Brushless Motor Thrust Stand Provides Useful Data

When designing model aircraft of any shape or size, it’s useful to know the performance you can expect from the components chosen. For motors and propellers, this can be difficult. It’s always best to test them in combination. However, with the numbers of propeller and motor combinations possible, such data can be tough to come by. [Nikus] decided it would be easier to just do the testing in-house, and built a rig to do so.

The key component in this build is the strain gauge, which comes already laced up with an Arduino-compatible analog-digital converter module. Sourced for under $10 from Banggood, we can’t help but think that we’ve got it easy in 2018. A sturdy frame secures motor and propeller combination to the strain gauge assembly. An ATMEGA328 handles sending commands to the motor controller, reading the strain gauge results, and spitting out data to the LCD.

It’s a cheap and effective build that solves a tricky problem and would be a useful addition to the workshop for any serious modeler. We’ve seen other approaches in this area too, for those eager to graph their motor performance data. Video after the break.

[Thanks to Baldpower for the tip!]

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Adorable Desktop Disc Sander Warms Our Hearts and Our Parts

Casually browsing YouTube for “shop improvements” yields a veritable river of project ideas, objects for cat amusement, and 12 INCREDIBLE SHOP HACKS YOU WON’T BELIEVE, though some of these are of predictably dubious value. So you might imagine that when we found [Henrique]’s adorable disc sander we dismissed it out of hand, how useful could such a tiny tool be? But then we remembered the jumbo tub o’ motors on the shelf and reconsidered, maybe a palm sized sander has a place in the tiny shop.

Electrically the build is a simple as can be. It’s just a brushed DC motor plugged into a wall wart with a barrel jack and a toggle switch. But what else does it need? This isn’t a precision machine tool, so applying the “make it out of whatever scrap” mindset seems like a much better fit than figuring out PWM control with a MOSFET and a microcontroller.

There are a couple of neat tricks in the build here. The most obvious is the classic laser-cut living hinge that we love so much. [Henrique] mentions that he buys MDF in 3 mm sheets for easy storage, so each section of the frame is built from layers that he laminates with glue himself. This trades precision and adds steps, but also give him a little flexibility. It’s certainly easier to add layers of thin stock together than it would be to carve out thicker pieces. Using the laser to precisely cut holes which are then match drilled through into the rest of the frame is a nice build acceleration too. The only improvement we can imagine would be using a shaft with a small finger chuck (like a Dremel) so it could use standard rotary tool bits to avoid making sanding disks by hand.

What could a tool like this be used for? There are lots of parts with small enough features to be cleaned up by such a small tool. Perhaps those nasty burrs after cutting off a bolt? Or trimming down mousebites on the edges of PCBs? (Though make sure to use proper respiration for cutting fiberglass!)

If you want to make one of these tools for your own desk, the files are here on Thingiverse. And check out the video overview after the break.

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3D Printed Brushed Motor is Easy to Visualize

A motor — or a generator — requires some normal magnets and some electromagnets. The usual arrangement is to have a brushed commutator that both powers the electromagnets and switches their polarity as the motor spins. Permanent magnets don’t rotate and attract or repel the electromagnets as they swing by. That can be a little hard to visualize, but if you 3D Print [Miller’s Planet’s] working model — or just watch the video below — you can see how it all works.

We imagine the hardest part of this is winding the large electromagnets. Getting the axle — a nail — centered is hard too, but from the video, it looks like it isn’t that critical. There was a problem with the link to the 3D model files, but it looks like this one works.

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Smooth Moves from Cheap Motors

Building an electric motor isn’t hard or technically challenging, but these motors have very little in the way of control. A stepper motor is usually employed in applications that need precision, but adding this feature to a motor adds complexity and therefore cost. There is a small $3 stepper motor available, but the downside to this motor is that it’s not exactly the Cadillac of motors, nor was it intended to be. With some coaxing, though, [T-Kuhn] was able to get a lot out of this small, cheap motor.

To test out the motors, [T-Kuhn] built a small robotic arm. He began by programming his own pulse generating algorithm that mimics a sine wave in order to smooth out the movement of the motor. An Arduino isn’t fast enough to do these computations, though, so he upgraded to using the ESP32. He also was able to implement the inverse kinematics on his own. The result of all this work for a specific platform and motor type is a robotic arm that has a very low cost but delivers performance of much more expensive hardware.

The robot arm was built by [T-Kuhn] too, and all of the details on that build, as well as all the schematics and code, are available on the project site if you need a low-cost robot arm or a good stepper motor controller for a low cost. There are many other ways of getting the most out of other types of low-cost motors as well.

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Rewound and Rewired BLDC Makes a Half-Decent Generator

What’s the best way to turn a high-powered brushless DC motor optimized for hobby use into a decent low-RPM generator? Do you take a purely mechanical approach and slap a gearbox on the shaft? Or do you tackle the problem electrically?

The latter approach is what [GreatScott!] settled on with his BLDC rewinding and rewiring project. Having previously explored which motors have the best potential as generators, he knew the essential problem: in rough terms, hobby BLDCs are optimized for turning volts into RPMs, and not the other way around. He started with a teardown of a small motor, to understand the mechanical challenges involved, then moved onto a larger motor. The bigger motor was stubborn, but with some elbow grease, a lot of scratches, and some destroyed bearings, the motor was relieved of both its rotor and stator. The windings were stripped off and replaced with heavier magnet wire with more turns per pole than the original. The effect of this was to drive the Kv down and allow better performance at low RPMs. Things looked even better when the windings were rewired from delta to wye configuration.

The take-home lesson is probably to use a generator where you need a generator and let motors be motors. But we appreciate [GreatScott!]’s lesson on the innards of BLDCs nonetheless, and his other work in the “DIY or buy?” vein. Whether you want to make your own inverter, turn a hard drive motor into an encoder, or roll your own lithium battery pack, he’s done a lot of the dirty work already.

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Electric Wheelbarrow Makes Hauling Big Loads Easier

Gardening involves a depressing amount of physical activity: haul this over here, dump it there and then cover it with this. Things like wheelbarrows are still damn hard work, especially for people like who are somewhat physically compromised. That’s why we love this build from [Karl Gesslein]. He usually makes electronic bikes, adding motors to bicycles to roam the streets faster. But this time he applied his expertise to a wheelbarrow. He added a 3000W motor to the wheelbarrow, which drives the front wheel when triggered by the accelerator on the handle.

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Power Steering Pump Repurposed for Great Speed

Electric bikes are getting a lot of attention lately. Pretty much anyone can buy a kit online and get a perfectly street legal ride with plenty of range. But if you don’t want to take the kit route, and you’d rather take a tack that will get you noticed more around these parts, take some notes from [Jule553648]’s recent build that definitely isn’t using any parts from a kit.

The motor from the build is an electric power steering pump from a junkyard car. This gets mounted on a one-off rear bike rack and drives the rear tire with help from some gears from a pocket bike gearbox from eBay. A lot of the parts in this build were designed and built using CAD and a machine shop, and the parts for the battery and the power controller were sourced via China to save on cost.

The whole build has a homemade vibe that we find irresistible. The bike can go 35 km/h on level ground without breaking a sweat and has about 40 km of range which is nothing to scoff at. It might even be street legal depending on the wattage of the motor and whether or not you live in Europe (where throttles are generally not allowed on electric bikes). If you’re lacking a machine shop, though, we featured a very well-built kit ebike a while back that you could use as a model to get your feet wet.

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