Tilt-Rotor Plane Needs Flight Controller Hack To Get Airborne

Part of the charm of quadcopters is the challenge that building and flying them presents. In need of complex sensors and computational power to just get off the ground and under tremendous stresses thanks to their massively powerful motors, they often seem only barely controlled in flight. Despite these challenges, quadcopter flight has been reduced to practice in many ways, leaving hobbyists in search of another challenge.

[Tom Stanton] is scratching his creative itch with this radio-controlled tilt-rotor airplane that presents some unique problems and opportunities. Tilt-rotor planes are, as the name implies, able to swivel their propellors and transition them from providing forward thrust to providing verticle lift. With the rotors providing lift, the aircraft is able to hover and perform vertical take-off and landing (VTOL); switched to thrust mode, wings provide the lift for horizontal flight.

[Tom]’s realization of this design seems simple – a spar running through the wing holding BLDC motors and props is swiveled through 90° by a servo to transition the aircraft. Standard control surfaces on the wings and tail take care of horizontal flight. Actually getting an off-the-shelf flight controller to deal with the transitions was tricky. [Tom] ended up adding an Arduino to intercept the PWM signals the flight controller normally sends directly to the servos and speed controls to provide the coordination needed for a smooth transition. Full details in the video below, and some test flights which show that an RC VTOL is anything but a beginner’s plane.

[Tom] is proving himself to be quite the Renaissance man these days. Between air-powered piston engines, over-balance trebuchets, and popping the perfect wheelie, he seems to have covered all the bases and done his best to keep our tip line stocked.

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Building An Electric Scooter That’s Street Legal, Even In Germany

Sometimes a successful project isn’t only about making sure all the electrons are in the right place at the right time, or building something that won’t collapse under its own weight. A lot of projects involve a fair amount of social engineering to be counted as a success, especially those that might result in arrest and incarceration if built as originally planned. Such projects are often referred to as “the fun ones.”

For the past few months, we’ve been following [Bitluni]’s DIY electric scooter build, which had been following the usual trajectory for these things – take a stock unpowered scooter, replace the rear wheel with a 250 W hub motor, add an ESC, battery, and throttle, and away you go. Things took a very interesting turn, however, when his street testing ran afoul of German law, which limits small electric vehicles to a yawn-inducing 6 kph. Unwilling to bore himself to death thus, [Bitluni] found a workaround: vehicles that are only assisted by an electric motor have a much more reasonable speed limit of 25 kph. So he added an Arduino with a gyro and accelerometer module and wrote a program to only power the wheel after the rider has kicked the scooter along a few times – no throttle needed. The motor stops after a bit, needing another push or two to kick it back on. A brake lever kills the motor, as does laying the scooter on its side. It’s quite a clever design, and while it might not keep the Polizei at bay, you can’t say he didn’t try.

[Bitluni] has quite a range of builds, from software-defined television to bad 3D-scanners to precision wine glass whacking. You should check out his stuff. Continue reading “Building An Electric Scooter That’s Street Legal, Even In Germany”

Putting A Motor Inside A Speed Controller

One of the more interesting hacks we’ve seen this year is [Carl]’s experimentations with making motors out of PCBs. Honestly, it’s surprising no one has done this before — a brushless motor is just some coils of wire and a few magnets; anyone can turn some coils into traces and make a 3D print that will hold a few magnets. This latest advancement is something else entirely. It’s a motor and an electronic speed controller all in one.

This project is a continuation of [Carl]’s PCB motor project, which started with him routing coils for a brushless motor as traces in a circuit board. Previously, we’ve seen [Carl]’s motor spinning on its own with the help of a small hobby ESC / motor controller meant for model planes and drones. This time, we’ve got something different. It’s an entire controller and motor, integrated into one single PCB.

This is a very, very small motor and ESC combo. The motor driver is a 3x3mm QFN package, and most of the other components are 0201. The main parts are a very tiny triple half-bridge motor driver and a PIC16F microcontroller. This PIC reads a hall sensor to detect the speed of the motor, and with just three pins — power, ground, and a PWM pin — this motor can spin at a set speed.

The future goals of this project are to make it work just like any other hobby ESC — just plug it into a servo controller and let ‘er rip. Since this motor with an integrated PCB requires only three connections, we’re looking at a great tool to add motion and rotation to any project. It’s fantastic, and we can’t wait to see something like this in robots, toys, and other home goods.

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3D Printed RC Jet Boat Gets Up To Speed

In one of those weird twists of fate, there’s currently a very high chance that anyone who owns a 3D printer has made a boat with it. In fact, they’ve probably printed several of them, so many that they might even have a shelf filled with little boats in different colors and sizes. That’s because it’s a popular benchmark to make sure the printer is well calibrated. But if you’re going to spend hours printing out a boat, why not print one that’s got some punch?

This 3D printable jet boat designed by [Jotham B] probably isn’t a great print to check your desktop machine’s calibration on, in fact you’re going to want to make sure you’ve got everything dialed in before taking on this challenge. If the classic “Benchy” is the beginners boat, then this is certainly for the 3D printing veterans. But if you’ve got the skills to pull it off, and some RC gear laying around to outfit it with, this could be a great project to end your summer on.

Unless you’ve got an exceptionally tall printer, the 460mm long hull will need to be printed in several pieces and then grafted back together. You could potentially use glue, but something a bit more robust like welding the parts together with a soldering iron is a better bet to make sure your printed boat doesn’t do its best Titanic reenactment out on the lake.

[Jotham] recommends printing the impeller at 0.15mm layer height, as you’ll want all the detail you can muster to provide a smooth surface. You’ll also need to use supports, so expect to spend a fair bit of time cleaning it up post-print. The rest of the model can be printed at 0.3mm, which is going to save a lot of time on the hull. All told, it will take about half a roll of filament to print all the parts for the boat (assuming no mistakes), which puts the pre-electronics cost at around $10 USD.

Speaking of electronics, you’ll need a RC receiver, a servo for steering, an electronic speed controller (ESC), and a suitable motor. [Jotham] used a 3674 brushless motor with a 120A water-cooled ESC, but notes that the setup is way overpowered. In the video after the break you can see the boat spends as much time airborne as it does in the water, which might look cool, but isn’t exactly efficient.

If you want to round out your 3D PLA fleet, we’ve also seen a printed FPV lifeboat as well as a hydrofoil that “flies” through the water.

[Thanks to Aidan for the tip.]

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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.

CPAP fan and duct tubing

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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3000W Unicycle’s Only Limitation Is “Personal Courage”

Electric vehicles are fertile ground for innovation because the availability of suitable motors, controllers, and power sources makes experimentation accessible even to hobbyists. Even so, [John Dingley] has been working on such vehicles since about 2009, and his latest self-balancing electric unicycle really raises the bar by multiple notches. It sports a monstrous 3000 Watt brushless hub motor intended for an electric motorcycle, and [John] was able to add numerous touches such as voice feedback and 1950’s styling using surplus aircraft and motorcycle parts. To steer, the frame changes shape slightly with help of the handlebars to allow the driver’s center of gravity to shift towards one or the other outer rims of the wheel. In a test drive at a deserted beach, [John] tells us that the bike never went above 20% power; the device’s limitations are entirely by personal courage. Watch the video of the test, embedded below.

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A Faster Grave Digger For Your Child

Children love speed, but so few of those electric ride on toys deliver it. What’s a kid to do? Well, if [PoppaFixit]’s your dad, you’re in luck.

This project starts with an unusually cool Power Wheels toy, based on the famous Grave Digger monster truck. During the modification process, it was quickly realised that the original motor controller wasn’t going to cut the mustard. With only basic on/off control, it gave a very jerky ride and was harsh on the transmission components, too. [PoppaFixit] decided to upgrade to an off-the-shelf 24 V motor controller to give the car more finesse as well as speed. The controller came with a replacement set of pedals, both accelerator and brake, to replace the stock units. On the motor side, a couple of beefier Traxxas units were substituted for the weedy originals.

Acceleration is now much improved, not just due to the added power, but because the variable throttle allows the driver to avoid wheelspin on hard launches. It also makes the car much more comfortable and safe to drive, thanks to the added controllability. Another way to tell the project was a success is the look of pure joy on the new owner’s face!

This was a fairly basic install, very accessible to the novice. These sort of electric vehicle hop-ups are commonplace enough that there are a wide variety of suppliers who sell easy-to-use kits for this sort of work. For that reason, we’ve seen plenty of hacks of this sort – like this modified scooter, or these Power Wheels set up for racing.

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