Exploring Piston Engine Design With LEGO

When learning about the design of a machine or mechanism, reading and watching videos is certainly effective, but it’s hard to beat hands-on experimentation. In the video after the break, [Brick Technology] uses LEGO to gain some practical insight into the world of piston engine design, from single-cylinder all the way up to radial twelve-cylinder engines.

Using pneumatic cylinders from the LEGO Technic series, [Brick Technology] starts by getting the basics working with a single-cylinder design. Besides the fact that there are no fuel-air explosions involved, these pistons are also double-acting thanks to a valve mechanism that switches the pressurized side of the piston as it reaches the end of its stroke. After a couple of experiments, he settles on using a bank of six two liter soda bottles as a source of pressurized air.

He also increased the performance of the LEGO cylinders by drilling out the ports and adding silicon oil for lubrication. In the initial prototypes, the cylinders also acted as connecting rods, tilting back and forth as the crankshaft rotates. After some testing, he discovered he could increase efficiency by constraining the cylinder with a slider mechanism and adding a separate connecting rod.

With the basics done, [Brick Technology] could start experimenting with engine arrangements and geometry. Inline two, three, and four cylinders and V2, V6, V8, and even R12 were all on the menu. He could also change crankshaft geometry to trade torque for RPM and vice versa, and build a starter motor, and torque generator.

Just like [Brick Technology]’s LEGO electronic drums and vortex machine, this video gives us a itch that can only be scratched by a few hundred LEGO pieces. For rapid prototyping of course.

Lego Orrery

LEGOpunk Orrery Knows Just The Right Technics

Is the unmistakable sound of the shuffling of LEGO pieces being dug through burned into your psyche? Did the catalog of ever more complex Technic pieces send your imagination soaring into the stratosphere and beyond? Judging by the artful contraption in the video below the break, we are fairly certain that [Marian] can relate to these things.

No doubt inspired by classic orreries driven by clockwork, [Marian]’s LEGO Sun-Earth-Moon orrery is instead driven by either hand cranks or by electric motors. The orrery aims to be astronomically correct. To that end, a full revolution of a hand crank produces a full day’s worth of movement.

Solar and lunar eclipses can be demonstrated, along with numerous other principals such as the tilt of the earth, moon phases, tidal locking, and more, which can be found at the project page.

While classical orreries predate the Victorian era, there seems to be an almost inexplicable link between orreries and the Steampunk aesthetic. But [Marian]’s orrery brought the term “LEGOpunk” to mind. Could it be? Given that there are 2305 pieces and 264 pages of instructions with 436 steps, we think so!

We’ve covered just a few orreries in the past, from this somewhat simple laser cut orrery to this horrifically complex and beautiful thing hereContinue reading “LEGOpunk Orrery Knows Just The Right Technics”

Lego Submarine Gets Balloon Ballast System

Lego is a fun building block which vast numbers of the world’s children play with every day. However, the mechanical Technic line of Lego building blocks has long offered greater options to the budding engineer. [Brick Experiment Channel] is one such soul, working hard on their latest Lego submarine.

The sub is built inside of a glass food container, chosen for its removable plastic lid with a watertight seal. This keeps all the mechanics dry, as well as the custom electronics built to allow a 27MHz RC controller to send signals to the Lego electronics. This is key as higher frequency radios such as Bluetooth or WiFi can’t penetrate water nearly as well.

A magnetic coupling fitted to a Lego motor is used to drive the propeller in the water without the leaks common when trying to seal a rotating shaft. A second coupling on a Lego servo along with a creative steering arrangement allows the propeller to be turned to steer the craft.

The ballast system is simple. A balloon is filled by a Lego motor running an air pump, capable of 3.0 mL a second and capable of creating a maximum pressure of 2.0 bar. When the balloon is inflated, the buoyancy goes up and the sub rises. Run the motor the other way and the balloon is emptied by a clever clutch and valve arrangement, reducing buoyancy and causing the sub to sink.

The sub isn’t perfect. Maintaining a set depth underwater can be difficult with the rudimentary ballast system, perhaps as the balloon changes shape with varying water pressure. Sometimes, Lego axles slip out of their gears, too, and the radio only works for a few meters under water.

However, simply building a Lego sub of any sort is a remarkable feat. It’s interesting to see the variances in the design compared to earlier projects from [Brick Experiment Channel], too, as we’ve featured their earlier subs before. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Lego Submarine Gets Balloon Ballast System”

DIY LEGO Record Cleaner Is Revolutionary

There are many schools of thought when it comes to keeping vinyl records clean. It’s a ritual that’s nearly as important as the one that comes after it — queuing up the record and lowering the needle. We’ve seen people use everything from Windex and microfiber towels to ultrasonic cleaning machines that cost hundreds or even thousands. In the midst of building a beefier ultrasonic record cleaner and waiting for parts, [Baserolokus] looked around at all the LEGO around the house and decided to build a plastic prototype in the interim.

The idea behind ultrasonic cleaning is simple — high-frequency sound waves pumped through distilled water produce tons of tiny bubbles. These bubbles gently knock all the dirt and grime out of the grooves without using any brushes, rags, or harsh cleaners. [Baserolokus] built two pieces that hang on the edge of a washtub. On one side, a Technic motor spins the record at just under one RPM, it spins against a 3D printer wheel embedded in the other side. Check it out in action after the break.

Cleaning your vinyl is a great first step, but you might be ruining your records with a sub-par turntable. Take a deep dive with [Jenny List]’s thorough primer on the subject.

Continue reading “DIY LEGO Record Cleaner Is Revolutionary”

Lego Tank Fires Soccer Ball Cannon

Back in the 20th century, Lego Technic was a popular toy designed to teach kids about mechanical technology, and be a lot of fun to boot. Motors and pneumatics were available, but by and large you had to move your creations and make the noises yourself. That’s not the case these days, as the [Brick Experiment Channel] demonstrates with this impressive Lego tank.

The drivetrain is straightforward, using standard Lego tank treads with each side given its own motor for easy skid steering. However, the real party piece is the slingshot cannon, which launches Lego soccer balls at 60 km/h. Utilizing several motors, it’s complete with elevation adjustment for accurate ranging, and a 6 round magazine so you can (slowly) prosecute your targets with rounds downrange.

What really makes this build great is the control system, with the tank being controlled by a PS4 controller via Sbrick, a device that lets Lego motors be controlled via Bluetooth. We’d love to build a couple of Lego vehicles and have them blast away at each other. We’ve seen the technology used before for a secret heist robot. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Lego Tank Fires Soccer Ball Cannon”

A Whimsical Touch-Free Gumball Machine For These Trying Times

It sucks that certain stuff in public is off-limits right now, like drinking fountains and coin-operated candy and gum machines — especially the fun kind where you get to watch your gumball take a twisting trip down the tower and into the collection bin. Hopefully there will be commercial contact-free machines one of these days that take NFC payments. Until then, we’ll have to make them ourselves out of cardboard and whimsy and Micro:bits.

[Brown Dog Gadgets] also used one of their Crazy Circuits Bit Boards, which is a Micro:bit-to-LEGO interface module for building circuits with conductive tape. There’s a distance sensor in the rocket’s base, and a servo to dispense the gumballs. This entire build is fantastic, but we particularly like the clever use of a LEGO Technic beam to both catch the gumball and prevent the next one from going anywhere. You can see it in action after the break.

Wave hand, receive gumball is about as simple as it gets for the end user. The three robots approach takes much more work.

Continue reading “A Whimsical Touch-Free Gumball Machine For These Trying Times”

Lego Ziplining Robot Climbs For Claps

The internet has given us plenty of cool robotics projects, but we don’t think we’ve seen one zipline before. At least not until now.

This cool little ziplining robot is courtesy of the folks over at [Tart Robotics]. As they described it, the robot moves using a 4-bar linkage mechanism with the motor’s torque “transferred to the arm mechanisms through a pair of bevel gears and a worm drive.” Even cooler, the robot is activated by clapping. The faster you clap, the faster the robot moves. That’s sure to wow your friends at your next virtual hacker meetup.

They had to do a bit of custom 3D printing work to get a few of the Lego components to connect with their non-Lego off-the-shelf bits, so that took a bit of time. Specifically, they had some cheap, non-branded DC motors that they used that did not naturally mate with the Lego Technic components used to create the rest of the robot’s body. Nothing a few custom 3D printing jobs couldn’t solve.

It always amazes us what cool contraptions you can put together with a few Lego blocks. What’s your favorite Lego project?

Continue reading “Lego Ziplining Robot Climbs For Claps”