s good reason to hope that the first released images from Webb will be pretty spectacular. The images will drop at 10:30 AM EDT, so mark your calendars and prepare to be wowed. Hopefully.
Theory, Practice, And Ducted Fans
About a year ago, [Wyman’s Workshop] needed a fan. But not just a regular-old fan, no sir. A ducted fan. You know, those fancy fan designs where the stationary shroud is so close to the moving fan blades that there’s essentially no gap, and a huge gain in aerodynamic efficiency? At least in theory?
Well, in practice, you can watch how it turned out in this video. (Also embedded below.) If you’re more of a “how-to-build-it” type, you’ll want to check out his build video — there’s lots of gluing 3D prints and woodworking. But we’re just in it for the ducted fan data!
And that’s why we’re writing it up! [Wyman] made a nice thrust-testing rig that the fan can pull on to figure out how much force it put out. And the theory aimed at 652 g of thrust, which was roughly confirmed. And then you get to power: with a 500 watt motor, he ended up producing 47 watts. Spoiler: he’s overloading the motor, even though he used a fairly beefy bench grinder motor.
So he re-did the fan design, from scratch, to better match the motor. And it performed better than the theory said it would. A pleasant surprise, but it meant re-doing the theory, including the full volume of the fan blade, which finally brought theory and practice together. Which then lead him design a whole slew of fan blades and test them out against each other.
He ends the video with a teaser that he’ll show us the results from various inlet profiles and fan cones and such. But the video is a year old, so we’re not holding our breath. Still, if you’re at all interested in fan design, and aren’t afraid of high-school physics, it’s worth your time.
Don’t care about the advantages of ducted fans, but simply want to make your quad look totally awesome? Have we got the hack for you!
Unconventional Drone Uses Gas Thrusters For Control
You’ve got to hand it to [Tom Stanton] – he really thinks outside the box. And potentially outside the atmosphere, to wit: we present his reaction control gas thruster-controlled drone.
Before anyone gets too excited, [Tom] isn’t building drones for use in a vacuum, although we can certainly see a use case for such devices. This is more of a hybrid affair, with counter-rotating props mounted in a centrally located duct providing the lift and the yaw control. Flanking that is a triangular frame supporting three two-liter soda bottle air reservoirs, each of which supplies a down-firing nozzle at each apex of the triangle. Solenoid valves control the flow of compressed air from the bottles to the nozzles, providing thrust to stabilize the roll and pitch axes. As there aren’t many off-the-shelf flight control systems set up for reaction control, [Tom] had to improvise thruster control; an Arduino watches the throttle signals normally sent to a drone’s motors and fires the solenoids when they get to a preset threshold. It took some tuning, but [Tom] was eventually able to get a stable, untethered hover. And he’s right – the RCS jets do sound amazing when they’re firing, as long as the main motors are off.
This looks as though it has a lot of potential, and we’d love to see it developed more. It reminds us a bit of this ducted-prop drone, another great example of stretching conventional drone control concepts to the limit.
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Plug Your Ears And Hop On This Jet-Powered EBike
Ah, the simple pleasures of a bike ride. The rush of the wind past your ears, the gentle click of the derailleurs as you change gears, the malignant whine of the dual electric jet turbines pushing you along. Wait, what?
Yes, it’s a jet bike, and its construction was strictly a case of “Why not?” for [Tech Ingredients]. They recently finished up a jet engine build using a hybrid design with electric ducted fans as compressors and fueled with propane. It was quite a success, and pretty spectacular, but left an embarrassment of riches upon its passing in terms of spare parts. The ducted fans, monstrous 90-mm 12s beasts, along with dual 150A ESCs found their way onto a mountain bike by way of a rear luggage rack. Pannier bags on each side hold the batteries, and a quick control panel went on the handlebar. The video below shows the build details and a couple of test rides, which show just how fast you can go with this setup. It may not be very practical compared to a more traditional hub motor, but it’s nowhere near as cool. Just be sure to wear your hearing protection.
Is this the first jet engine on a bike we’ve featured? Of course not. But for an impromptu build, it’s pretty impressive. Continue reading “Plug Your Ears And Hop On This Jet-Powered EBike”
Fail Of The Week: Leaf Blowers Can’t Fly
Leaf blowers, the main instrument of the suburban Saturday symphony, are one of the most useful nuisances. It doesn’t take much work with a rake to convince even the most noise-averse homeowner to head to the Big Box Store to pick one up to speed lawn chores. Once you do buy one, and feel the thrust produced by these handheld banshees, you might wonder, If I let go of this thing, would it fly?
[Peter Sripol] had that very thought and set about building a couple of leaf blower powered planes to answer the question. It’s probably not a spoiler alert to report that the answer is no, but the video below is a fun watch anyway. The surprising thing is just how close both planes came to succeeding. The first plane was a stripped-down Ryobi two-stroke leaf blower suspended from a giant wing and tail section that very nearly got off the ground. Version 1.1 gained a retractable electric boost propeller – strictly for take-offs – and lost a lot of excess weight. That plane practically leaped into the air, but alas, servo problems prevented [Peter] from shutting down the electric and flying on Ryobi alone. Even a servo fix couldn’t save the next flight, which cratered right after takeoff. A version 2.0, this time using a brutally modified electric leaf blower, was slightly more airworthy but augured in several times before becoming unflyable.
What can we learn from all this? Not much other than it would take a lot of effort to make a leaf blower fly. We appreciate all of [Peter]’s hard work here, but we think he’s better off concentrating on his beautiful homebrew ultralight instead.
Single-Rotor Drone: A Thrust-Vectoring Monocopter
We’re not entirely sure what to call this one. It’s got the usual trappings of a drone, but with only a single rotor it clearly can’t be called by any of the standard multicopter names. Helicopter? Close, but not quite, since the rotor blades are fixed-pitch. We’ll just go with “monocopter” for now and sort out the details later for this ducted-fan, thrust-vectored UAV.
Whatever we choose to call it — builder [tesla500] dubbed it the simultaneously optimistic and fatalistic “Ikarus” — it’s really unique. The monocopter is built around a 90-mm electric ducted fan mounted vertically on a 3D-printed shroud. The shroud serves as a mounting point for the landing legs and for four servos that swivel vanes within the rotor wash. The vanes deflect the airstream and provide the thrust vectoring that gives this little machine its control.
Coming to the correct control method was not easy, though. Thanks mainly to the strong gyroscopic force exerted by the rotor, [tesla500] had a hard time getting the flight controller to cooperate. He built a gimballed test stand to work the problem through, and eventually rewrote LibrePilot to deal with the unique forces on the craft and tuned the PID loops accordingly. Check out the results in the video below.
Some attempts to reduce the number of rotors work better than others, of course, but this worked out great, and we’re looking forward to the promised improvements to come.
Continue reading “Single-Rotor Drone: A Thrust-Vectoring Monocopter”
Hard Drive Gives Its Life To Cool 3D Prints
[Mark Rehorst] has been on the hunt for the perfect 3D printer cooling fan and his latest take is a really interesting design. He’s printed an impeller and housing, completing the fan using a hard drive motor to make it spin.
We should take a step back to see where this all began. Many 3D printers us a cooling fan right at the tip of the extruder because the faster you faster you cool the extruded filament, the fewer problems you’ll have with drooping and warping. Often this is done with a small brushless fan mounted right on the print head. But that adds mass to the moving head, contributing to problems like overshoot and oscillation, especially on larger format printers that have longer gantries. [Mark] just happens to have an enormous printer we covered back in January and that’s the machine this fan targets.
Make sure you give [Mark’s] Mother of all print cooling fans article a look. His plan is to move the fan off of the print head and route a flexible tube instead. He tried a couple of fans, settling on one he pulled from a CPAP machine (yes the thing you wear at night to combat sleep apnea) found in the parts bin at Milwaukee Makerspace. It works great, moving quite a bit more air than necessary. The problem is these CPAP parts aren’t necessarily easy to source.
You know what is easy to source? Old hard drives. [Mark] mentions you likely have one sitting around and if not, your friends do. We have to agree with him. Assuming you already have a 3D printer (why else do you want to print this fan?), the only rare part in this mix is the ESC to make the motor spin. Turns out we just saw a BLDC driver build that would do the trick. But in [Mark’s] case he found a rather affordable driver that suits his needs which is used in the video demo below.
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