Hackaday Links: March 21, 2021

If you think you’re having a bad day at work, pity the poor sysadmin at Victoria University of Wellington in Australia New Zealand, who accidentally nuked the desktops of pretty much everyone at the university. This apparently happened last week and impacted everyone connected to the university network with a Windows machine, which had any files stored on their desktops deleted and also appears to have reset user profiles to the default state. This caused no end of consternation, especially among those who use their desktop folder to organize work in progress; we’d imagine more than one student at VUW is hating life right now for not storing work on a backed-up network drive. The problem seems to have started with an attempt to clean up files and profiles left behind by former students; how that escalated to nuking files on the desktop will require some ‘splaining.

Speaking of mea culpas, there was quite a dustup this week in the Cricut community. It started when the maker of CNC cutting machines announced its intention to limit uploads to their online design software unless the user signs up for a $10 a month account. After getting an earful from the users, the CEO of the company announced that these changes would be delayed until the end of 2021. That decision still didn’t sit well with the community, which includes a fair number of users designing PCBs, and two days later, the CEO announced that they were throwing in the towel on the whole plan, and that everything was going back to status quo ante. Story over? We’ll see — it seems like Cricut has tipped its hand here that they’re looking to extract more money from the users, and the need for that likely hasn’t gone away just because they relented. As Elliot Williams pointed out when we discussed the whole debacle, it’s easy to see how Cricut could start adding new features to the paid version of their software, basically abandoning the free user base. We’ll have to see how the obviously vociferous community responds to something like that.

Much interesting news from Mars this week, where the Perseverance rover is getting used to its new home and getting itself ready to roll. Late last week, Perseverance successfully dropped the “belly pan” that was covering the sensitive instruments under the rover, including the Adaptive Sample Caching system that will seal up Martian core samples and drop them out onto the surface for later pickup. This seemingly simple task was a critical one; had the pan not cleanly separated, the mission could have been severely impacted. Perseverance also did a little test drive this week, and recorded what it sounds like to drive on Mars. The audio clip is 16 minutes long, and the noises coming from the billion-dollar rover are just awful at times. We hear clunks and clanks and squeals galore, and while we’re sure they all have a good explanation and will provide valuable engineering data, they sound somewhat alarming to us.

But not so alarming as the sounds that must have come from a Jeep that suffered a bad tow job recently. The cringe-making story starts with a brand-new Jeep being towed on its wheels behind a motorhome, which allows the RV owners to park their rig and still have something to drive around in while they camp. The towed vehicle, or “pusher”, is normally equipped with a manual transmission, as towing with the wheels on the ground for extended distances is easier with them. Unfortunately, the Jeep’s owner set up the shift levers wrong and left the transmission in first gear, with the transfer case in low range. The linked article estimates the gearing ratios meant that the poor Jeep’s engine was being spun at something like 54,000 RPM; chances are good the engine exploded long before that point. The damage shown in the video accompanying the article is just brutal — the oil pan and bell housing are gone, the bottom of the crankcase is blown out, and at least two pistons and their share of the crankshaft are missing in action. We feel sorry for the owner, but really wish the Jeep had had a belly cam like the one on Perseverance.

3D Printer Lets You Play “Will It Shred?”

[Brian Brocken] is at it again, building mechanisms that are as striking in their aesthetic as they are in their function. This time around, he’s extended a project we recently featured by adding a menacing 3D-printed shredder attachment. When you hear “3D-printed shredder” you think that paper is all you’ll be able to feed it, but this beast can eat its own by shredding parts from failed prints.

His original goal in building the high-torque 3D-printed gear box we looked at back in August was to show that 3D printed parts can be functional and not merely decorative. Using it as a winch to pull a car did a good job of that, but this goes much further. The very nature of shredder blades is to tear apart objects, but the forces that destroy those things are also present on the shredder parts themselves. Still, as you can see in the video below, the counter-rotating twin-shaft shredder mechanism does its work without catastrophic damage to the blades which were printed with “least 25 percent infill for the structural parts”, and up to five outer perimeters.

The result is a shredder that can gobble up small pieces of failed prints, in addition to chewing on paper, cardboard, and polystyrene with ease. [Brian] does show a few failures along the way, all in the gearbox itself. The first was a defect in the housing that let an gear shaft pop loose and was fixed up with a reprint. The second is a catastrophic gear failure when trying to shred a soda bottle. This is not surprising as PET is quite tough and not brittle like the waste prints were. The shredder teeth got bogged down, and the power of the motor strips teeth from a few gears. But when working, it’s oddly satisfying to watch that powerful gear ratio chip away at sacrificial materials.

If you’re more on the prowl for a way to usefully recycle your plastics, set the 3D-printed stress test of this one aside and take a look at the plastic shredder Fablab RUC built out of metal and plywood a few years back.

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Robotic Arm Sports Industrial Design, 3D-Printed Cycloidal Gears

[Petar Crnjak]’s Faze4 is a open source robotic arm with 3D printable parts, inspired in part by the design of industrial robot arms. In particular, [Petar] aimed to hide wiring and cables inside the arm as much as possible, and the results look great! Just watch it move in the video below.

Cycloidal gearboxes have been showing up in robotic arm projects more and more, and Faze4 makes good use of them. Why cycloidal gears? They are readily 3D printed and offer low backlash, which makes them attractive for robotic applications. There’s no need to design cycloidal gears from scratch, either. [Petar] found this cycloidal gear generator in OnShape extremely useful when designing Faze4.

The project’s GitHub repository has all the design files, as well as some video demonstrations and a link to assembly documentation for anyone who would like to make their own. Watch Faze4 go through some test movements in the video embedded below.

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A High Torque Gearbox You Can Print At Home

Typically, when we think of 3D printed parts, we think of unique parts with complex geometries that would be hard to fabricate with other techniques. Strength is rarely the first thing that comes to mind, due to the limitations of thermoplastics and the problem of delamination between layers. However, with smart design, it’s possible to print parts capable of great feats, just as [Brian]’s high-torque gearbox demonstrates.

Pulling a car is a great way to show off the strength of your build.

The gearbox consists of entirely 3D-printed gears, along with the enclosure, with the only metal parts being a few bearings and shafts. Capable of being produced out of PLA on a regular FDM printer, [Brian] has successfully tested the gearbox up to 132 kg∗cm. The suspicion is that there may be more left in it, but some slippage was noticed in the gear train when trying to tow a Ford Focus with the handbrake still on.

Even better, with the addition of a potentiometer, the gearbox can be used as an incredibly tough servo. [Brian] demonstrates this by lifting 22 kg at a distance of 6 cm from the center of the output shaft. The servo does it with ease, though eventually falls off the bench due to not being held down properly.

It’s a build that shows it’s possible to use 3D-printed parts to do some decently heavy work in the real world, as long as you design appropriately. [Brian] does a great job of explaining what’s involved, discussing gear profile selection and other design choices that affect the final performance. We’ve seen similar work from others before, too. Video after the break.

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The Evolution Of A 3D Printed Off-Road R/C Car

For about as long as hackers and makers have been using desktop 3D printers, there have been critics that say the plastic parts they produce aren’t good for much else than toys and decorative pieces. They claim that printed parts are far too fragile to be of any practical use, and are better suited as prototype placeholders until the real parts can be injection molded or milled. Sure. Try telling that to [Engineering Nonsense].

He recently wrote in (as did a few other people, incidentally) to share the latest version of his incredible 3D printed remote control car, and seeing it tearing around in the video after the break, “fragile” certainly isn’t a word we’d use to describe it. Though it didn’t get that way overnight. The Tarmo4 represents a year of development, and as the name suggests, is the fourth version of the design.

We know the purists out there will complain that the car isn’t entirely 3D printed, but honestly, it’s hard to imagine you could get much closer than this. Outside of the electronics, fasteners, tires, and shocks, the Tarmo4 is all plastic. That includes the gearbox and drive shafts. [Engineering Nonsense] even mentions in the video that he’s not happy with the tires he’s found on the market, and that they too will likely get replaced with printed versions in the future.

While the car is certainly an incredible technical achievement, what’s perhaps just as impressive is the community that’s developed around it in such a relatively short time. Towards the end of the video he shows off a number of custom builds based on previous iterations of the Tarmo. We’re sure that interest from the community has played a part in pushing the design forward, and it’s always good to see a one-off project become something bigger. Hopefully we’ll be seeing even more from this passionate community in the near future.

Just like the Open R/C Project, Tarmo proves that 3D printed parts are more than a novelty. If these diminutive powerhouses can run with printed gears and drive shafts, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about when you run off the parts for your next project.

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Autonomous 3D Rover With Tank Tracks Rules The Fields. Almost

Scope creep is a real pain in the real world, but for projects of passion it can have some interesting consequences. [rctestflight] was playing around with 3D printed rover gearboxes, which morphed into a 3D printed tank build.

[rctestflight]’s previous autonomous rover project had problems with the cheap geared motors, and he started experimenting with his own gearbox designs to use with lower RPM / Kv brushless drone motors. The tank came about because he wanted a simple vehicle to test his design. “Simple” went out the window pretty quickly and the final product was completely 3D printed except for the fasteners, axles, bearings, and electronics.

The tracks and gears are noisy, but it works quite well. On outdoor tests [rctestflight] did find that the tracks were prone to hooking on vines and branches, which in one case caused it to throw a track after the aluminium shaft bent. An Ardurover navigation system was added and with a 32 Ah battery was able to run autonomously for an entire day and there was surprisingly little wear on 3D printed gearbox and tracks afterward. All the STL files are up on Thingiverse, but [rctestflight] recommends waiting for an upcoming update because he discovered flaws in the design after filming the video after the break.

For a slightly more complex and expensive rover, check out our coverage of Perseverance, NASA’s MARS 2020 Rover. Continue reading “Autonomous 3D Rover With Tank Tracks Rules The Fields. Almost”

3D Printed Dogbox Transmission Kicks Your Desk Into High Gear

It’s often been our experience that some of the most impressive projects are the passion builds, the ones where the builder really put in their all and obsessed over every detail. Even if they don’t always have a practical application, it’s impossible to look at the final product and not respect the accomplishment.

Case in point, this absolutely incredible 3D printed model of a sequential “dogbox” transmission created by [Indeterminate Design]. All of the STL files and a complete bill of materials are available for anyone brave enough to take on the challenge. It might never be mounted to a vehicle and driven around the track, but you can still flick through the gears and watch the complex gearing do its thing.

Even if you don’t want to necessarily build the model itself, [Indeterminate Design] takes you through the concepts behind this unique transmission and how it differs from the sort of gearboxes us lowly commuter drivers are familiar with. He’s even nice enough to explain what a dogbox is.

Put simply, this type of transmission allows the driver to simply move the gear change forward and backwards to step through the gears like in a video game. This prevents you from having to navigate an H-pattern gear shift while dealing with all the other stresses of competition driving. Watching it in action, you can certainly see the appeal.

If you prefer your printed gearboxes to be of the practical variety, we’ve certainly seen plenty of those as well. They’re perfect for next time you need to move an anvil around the shop.

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