High volume commodity products are a foundation of hacking, we’ve built many projects around popular form factors like NEMA 17 stepper motors, 608 bearings, and 280 DC motors. Their high volume led to lower cost, which further increased popularity, and the cycle repeats. A similar thing happened to a style of single-cylinder diesel engine in China, and [Jalopnik] takes us through an exploration of these “Tuo La Ji” (tractor) machines.
Like many popular standards, circumstances elevated this style of engine to become more popular than its peers. Judging from the pictures, the idea is similar to NEMA 17 in that the core essence is a bolt pattern and an output shaft. Different manufacturers offer various capabilities within this space, and a wild assortment of machinery evolved to take advantage of this class of power source.
It starts with a set of wheels and handlebars to create a walk-behind farm tractor, something pretty common around the world. But this particular ecosystem grew far beyond that to many other applications, including full sized trucks with off-road capability that would embarrass most of the genteel SUVs cruising our roads today. They may not be fast, but they only needed to be faster and have longer endurance than beasts of burden to be effective as “a horseless horse”.
Due to factors such as poor crash safety, absence of diesel emission controls, and affordability of more powerful (and faster!) vehicles, these machines are a dying breed. But that won’t change the fact there was a fantastic amount of mechanical hacking ingenuity that had sprung up around this versatile engine building simple and effective machines. Their creativity drew from the same well that fed into these Indonesian Vespas.
Photo by [Brian Holsclaw] CC BY-ND 2.0
Typically, we associate Vespas with Italians, riding their posh scooters midday under the heat of the Mediterranean sun. In one community, however, the riders and vehicles are pretty different – and by that we mean a whole lot different. Think Mad Max: Fury Road meets The Jungle Book.
The first Vespa arrived in Indonesia in the 1960s when the vehicles were rewarded to Indonesian peacekeepers returning from a mission in Africa. While many of the Vespas on the archipelago maintain the same classic style, some riders have modified theirs into entirely new conceptions.
Indonesian photographer [Muhammad Fadli] captures these riders on their Vespa sampah (“garbage Vespa”) and Vespa gembel (“Vespa drifter”), as they are known by locals. The unique design of the riders is partially attributed to their emergence in the early 2000s coinciding with the fall of the Soeharto authoritarian regime. The newfound freedom and self expression, as well as the relaxed law enforcement, contributed to the development of new types of modified vehicles on the road.
While the scooters are widespread, there isn’t any known count of extreme Vespas in the country. Most of the Vespas are not meant for riding, but rather to show off their physical form. While some are made from cheap steel frames and tires, others are adorned with road scraps and symbols. Anything from buffalo skeletons to machine gun rounds are used to accentuate the design of the scooters, many of which have a punk or metal vibe.
Within the community, there are annual extreme Vespa gatherings, which can draw thousands of riders from all over Indonesia. From frames made of bamboo to frames made of garbage, stalls that collect recyclables to add to their vehicles, and riders from all walks of life, there’s no apparent limit to the builders’ creativity.
[Thanks edmonkey for the tip!]
When we want to build something to go where wheels could not, the typical solution is to use tracks. But the greater mobility comes with trade-offs: one example being tracked vehicles can’t go as fast as a wheeled counterpart. Information released by DARPA’s ground experimental vehicle technology (GXV-T) program showed what might come out of asking “why can’t we switch to tracks just when we need them?”
This ambitious goal to literally reinvent the wheel was tackled by Carnegie Mellon’s National Robotics Engineering Center. They delivered the “Reconfigurable Wheel-Track” (RWT) that can either roll like a wheel or travel on its tracks. A HMMWV serves as an appropriate demonstration chassis, where two or all four of its wheels were replaced by RWTs. In the video (embedded below) it is seen quickly transforming from one mode to another while moving. An obviously desirable feature that looks challenging to implement. This might not be as dramatic of a transformation as a walking robot that can roll up into a wheel but it has the advantage of being more immediately feasible for human-scale vehicles.
The RWT is not the only terrain mobility project in this DARPA announcement but this specific idea is one we would love to see scaled downed to become a 3D-printable robot module. And though our Hackaday Prize Robotics Module Challenge has already concluded, there are more challenges still to come. The other umbrella of GXV-T is “crew augmentation” giving operators better idea of what’s going around them. The projects there might inspire something you can submit to our upcoming Human-Computer Interface Challenge, check them out!
Continue reading “When The Going Gets Tough, These Wheels Transform To Tracks”
How do you manage to get an electric off-road longboard past TSA and onto an international flight? Simple — make it a collapsible longboard that fits into a carry-on bag.
The mechanical and electrical feats accomplished by [transistor-man] may not be the most impressive parts of this hack. We’re pretty impressed by the build, starting as it did with the big knobby tires and front truck from an unused mountain board and the hub motor from a hoverboard, turning this into a trike. The incredible shrinking chassis comes courtesy of a couple of stout drawer slides and cam locks to keep it locked in place; collapsed, the board fits in a carry on bag. Expanded, it runs like a dream, as the video below shows.
But we think the really interesting part of this hack is the social engineering [transistor-man] did to ensure that the authorities wouldn’t ground his creation for electrical reasons. It seems current rules limit how big a battery can be and how many of them can be brought on a flight, so there was a lot of battery finagling before his creation could fly.
Electric longboards look like a real kick, whether they be all-aluminum or all-plastic, or even all-LEGO. This one, which went from concept to complete a week and a half before the flight, really raises the bar.
Continue reading “This Electric Longboard Collapses For Air Travel”
When needing to change a tire or work under our vehicles we humans reach for a trusty jack. The standard jack in your trunk or mounted behind the seat of your truck works fine 99% of the time. But what happens when the vehicle in need of repair has a lifted suspension, raising the frame in relation to the ground and making the stock jack now too short?
Off-Road enthusiast [am4x4] had that problem and came up with a neat solution. He made a lift kit for a roll-around mechanics jack! He started with a 1.5 ton jack from Harbor Freight. This jack had 2 small casters in the rear and one wide roller in the front. This combination works great on concrete but [am4x4] needed this to work out in the dirt so a few mods were in order.
First the front roller was scrapped and replaced by two large 8 inch diameter tires. To get these to fit the bolt holes for the roller were enlarged to the same diameter as the wheel bearings. A new solid axle was then made from 5/8 inch solid rod. Those may look like pneumatic tires but they are actually solid rubber and only cost $6 each, also from Harbor Freight. These tires not only raise the jack up several inches but also increase the surface area contacting the ground. This better distributes the weight of the vehicle and prevents the jack from pushing itself into the ground.
In the back, the small stock casters were removed and replaced with larger, heavier duty ones. Even with the larger casters, the jack leans rearward. [am4x4] plans on making an extension to level the jack out but for now, it works well and is definitely a conversation piece at the off-road get togethers.
The latest gizmo that you can make using the cheap and easy Raspberry Pi is here courtesy of [Mark Williams]. He has hooked up an inertial measurement unit (IMU) to the Pi and built an inclinometer to use to measure the various angles of an off-road vehicle.
This particular guide goes through the setup of SDL to control the video output to a small screen. Then, a function is created to rotate the images based on input from the IMU so that the vehicle position can be shown graphically on the screen. Now, when your truck is about to roll over on a hill, you’ll get advance warning!
Of course, this whole project is predicated on installing the IMU and getting it up and running on the Raspberry Pi in the first place. [Mark] has you covered on a guide for setting that up as well. This delves into setting up the IMU over I2C to get it talking to the Raspberry Pi, and then converting the raw data from the IMU into data that is more usable. Be sure to check out [Mark]’s page for all of the code and details!