While wheels might seem like a foundational technology, they do have one major flaw: they typically need maintained roads in order to work. Anyone who has experience driving a Jeep or truck off-road likely knows this first-hand. For those with extreme off-road needs the track is often employed. [Let’s Print] is working on perfecting his RC tracked vehicle to take advantage of these perks using little more than 3D printed parts and aluminum stock.
This vehicle doesn’t just include the 3D printed tracks, but an entire 3D printed gearbox and drivetrain to drive them. Each track is driven by its own DC motor coupled to a planetary gearbox to give each plenty of torque to operate in snow or mud. The gearbox is mated to a differential which currently shares a shaft, which means that steering is currently not possible. The original plan was to have each motor drive the tracks independently but a small mistake in the build meant that the shaft needed to be tied together. [Let’s Print] has several options to eventually include steering, including an articulating body or redesigning the drivetrain to be able to separate the shaft.
While this vehicle currently has no wheels in order to improve traction, [Let’s Print] does point out that a pair of wheels could complement this vehicle when he finished the back half of it since wheels have a major advantage over tracks when it comes to steering. A vehicle with both could have the advantages of both, so we’re interested to see where this build eventually goes.
The core of this project is a battery-powered belt sander by a well known manufacturer of gnarly yellow power tools. With an eye for using bespoke 3D printed parts, the conversion appeared straightforward – slap on (or snap on) a pre-loved steering mechanism, add a servo for controlling the sander’s trigger, and that’s pretty much job done. Naturally the intention was to use sandpaper as tread, which is acceptable for outdoor use but not exactly ideal for indoors. A thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) tread was designed and printed for playtime on the living room floor, where sandpaper may be frowned upon.
The finished product is a mean looking toy with plenty of power. What we really like most about this hack is the commitment to the aesthetics. It’s seriously impressive to see a belt sander so convincingly transformed into a three-wheeler radio-controlled car. The final iteration is also completely reversible, meaning that your belt sander can keep on sanding two by fours on the job site. All the printed parts snap snug into place and are mostly indistinguishable from the stock sander.
Speaking of reversible, there were just a couple of issues with the initial design, if you catch our drift. We won’t spoil what happens, but make sure to watch the video after the break for the full story.
For those building their own remote controlled devices like RC boats and quadcopter drones, having a good transmitter-receiver setup is a significant factor in the eventual usability of their build. Many transmitters are available in the 2.4 GHz band, but some operate at different frequencies, like the 868/915 MHz band. The TBS Crossfire is one such transmitter, and it’s become a popular model thanks to its long-range performance.
When [g3gg0] bought a Crossfire set for his drone, he discovered that the receiver module consisted of not much more than a PIC32 microcontroller and an SX1272 LoRa modem. This led him to ponder if the RF protocol would be easy to decode. As it turns out, it was not trivial, but not impossible either. First, he built his own SPI sniffer using a CYC1000 FPGA board to reveal the exact register settings that the PIC32 sent to the SX1272. The Crossfire uses channel hopping, and by simply looking at the register settings it was easy to figure out the hopping sequence.
Once that was out of the way, the next step was to figure out what data was flowing through those channels. The data packets appeared to be built up in a straightforward way, but they included an unknown CRC checksum. Luckily, brute-forcing it was not hard; the checksum is most likely used to keep receivers from picking up signals that come from a different transmitter than their own.
[g3gg0]’s blog post goes into intricate detail on both the Crossfire’s protocol as well as the reverse engineering process needed to obtain this information. The eventual conclusion is that while the protocol is efficient and robust, it provides no security against eavesdropping or deliberate interference. Of course, that’s perfectly fine for most RC applications, as long as the user is aware of this fact.
With all the futuristic technology currently at our disposal, it seems a little bizarre that most passenger vehicles are essentially the same thing that they were a century ago. Four wheels, a motor, and some seats would appear to be a difficult formula to beat. But in the 3D printing world where rapid prototyping is the name of the game, some unique vehicle designs have been pushed out especially in the RC world. One of the latest comes to us from [RCLifeOn] in the form of a single-wheeled RC snowmobile.
While not a traditional snowmobile with tracks, this one does share some similarities. It has one drive wheel in the back printed with TPR for flexibility and it also includes studs all along its entire circumference to give it better traction on ice. There are runners in the front made from old ice skates which the vehicle uses for steering, and it’s all tied together with an RC controller and some lithium batteries to handle steering and driving the electric motor.
There were some design flaws in the first iteration of this vehicle, including a very large turning radius, a gearing setup with an unnecessarily high torque, and a frame that was too flexible for the chain drive. [RCLifeOn] was also testing this on a lake which looked like it was just about to revert to a liquid state which made for some interesting video segments of him retrieving the stuck vehicle with a tree branch and string. All in all, we are hopeful for a second revision in the future when some of these issues are hammered out and this one-of-a-kind vehicle can really rip across the frozen wastes not unlike this other interesting snowmobile from a decade ago.
Tank aficionado [Daniel Zalega] has enjoyed playing around with armored fighting vehicles in the digital realm for years, but only recently realized he had the technology and skills necessary to take his passion into the physical world. Albeit on a slightly reduced scale. So he bought a 1:35 plastic model kit for the German WWII Panther tank from Tamiya, and started working on a way to make it move.
Luckily for [Daniel], the assembled model is essentially hollow. That gave him plenty of room to install the geared drive motors, batteries, motor controllers, voltage regulators, a servo for the turret, and the Raspberry Pi Zero that controls the whole show. Those with an aversion to hot glue would do well not to look too closely at the construction here, but it gets the job done. Besides, it’s not like this little Panther is going to see any front line combat.
Another element of the model kit that made it well-suited to motorization is the fact that it had real rubber treads. That meant [Daniel] just had to pop some holes in the side of the tank, and figure out how to mount the drive sprockets to his gear motors. Unfortunately it looks like the wheels are static on this model, meaning the tread has to be dragged over them. That’s certainly robbing the tank of some power and speed, but in the video after the break, you can see its movement is still fairly realistic.
To control the tank, he points his phone’s browser to a simple page running on the Raspberry Pi. By simply dragging a finger on the screen, you can operate the tank’s two independent treads and rotate the turret. [Daniel] said his original plan was more elaborate, with the web page displaying a live video feed from an onboard camera as well as the readings from various sensors. But at least for now, things are kept as straightforward as possible.
There are a lot of cliches about the perils of boat ownership. “The best two days of a boat owner’s life are the day they buy their boat, and the day they sell it” immediately springs to mind, for example, but there is a loophole to an otherwise bottomless pit of boat ownership: building a small robotic speedboat instead of owning the full-size version. Not only will you save loads of money and frustration, but you can also use your 3D-printed boat as a base for educational and research projects.
The autonomous speedboats have a modular hull design to make them easy to 3D print, and they use a waterjet for propulsion which improves their reliability in shallow waters and reduces the likelihood that they will get tangled on anything or injure an animal or human. The platform is specifically designed to be able to house any of a wide array of sensors to enable people to easily perform automated tasks in bodies of water such as monitoring for pollution, search-and-rescue, and various inspections. A monohull version with a single jet was prototyped first, but eventually a twin-hulled catamaran with two jets was produced which improved the stability and reliability of the platform.
All of the files needed to get started with your own autonomous (or remote-controlled) speedboat are available on the project’s page. The creators are hopeful that this platform suits a wide variety of needs and that a community is created of technology enthusiasts, engineers, and researchers working on autonomous marine robotic platforms. If you’d prefer to ditch the motor, though, we have seen a few autonomous sailboats used for research purposes as well.
If you are lucky, you’ve never experienced the heartbreak of watching a loved one lose their ability to do simple tasks. However, as hackers, we have the ability to customize solutions to make everyday tasks more accessible. That’s what [omerrv] did by creating a very specific function remote control. The idea is to provide an easy-to-use interface for the most common remote functions.
This is one of those projects where the technology puzzle is now pretty easy to solve: IR remotes are well-understood and there are plenty of libraries for recording and playing back signals. The real work is to understand the user’s challenges and come up with a workable compromise between something useful and something too complex for the user to deal with.