A lot of what real engineering is all about is designing to the limits of your materials, with a healthy margin for error. On the other hand, seat-of-the-pants engineering often takes the opposite tack — working with the materials you have and finding their limits after the fact. While the former is more rigorous and better suited to anything where life and limb are on the line, there’s something to be said for the flexibility that informal engineering offers.
[Austin Blake]’s latest eBike is a case study in informal engineering. [Austin] started out wondering if a starter motor from a car engine would make a decent electric bike motor. Our first instinct before watching the video below was to answer that question with a resounding “No!” Yes, starter motors seem like a natural for the job, delivering high torque in a compact package. But starting a car engine is the very definition of a low-duty-cycle application, since it should only take a second or two of cranking to get an engine started. Pressing a motor designed for such a task into continuous duty seems like, well, a non-starter.
And to be fair, [Austin] fully acknowledges this from the start. He even retrofits the motor, wisely replacing the shaft bushings with proper bearings in an attempt to get a better duty cycle. And it works, at least for a while — with the motor, a homebrew battery, and an ESC mounted to a bike frame, the bike was actually pretty peppy. But bearings aren’t the only thing limiting a starter motor to intermittent duty operation. The short drive really heated up the motor, and even with a few ventilation holes knocked in the motor housing, it eventually released the Magic Smoke. The video has all the gory details.
As always, we like to stress that “Fail of the Week” is not necessarily a badge of shame. We appreciate it whenever someone shows us the way not to go, as [Austin] did here. And let’s keep in mind that he’s had success with this approach before, albeit with a much, much bigger starter motor.
Continue reading “Fail Of The Week: Car Starter Motors Aren’t The Best Fit For EBikes”
A stroboscope is not the most common tool, and while they can be purchased fairly inexpensively from various online stores, they are straightforward enough tools that plenty of us could build our own mostly from parts laying around. The basic idea is to shine a flashing light on a spinning object, and when it appears stationary the stroboscope will indicate the rotational speed. There are a few specialty parts that might not be in everyone’s parts drawers, though, and [John] shows us the ins-and-outs of his own DIY stroboscope.
The effect relies on extremely precise timing, and as such the most important part of a build like this is making sure to get the LED circuitry correct so its duty cycle and frequency can be tightly controlled. [John] is using a PT4115E driver board for the LED, and is using it to power a 1W white LED which also includes its own heat sink and lens. The controls for the stroboscope are handled by an ATtiny1614 microcontroller which shows its pulse rate on a small screen. The user can control the rate the LED flashes with simple controls, and when the spinning object appears to come to a stop the only thing left to do is read this value off of the screen.
While it might seem like an overly niche tool, stroboscopes have plenty of day-to-day uses. Older cars that used a central distributor made use of a specialty stroboscope called a timing light in order to properly advance the ignition timing of the engine. They also retain some use in medical applications, and plenty of older readers may be familiar with their use adjusting the speed on record players. They can also be used to make sure the shutter speeds on cameras are calibrated correctly.
Continue reading “Spin Up To Speed With This Stroboscope”
Most projects are built on abstractions. After all, few of us can create our own wire, our own transistors, or our own integrated circuits. A few months ago, [Julian Ilett] found a problem using the Arduino library for PWM. Recently, he revisited the issue and used his own PWM code to fix the problem. You can watch the video below.
Of course, neither the Arduino library nor [Julian’s] code is actually producing PWM. The Atmel CPU’s hardware is doing the work. The Arduino library gives you a wrapper called analogWrite — especially handy if you are not using an Atmel CPU where the same abstraction will do the same work. The issue arose when [Julian] broke the abstraction to invert the PWM output.
Continue reading “Roll Your Own Arduino PWM”
Nobody likes to monitor things as much as a hacker, even mundane things like sump pumps. And hackers love clean data too, so when [Felix]’s sump pump water level data was made useless by a new pump controller, he just knew he had to hack the controller to clean up his data.
Monitoring a sump pump might seem extreme, but as a system that often protects against catastrophic damage, the responsible homeowner strives to take care of it. [Felix] goes a bit further than the average homeowner, though, with an ultrasonic sensor to continually measure the water level in the sump and alert him to pending catastrophes. Being a belt and suspenders kind of guy, he also added a float switch to control the pump, but found that the rapid cycle time made his measurements useless. Luckily the unit used a 555 timer to control the pump’s run time after triggering, so a simple calculation of the right RC values and a little solder job let him increase the on time of the pump. The result: a dry basement and clean data.
We recently discussed the evolution of home automation if you want to know more about the systems that sensors and actuators like these can be part of. Or for a more nuts and bolts guide to networking things together, our primer on MQTT might help.
Listen to the amateur radio bands long enough, and you’ll likely come to the conclusion that hams never stop talking. Of course it only seems that way, and the duty cycle for a transmitter operating in one of the voice modes is likely to be pretty low. But digital modes can up the duty cycle and really stress the finals on a rig, so this field-expedient heat sink for a ham transceiver is a handy trick to keep in mind.
This hacklet comes by way of [Kevin Loughin (KB9RLW)], who is trying to use his “shack-in-a-box” Yaesu FT-817 for digital modes like PSK31. Digital modes essentially turn the transceiver into a low-baud modem and thus messages can take a long time to send. This poses a problem for the 5-watt FT-817, which was designed for portable operations and doesn’t have the cooling fans and heavy heatsinks that a big base station rig does. [Kevin] found that an old 486 CPU heatsink clamped to a lug on the rear panel added enough thermal mass to keep the finals much cooler, even with a four-minute dead key into a dummy load at the radio’s full 5-watt output.
You may scoff at the simplicity of this solution, and we’ll concede that it’s far from an epic hack. But sometimes it’s the simple fixes that it pays to keep in mind. However, if your project needs a little less seat-of-the-pants and a little more engineering, be sure to check out [Bil Herd]’s primer on thermal management.
Continue reading “Old Heatsink Lets Ham Push Duty Cycle For Digital Modes”