Like so many consumer products these days, baby toys seem to get progressively more complex with each passing year. Despite the fact that the average toddler will more often than not be completely engrossed by a simple cardboard box, toy companies are apparently hell-bent on producing battery powered contraptions that need to be licensed with the FCC.
As a perfect example, we have Fisher-Price’s Linkimals. These friendly creatures can operate independently by singing songs and flashing their integrated RGB LEDs in response to button presses, but get a few of them in the room together, and their 2.4 GHz radios kick in to create an impromptu mesh network of fun.
Once connected to each other, the digital critters synchronize their LEDs and sing in unison. Will your two year old pay attention long enough to notice? I know mine certainly wouldn’t. But it does make for a compelling commercial, and when you’re selling kid’s toys, that’s really the most important thing.
On the suggestion of one of our beloved readers, I picked up a second-hand Linkimals Musical Moose to take a closer look at how this cuddly pal operates. Though in hindsight, I didn’t really need to; a quick browse on Amazon shows that despite their high-tech internals, these little fellows are surprisingly cheap. In fact, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that given its current retail price of just under $10 USD, I actually paid more for my used moose.
But you didn’t come here to read about my fiscal irresponsibility, you want to see an anthropomorphic woodland creature get dissected. So let’s pull this smug Moose apart and see what’s inside.
We’ve all seen those tiny little RC cars that can climb walls thanks to the suction generated with fans. Their principle is essentially the opposite to that of a hovercraft. [Engineering After Hours] wanted to build his own RC car that could do the same, driving upside down and generating huge amounts of grip.
The build is based on a Traxxas RC car, but heavily modified for the task. An undertray is crafted, with ducts feeding a pair of twin 50mm electric fans. A skirt is fitted around the edge of the undertray, helping create a seal to maximise the downforce generated. This skirt is the area of much engineering effort, as it must form a good seal with the ground, particularly over minor pertubations, without creating undue levels of friction. Suspension components correspondingly need to be beefed up to stop the car bottoming out with the huge downforce generated by the fan system.
After much experimentation, the kinks are worked out, and the car is able to drive upside down successfully. It generates far more downforce than earlier wing experiments from [Engineering After Hours], as expected – with a tradeoff of higher weight and complexity. With the plan to create an RC car capable of huge lateral acceleration, we can’t wait to see what comes next. Video after the break.
Motorsport became obsessed with aerodynamics in the middle of the 20th century. Moving on from simple streamlined shapes, designers aimed to generate downforce with wing elements in order to get more grip between the tyres and the track. This culminated in the development of active aero, where wing elements are controlled by actuators to adjust the downforce as needed for maximum grip and minimum drag. Recently, [Engineering After Hours] decided to implement the technology on his Traxxas RC car.
The system consists of a simple multi-element front wing, chosen for its good trade-off between downforce and drag. The wing is mounted to a servo, which varies the angle of attack as the car’s pitch changes, as detected by a gyroscope. As the car pitches up during acceleration, the angle of the wing is increased to generate more downforce, keeping the nose planted.
The basic concept is sound, though as always, significant issues present themselves in the implementation. Small bumps cause the system to over-react, folding the wing under the front wheels. Additionally, the greater front downforce caused over-steer, leading to the install of a rear wing as well for better aero balance.
Regardless of some hurdles along the way, it’s clear the system has potential. We look forward to the next build from [Engineering After Hours], which promises to mimic the fan cars of the 70s and 80s. If you’re looking to improve aero on your full-size car, we’ve got a guide to that too. Video after the break.
Hovercraft never really caught on as regular transportation, but they are very cool. The Saunders-Roe SR.N1 was the very first practical example of the type, and served as a research vehicle to explore the dynamics of such vehicles. [mr_fid] was looking for a lockdown project, and set about crafting a radio controlled replica of his own.
The build is crafted out of a canny combination of plywood and balsa, the latter substituted in sections within the plywood hull to save weight. A pair of brushless outrunner motors are mounted in the central duct to provide lift, fitted with counter-rotating propellers in order to avoid torque effects on handling. Steering is via puff ports a la the original design, which allows the craft to spin very quickly in place to much amusement and no practical effect. The skirt is of a colorful design, carefully assembled out of polyurethane-coated nylon.
While it’s not the quickest way to build a hovercraft, it’s all the more beautiful for its attention to the details and function of the original prototype craft. We particularly like the sharp handling thanks to the puff port design. If you’re looking for a weirder design however, consider this Coanda Effect build. Video after the break.
Sometimes when a piece of electronics lands on the bench, you find that its chips have their markings sanded off. The manufacturer is trying to make the task of the reverse engineer less easy, thus protecting their market. [Maurizio Butti] found an unexpected one in an electronic switch designed for remote control systems, it had the simple job of listening to the PWM signal from a receiver in a model aircraft or similar and opening or closing a FET.
From previous experience he suspected it might be a microcontroller from STC based on the location of power, ground, Rx, and Tx pins. This 8051-compatible device could be readily reprogrammed, so he has able to create his own firmware for it. He’s published the code and it’s pretty simple, as it simply replicates the original. He acknowledges that this might seem odd, but makes the point that it is left open for future upgrades such as for example repeatedly cycling the output as in a flashing light.
We don’t see so much of the STC chips here aside from one of their earlier offerings, but the 8051 core features here more regularly as it’s found in Nordic’s NRF24 series of wireless-capable chips.
[James Whomsley] likes flying, and likes flying fast. After reaching a speed of 114 miles an hour with an RC plane, he wanted to go further and break that record. To do so, he looked towards rocket power, and started a new build.
The design consists of a combination of 3D printed parts, laser-cut plywood bulkheads, and foamboard flight surfaces, with a few carbon fiber stiffeners thrown in here and there. For this early prototype, power is solely from hobby rocket motors, providing thrust for 1.6 seconds, meaning flight times are necessarily short. The craft is launched from an aluminium profile rail thanks to a 3D printed sliding guide pin.
Initial tests with two rocket motors were promising, leading to a second trial with a full six motors fitted. The thrust line was a little low, however, and a major pitch-up just after launch meant the plane only reached around 62 miles an hour. [James] still has a ways to go to beat his previous record, so intends to explore adding ducted fan propulsion to get the plane in the air before using the rockets as a speed booster in steady flight.
Typically in the RC community, radio control boats rely on small nitro engines or electric motors to get around. Fitted with traditional propellers, they’re capable of great speed and performance. Of course, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, as [Integza] shows with his latest build.
As far as the boat side of things is concerned, it’s a basic 3D printed single hull design. The innovation comes in the drivetrain, instead. The boat uses compressed air for propulsion, stored in a battery of four soda bottles, pressurized to 6 bar. The compressed air is used to drive a Tesla turbine of [Integza]’s design, which is 3D printed on a resin printer. Rather then driving a propeller, the Tesla turbine instead turns a Lily impeller, which pulls the boat through the water rather than pushing it along. The impeller uses a nature-inspired design, hence the name, and was also 3D printed, making producing its complex geometry a cinch. The guts of a toy radio control car are then used to control the boat.
Understandably, performance is less than stellar. The limited reserves of compressed air can’t propel the boat long, and the combination of the high RPM Tesla turbine and Lily impeller don’t provide a lot of thrust. However, the boat does move under its own power, demonstrating these oddball technologies while doing so.