Clever Mechanism Powers This All-Mechanical Filament Respooler

No matter how far down the 3D printing rabbit hole we descend, chances are pretty good that most of us won’t ever need to move filament from one spool to another. But even so, you’ve got to respect this purely mechanical filament respooler design, and you may want to build one for yourself just because.

We were tipped off to [Miklos Kiszely]’s respooler via the very enthusiastic video below from [Bryan Vines] at the BV3D YouTube channel. He explains the need for transferring filament to another spool as stemming from the switch by some filament manufacturers to cardboard spools for environmental reasons. Sadly, these spools tend to shed fibrous debris that can clog mechanisms; transferring filament to a plastic spool can help mitigate that problem.

The engineering that [Miklos] put into his respooler design is pretty amazing. Bearings excepted, the whole thing is 3D printed. A transmission made of herringbone gears powers both the take-up spool and the filament guide, which moves the incoming filament across the width of the spool for even layers. The mechanism to do this is fascinating, consisting of a sector gear with racks on either side. The racks are alternately engaged by the sector gear, moving a PTFE filament guide tube back and forth to create even layers on the takeup spool. Genius!

Hats off to [Miklos] on this clever design, and for the extremely detailed instructions for printing and building one of your own. Even if you don’t have the cardboard problem, maybe this would help if you buy filament on really big spools and need to rewind for printing. Continue reading “Clever Mechanism Powers This All-Mechanical Filament Respooler”

Replace Your Automatic Transmission With A Bunch Of Relays

A “Check Engine” light on your dashboard could mean anything from a loose gas cap to a wallet-destroying repair in the offing. For [Dean Segovis], his CEL was indicating a fairly serious condition: a missing transmission. So naturally, he built this electronic transmission emulator to solve the problem.

Some explanation may be necessary here. [Dean]’s missing transmission was the result of neither theft nor accident. Rather, he replaced the failed automatic transmission on his 2003 Volkswagen EuroVan with a manual transmission. Trouble is, that left the car’s computer convinced that the many solenoids and sensors on the original transmission weren’t working, leaving him with a perfectly serviceable vehicle but an inspection-failing light on the dash.

To convince the transmission control module that a working automatic was still installed and clear the fourteen-odd diagnostic codes, [Dean] put together a block of eight common automotive relays. The relay coils approximate the resistance of the original transmission’s actuators, which convinces the TCU that everything is hunky dory. There were also a couple of speed sensors in the transmission, which he spoofed with some resistors, as well as the multi-function switch, which detects the shift lever position. All told, the emulator convinces the TCU that there’s an automatic transmission installed, which is enough for it to give the all-clear and turn off the Check Engine light on the dash.

We love hacks like this, and hats off to [Dean] for sharing it with the VW community. Apparently the issue with the EuroVan automatic transmissions is common enough that a cottage industry has developed to replace them with manuals. It’s not the only questionable aspect of VW engineering, of course, but this could help quite a few people out of a sticky situation.

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Homebrew Optical Sensor Helps Your Diesel Pass The Smoke Test

We’ve all heard of the smoke test, and we know that it’s the lowest possible bar for performance of an electronic device. If it doesn’t burst into flames when power is applied, you’re good to go for more functional testing. But the smoke test means something else for cars, especially those powered by diesel fuel. And passing diesel exhaust tests can become something of a chore.

To make passing these tests a little easier, [Janis Alnis] came up with this diesel exhaust monitor that measures the opacity of his car’s emissions. The sensor itself is quite simple, and mimics what commercial exhaust analyzers use: a LED and a photodiode at opposite ends of a tube of a specified length. Soot particles in exhaust passing through the tube will scatter light in a predictable way, and the numbers work out that a passing grade is anything greater than 53% transmission.

The sensor body is cobbled together from brass pipe fittings with glass windows epoxied into each end. Exhaust enters via a tee fitting attached to a hose and sampling tube, and exits through another tee. One window of the sensor has a cheap battery-powered flashlight as a light source, while the other end has a Texas Instruments OPT101 photodiode sensor. The sensor is connected to one of the analog inputs of an Arduino, which also runs a 128×64 pixel LCD display — inspired by this air quality meter — to show the current smokiness both graphically and as a percentage. The video below shows the sensor at work.

While there were some issues with soot buildup and water vapor condensation, using the sensor [Janis] discovered that a little bit of a warm-up drive got things hot enough to clear up his ride’s tendency to smoke a bit, allowing him to pass his inspection. Continue reading “Homebrew Optical Sensor Helps Your Diesel Pass The Smoke Test”

Fight Disease With A Raspberry Pi

Despite the best efforts of scientists around the world, the current global pandemic continues onward. But even if you aren’t working on a new vaccine or trying to curb the virus with some other seemingly miraculous technology, there are a few other ways to help prevent the spread of the virus. By now we all know of ways to do that physically, but now thanks to [James Devine] and a team at CERN we can also model virus exposure directly on our own self-hosted Raspberry Pis.

The program, called the Covid-19 Airborne Risk Assessment (CARA), is able to take in a number of metrics about the size and shape of an area, the number of countermeasures already in place, and plenty of other information in order to provide a computer-generated model of the number of virus particles predicted as a function of time. It can run on a number of different Pi hardware although [James] recommends using the Pi 4 as the model does take up a significant amount of computer resources. Of course, this only generates statistical likelihoods of virus transmission but it does help get a more accurate understanding of specific situations.

For more information on how all of this works, the group at CERN also released a paper about their model. One of the goals of this project is that it is freely available and runs on relatively inexpensive hardware, so hopefully plenty of people around the world are able to easily run it to further develop understanding of how the virus spreads. For other ways of using your own computing power to help fight Covid, don’t forget about Folding@Home for using up all those extra CPU and GPU cycles.

A Simple LEGO Automatic Transmission

The automatic transmission in your average automobile can be a complicated, hydraulic-y thing full of spooky fluids and many spinning parts. However, simpler designs for “automatic” gearboxes exist, like this Lego design from [FUNTastyX].

The build is based around a simple open differential but configured in a unique way. A motor drives what would typically be one of the output shafts as an input. The same motor is also geared what would normally be the main differential input shaft as well. In these conditions, this double-drive arrangement would sum the speed input and lead to a faster rotational speed at the other shaft, which becomes the output.

However, the trick in this build is that the drive going to what would be the usual differential input is done through a Lego slipper clutch. This part, as explained by [TechnicBricks], allows the outer teeth of the gear to slip relative to the shaft once torque demand is exceeded. What this functionally does is that when the output of the “automatic gearbox” is loaded down, the extra torque demand causes the clutch to slip. This then leads to only one input to the differential doing any work, changing the gear ratio automatically.

It’s likely not a particularly efficient gearbox, as there are significant losses through the very simple clutch, we suspect. However, it does technically work, and we’d love to see its performance rated directly against other simple Lego gearbox designs.

It’s a little confusing to explain in text, but the video from [FUNTastyX] does a great job at explaining the principle in just a few minutes. We’ve seen plenty of crazy Lego gearboxes over the years, and we doubt this will be the last. Video after the break.

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Harmonic Drive Uses Compliant Mechanism To Slim Down

[Levi Janssen] has a secret: he doesn’t like harmonic drives. But rather than abandon the torque-amplifying transmission completely, he decided to see about improving them using 3D-printed compliant mechanisms.

For the uninitiated, harmonic drives, also known as strain-wave gears, are a compact, high-torque gearbox that has become popular with “robotic dog” makers and other roboticists. The idea is to have a rigid, internally-toothed outer ring nested around an externally-toothed, flexible cup. A wave generator rotates within the inside cup, stretching it so that it meshes with the outer ring. The two gears differ by only a couple of teeth, meaning that very high gear ratios can be achieved, which makes them great for the joints of robot legs.

[Levi]’s problem with the harmonic drive is that due to the depth of the flexible spline cup, compactness is not among its virtues. His idea is to couple the flex spline to the output of the drive through a flat spring, one that allows flexion as the wave generator rotates but transmits torque efficiently. The entire prototype is 3D-printed, except for the wave generator bearings and stepper motor, and put to the test.

As the video below shows after the excellent introduction to harmonic drives, the concept works, but it’s not without its limitations. Even lightly loaded, the drive made some unpleasant crunching sounds as the PLA springs gave out. We could easily see that being replaced with, say, a steel spring, either machined or cut on a water-jet machine. That might solve the most obvious problem and make [Levi]’s dream of a compact harmonic drive a reality. Of course, we have seen pretty compact strain-wave gears before.

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Peeking Inside A VW Gearbox Reveals Die Casting Truths

Recently, I was offered a 1997 Volkswagen Golf for the low, low price of free — assuming I could haul it away, as it suffered from a thoroughly borked automatic transmission. Being incapable of saying no to such an opportunity, I set about trailering the poor convertible home and immediately tore into the mechanicals to see what was wrong.

Alas, I have thus far failed to resurrect the beast from Wolfsburg, but while I was wrist deep in transmission fluid, I spotted something that caught my eye. Come along for a look at the nitty-gritty of transmission manufacturing!

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