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.
If you were to plumb the depth of the oceans, you could only get so far with a snorkel or a SCUBA tank. We don’t know the price, but if you have enough money, you might consider the Triton 3300/6 — a six-person submersible that can go down to 3,300 feet (hence the name–get it–3300/6). Billed as “diving for the entire family,” we aren’t sure we can load grandma and the kids in something like this, but that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t like to try.
The machine can carry up to 1,760 pounds and can make 3 knots which isn’t going to set any speed records. At around 24,000 pounds, the two main thrusters are lucky to make that speed. The view bubble is apparently optically perfect acrylic made by a German company and the company claims the 100-inch diameter bubble is the world’s largest spherical acrylic pressure hull.
In Subnautica, players explore an alien underwater landscape with the help of a number of futuristic tools and vehicles. [Robert Cook] found himself particularly enamored with the large submarine you unlock towards the later parts of the game, so much so that he decided to build his own real-life version.
Even though the RC version of the Cyclops [Robert] has designed is only big enough to explore swimming pool sized alien landscapes, it’s by no means a simple build. In fact, the sub’s internal watertight compartment holds an impressive array of electronics and systems that are arguably overkill for what’s essentially a toy. Not that we’re complaining, of course.
Beyond the electronics and a few key components, almost every part of the RC Cyclops has been 3D printed. From the bulkheads that cap off the internal watertight acrylic tube to the hull itself, there’s a lot of plastic aboard this ship. Which might explain why it takes nearly two kilograms of lead weight to get the sub close to neutral buoyancy. From there, a clever ballast tank arrangement made from a syringe and peristaltic pump allow the vehicle to dive and surface on command.
[Robert] is in the process of releasing the STL files for all the submarine’s 3D printed components, and has done an excellent job of documenting the roughly four months he’s spent working on the project in a series of videos on his YouTube channel. The videos contain a wealth of fascinating tips and tricks regarding DIY submersible vehicles, such as selecting the proper radio frequencies for maximum penetration through water and counteracting the permeability of 3D printed parts with a generous coating of epoxy.
Although you’d be hard-pressed to tell in some areas, it’s summer in the northern hemisphere, which always seems to bring out the projects that require a swimming pool for adequate testing. The [Brick Experiment Channel]’s latest build, a submersible made almost entirely from Lego, is one such project and has us pining for weather that makes a dip sensible rather than suicidal.
The sub featured in the video below is a significant improvement over the “Sub in a Jug” approach the [Brick Experiment Channel] favored for version 1. Rather than starting with a vessel specifically designed not to hold water, the hull for this vessel is an IKEA food container, with a stout glass body and a flexible lid with silicone seals. And instead of penetrating the hull for driveshafts and attempting to seal them, this time around he built clever magnetic couplings.
The couplings transmit torque from the motors on the inside to gears and props on the outside. And where the first version used a syringe-pump ballast tank to control the depth, this one uses vertical thrusters. The flexible lid proved to be a problem with that scheme, since it tended to collapse as the depth increased, preventing the sub from surfacing. That was solved with some Lego bracing and adjustment of the lead shot ballast used to keep the sub neutrally buoyant.
This looks like a ton of summer fun, and even if you don’t have Legos galore to work with, it could easily be adapted to other materials. There are a ton of other fun [BEC] Lego builds to check out, some of which we’ve covered, including a Lego drone and a playing card shooter.
We often think of submarines as fairly complex pieces of machinery, and for good reason. Keeping the electronics watertight can naturally be quite difficult, and maintaining neutral buoyancy while traveling underwater is a considerable engineering challenge. But it turns out that if you’re willing to skip out on those fairly key elements of submarine design, the whole thing suddenly becomes a lot easier. Big surprise, right?
That’s precisely how [Peter Sripol] approached his latest project, which he’s claiming is the world’s smallest remote control submarine. We’re not qualified to say if that’s true or not, but we were certainly interested in seeing how he built the diminutive submersible. Thanks to the fact that it started life as one of those cheap infrared helicopters, it’s actually a fairly approachable project if you’re looking to make one yourself.
After testing that the IR communication would actually work as expected underwater, [Peter] liberated the motors and electronics from the helicopter. The motor’s wires were shortened, and the receiver PCB got a slathering of epoxy to try and keep the worst of the water out, but otherwise they were unmodified.
If you’re wondering how the ballast system works, there isn’t one. The 3D printed body angles the motors slightly downwards, so when the submarine is moving forward it’s also being pulled deeper into the water. There aren’t any control surfaces either, differential thrust between the two motors is used to turn left and right. This doesn’t make for a particularly nimble craft, but in the video after the break it certainly looks like they’re having fun with it.
All through the cold war, there was a high-stakes game of cat and mouse in play. Nuclear powers like the United States and the Soviet Union would hide submarines armed with nuclear missiles underwater. The other side would try to know where they were so they could be targeted in the event of war. The common wisdom was that the United States had many high tech gadgets to help track enemy submarines, but that the Soviet Union was way behind in this area. This was proven false when a Soviet Victor-class boat followed a US missile submarine for six days. Now, a recently declassified CIA report shows how the Soviets didn’t use sonar at all but developed their own technology.
There is something fascinating about submarines. Like an old sailing ship, submarines are often out of touch with their command bases and the captain is the final authority. Like a space ship, the submarine has to survive in an inimical environment. I guess in all three cases, the crew doesn’t just use technology, they depend on it.
Although the submarine has some non-military uses, there are probably more military subs than any other type. After all, a sub is as close to a cloaking device as any real-life military vehicle has ever had. Before modern technology offered ways to find submarines using sonar or magnetic anomalies, a completely submerged submarine was effectively invisible.
There was a lot of speculation that the Soviet Union lacked sufficient technology to use sonar the way the US did. However, in some cases, they had simply developed different types of detection — many of which the West had discarded as impractical.
Submarines are universally considered cool, but bring several challenges to the RC modeller that aren’t there with land and air builds. Water ingress can ruin your project, and there’s always the possibility of it sinking to the bottom, never to return. That didn’t phase [Brick Experiment Channel], however, and thus a Lego sub was born. (Video embedded below the break.)
The sub uses a water jug as a hull. The video steps through the process of sealing the hull itself, before dealing with sealing the rotating propeller shafts. A large syringe is used as a ballast tank, with Lego motors used to actuate the tank and provide propulsion and steering. An existing RC submarine is cannabilized for parts, providing the necessary radio control hardware.
In testing, the sub performs admirably, with a few final tweaks necessary to improve the performance of the propellers. It’s not winning any races anytime soon, but it’s a functional underwater explorer that we’d love to take down the lake ourselves sometime.