Archive for the 'Stuff' Category

 

Operation MIKUVAN; Or, Why I Bought 3000 Pounds of Steel off Craigslist and Went to Pennsylvania to Pick It Up

Apr 30, 2013 in Stuff

Hello everyone. I just bought a van.

 

Okay, strictly speaking, it’s currently a “van shaped object”, since it doesn’t run. So, more accurately, I just bought another potentially never-ending project.

Before I reveal the details of what transpired this past weekend, I’d like to plug one of my MITERS compatriot’s robotic shindig coming up this weekend, Hexacon 2013 at MIT. Organized and hosted by Nancy of Orange Narwhals fame, this event will feature everything that has 6 legs (plus or minus a few) and is robotic (or can pretend to be so). If you’re in the Cambridge or MIT area, come on by. It’s being hosted about 50 feet from my desk nest midden in the International Design Center space.

Hexa-van?

Anyways, before everyone asks the obvious question of “How the hell did you pick this one, of all possible cars on the planet?”, let me explain the backstory a little. Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen these things on the internet:

If you haven’t before, you’re welcome.

Basically what is going on here is a Japanese pokemon “vanning” show. While U.S. van culture appeared to have died out by the time the 1980s rolled around, the movement picked up speed in Japan in the 90s. The digimon vans above are all 90s model Toyota Hiaces, a vehicle not sold in the U.S. for using the driver as a crumple zone. I’m not in tune with the Japanese internet (only some parts of it, and not the automotive bits) enough to know whether or not this still happens, or like most things about Japan that get crossposted to the North American imageboard market, actually stopped 10 years ago and we’re just watching badly dubbed reruns. Whatever the case, even if these kinds of Flamboyantly Gay Decepticon mods have died out, “VIP style” and other less ostentatious mods are still common.

Many of these get pretty ridiculous and they’re often adorned with the images of singers, characters, or the odd politician or two.

Popular features tend to include fake Testarossa style side strakes, side hatches, extended front and rear lips, cowlings and visors, an enormous rear plume, and those weird antenna things sticking out the front that look like curb feelers for rooftops. I’m not even sure you could move 5 feet in that in Boston without being stuck in a pothole.

I was introduced to these things some time in high school while reading then still-embryonic car blogs, and as I tend to do to extraordinary mechanical things, immediately fell in love with them. Sadly, if you are looking for more, I can no longer help you. All of the gallery links I bookmarked in high school have disappeared from the Internet. Short of speaking Japanese yourself, searching for “バニング” on Google Images (it being the katakana syllabic representation of “vanning”) will probably lead to the most returns.

Anyways, the plan for my van is not to completely dress it out. It comes from before the era when CAD programs supported things like fillets and lofts and G3 continuity surfaces. I think it has to retain the somewhat Brutalist, built-on-the-fly aesthetic, maybe like of like melonscooter. As of right now, all of the electrical accessories work but the engine doesn’t start. It cranks, and seems to try really hard, but something is just not going puff. I’m not historically a “car guy”; the only car I’ve driven in the time before nearly-new rentals and shared-used cars was pretty tame and reliable, so I hope to use this to pick up a few skills and learn some new things (some of the gory debugging details are forthcoming). I would like to get it running, even if rudimentary and completely emissions-destroying.

The ultimate plan for it is going full electric.

Yep. I’m doing it. There’s no turning back now.

I’ve always thought that it would be fun to have an electric car, even if they are less practical than a fuel vehicle at the moment. I like EVs. For a long time now, I’ve been sort of halfheartedly wanting to do a conversion, but the price of parts has always been the killer to that ambition. Even for the most basic conversion with lead batteries and DC motors, you probably won’t get away with under $7-8,000 (if you bought all the parts), not including the vehicle, and it will be extremely stripped down. AC and lithium systems will easily cost 5 figures (if you bought all the parts).

Emphasis on if you bought all the parts. I’m lucky to be surrounded by some ne’er-do-well friends who bought out the remains of failed electric car companies or worked at battery companies designing lithium ion battery modules (and abandoned ship before they went full Titanic and now run nuclear reactors). Stationed in the next lab cluster down the hall is an electric vehicle club bored of full size cars and now totally into bicycles and motorcycles, with their attendant spare and unused parts. Downstairs is an auto shop with a 2-post auto lift (and 19″ giga-lathe among other toys). But most importantly, I now have a real parking spot in the basement garage of the apartment complex I currently reside in (and which I pay a fee for it in the rent anyway, so why not?). The alignment of circumstances means #yolo the time is right.

Operation MIKUVAN

This story starts a few weeks ago through a combination of peer pressure and realizing that the stars of electric hoonage were lining up. If you’ve ever had friends offer you narcotics or alcohol, it’s like that except 150kW induction motors, inverters and LiFePO4 battery modules. Don’t make my mistakes, kids.

My derpy Japanese van fandom took a back seat (…) to other interests in the intervening years between high school and now, but I always thought about it from time to time. Living in the extremely dense Cambridge-Boston area means I never need a car (and if I do, all sorts of rental car agencies abound). Hence, any car I buy would have to be worth driving to justify the expense of parking, insurance, fuel, etc. Did I say fuel? My grad student income at the time was also (of course) insufficient to take on any kind of project like this. These days, being a shop instructor pays better – not the most glorious job, of course, given the mixed income priorities of our current economy, but I like the environment and interacting with the students.

So recently, every once in a while, I’d breeze the local Craigslists to see if there were any easy catches nearby. I always passed them up since I couldn’t ever justify throwing down a thousand plus dollars. The last cab-over style vans imported into the U.S. were sold in 1989 and 1990, so anything I could get from the Northeast would probably be more rust than van. I also checked southern cars around Atlanta, ones I could potentially get and then immediately stuff in my mom’s garage in Atlanta. The most common models of these in the U.S. are the Toyota “Van” and the Mitsubishi “Van” and the Nissan “Van” (in that order). Such naming creativity. The Toyotas dominate by sheer numbers, and there is even a fan club dedicated to them.

Three weeks ago, I came upon this listing in the Harrisburg area Craigslist.

Hmm. I’m not even sure what that is, but it looks a little dinged up. The ad specifically said it wasn’t running. It was $1,000, but I figured I could leverage that fact to talk the seller down a bit. This was clearly where all the Equals Zero Designs revenue was gonna go (OH GOD EVERYONE, BUY MORE RAGEBRIDGES PLEASE)

A few back and forths with the seller about what the state the vehicle actually was in, and I became more confident that it could be a worthwhile effort.  A history report on the vehicle checked out clean, and further pictures from the seller showed that the body and interior were in good condition, save for some rust spots on the outer body panels typical of a 20+ year old northern car. I trusted the seller when he said there was basically no frame rust, and that it has just stopped running about a month ago. At the time, it sounded like an easy fix.

Fast forward until Saturday morning, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Team Mikuvan comprised myself, Dane (of Transistor-Man), Adam (of Flux Wonderland), and Cynthia (of Cynaesthetics). The plan was simple: Rent a local U-haul truck and trailer, and drop the thing at the nearest auto parts outlet and try to get it running in the parking lot, then (very carefully) driving it back to Boston. I would mention the best laid plans of mice and men, but these plans, best laid they were not.

This was actually my first time driving a trailer, especially a trailer I couldn’t see. I had to get used to getting into the next lane over to make a turn, and my simulated trucker skills were tested to the max on occasions.

On location and checking out the goods. I basically declare it “Item As Described”. Indeed, there were two rust holes in the bodywork – near the front wheelwell where it intersects with the boarding step by the front door, which seems like water could just have puddled in that area. Other than that, very minor patches on the body, and virtually none on the frame and underbody. For the price, I’m not going to be extremely picky.

Here’s what it looks like from the front.

Dat 5mph bumper.

And a rear quarter shot. The blacked out OEM paint in the front makes the greenhouse look bigger than it is, and it really imparts an 80s LEGO set spaceship kind of appearance. I approve.

Here’s a look inside. These types of vans have the engine compartment directly over the front axle, in a camel hump. The passenger essentially sits over the engine, and the driver over the battery and coolant bucket. To do most mechanical work, you have to drop the engine or get it on a lift. I kind of see why these things never took off. Plus, the later models tended to catch fire because the Japanese had to design bigger engines into them than was thermally prudent in order to keep up with American demands.

The engine did turn over, but did not fire. It burped once or twice to no avail, which was at least a good sign that it wasn’t seized or something. There was basically no coolant, and very little oil.

Scoping out the rest of the interior and checking out the electrical dongles. The seller let us temporarily install one of his batteries in the bay to make sure the lights, sounds, and spinning hubcaps all worked.

With the deal completed, it was time to attach it to the trailer. Because the engine wouldn’t generate horsepower, we resorted to manpower. I sat in the cab and steered (and pulled the e-brake).

We backed it up about 50 feet from the trailer and gave me a running start…

I was legitimately afraid of becoming a Youtube sensation, but it all worked out in the end. I stopped early the first time, since I forgot that this thing doesn’t have front wheels, it just has middle wheels.

Glory. After the physical loading, the seller and I went to a local tag office to transfer the title and for me to pick up a temporary plate (seeing as how at this point we were still sure that we could get it running in a few hours)

If I thought driving a trailer was fun, then driving a trailer with 3000 more pounds on it was even more fun.

We landed in south Harrisburg near a strip of road where there were a dozen garages and car parts places within 2 miles. During this trip, I learned that there were really only 2 ways to drive a trailer – either you are slow and gently moving, turn signals flashing all the time such that people are eyeing you and staying away…. or FUCK YOU, I’M BIGGER. Both seem to be legitimate.

I’m proud to say I only hopped one curb. Here’s the initial stating and plotting of the attack plan. We were going to just follow the “Engine won’t start” debugging chain in the shop manual I bought on eBay the week before.

Starting the intial teardown of the cab. We wanted to expose as much of the engine as possible, just in case the Thingiemadoobob needed to be removed to access the Widgetizing Sensor.

 

Trying to locate and figure out where various pipes, hoses, and wires go.

Mike, another friend skilled in automotive misadventures, lent me a timing light for the weekend, and we also had a compression checker. The first thing to check was spark and compression, just to verify the fact that yes, in fact the engine is still engine-like. Despite having the timing light, I don’t think we used it correctly, and ended up checking the sparks manually (taking one out at a time), which may not actually have told us anything about how it worked in-place. All 4 cylinders of the engine were verified good for compression.

I bought a new starting battery from Advance Auto Parts. The battery tray was full of random bits of styrofoam for some reason. Another interesting thing to note is that the coolant tank was missing. The seller claimed it worked fine and that he just needed to periodically top off from the radiator.

…Okay?!

I also bought all new spark plugs. This is a picture of an old one – it’s pretty gross. The seller mentioned the engine did burn oil, and it looks like it has been doing so for a long time.

The afternoon is slowly turning into evening. We’ve moved onto checking the fuel system now – fuel pump, fuel filter, the injector rail, and finally the injectors themselves.

The trailer itself acted as a makeshift auto lift. The van is hollow enough underneath that we could sit up and work instead of lying on our backs. The first order of business was checking the fuel pump for functionality. We jumped 12 volts directly to it and heard it run (and felt it pressurize the fuel line), then verified that the plug going back to the rest of the vehicle was also giving it 12 volts when trying to start.

Two’s company. One person held the alligator clips and the other checked the fuel line pressure.

We did find a pen in the engine, but sadly it was not the cause of the problems.

The rest of the day before it got dark was spent failing to get at the injectors (it would have required significant disassembly of the throttle body, as far as I could tell), and using carb cleaner directly in the rail to try and clean the input side out. We didn’t try replacing the fuel filter or bypassing it. After it got too dark to work, we called it a day and checked into a local hotel.

Here I am quintuple-parking in the lot. I had Dane box me in using the rental car to ensure that nobody else does – I’ve seen someone else get boxed in by other cars, so that’s why I thought of it. It’s now Sunday morning.

With the U-Haul already late a day, we made the decision to get back to Boston before sundown. I rented local, so for the one-way trip back, we had to swap trailers. This involved some amusing e-brake offloading from the trailer, then subsequently reloading onto a new one. The U-Haul guys were grumpy at first that we were demanding a one-way rental at the end of the month on a walk-in reservation, but they came back out with towing chains and ratchet straps shortly thereafter and helped with loading up.

The same “Come At Me, Bro” run-up technique was used to load the van for the return trip.

All loaded up and ready. We broke convoy since there were two of us who were van bums and two with real jobs they needed to get back in town soon for. The drive back was like any, except slower and with a lot more staring at lane changes.

And tolls. My god, the tolls. I’m fairly certain they were counting axles on the van, too. The Tappan Zee bridge (my usual northeast gateway) suddenly became $25, from $5 for a single car.

Adam rode in the van all the way back.

No, not really, though we did want to troll drive-through fast food places by placing 2 orders from the same vehicle train.

The unloading procedure was only slightly shady. Basically, the entrance to the garage is on a long down-sloped road. The trailer was parked upstream, and I rolled down, whipped a quick turn to point into the garage, then was pushed over the curb cut and coasted most of the way to the spot. A final shove exploited the van’s 25-ish foot turn circle and I nosed into my spot.

Now, getting this thing back out is going to be incredibly adventurous.

My time in the next few days will be spent preparing for the Second Great Go-Kart Race, the finale of 2.00gokart. I want to get in a good debugging day on this thing in the coming week, at least to pinpoint what’s wrong. I really do want to get it running, but because of the overlying goal of going full electrons, I’m not going to spend a great deal of effort trying to get the gas engine going again. If the fix requires an engine drop, it’s staying dropped and going on eBay or Craigslist, and I am going all-in.

The current state of the engine:

  • Fuel pump: Functional
  • Fuel filter: Unknown, but feels fine
  • Fuel injectors: Unknown
  • Spark: All 4 plugs verified independently, not in-place
  • Compression: Yes
  • Timing: Unverified
  • Vacuum: Why the hell do cars have vacuum systems?
  • Crank sensor: Unverified
  • Fuel pressure sensor: Unverified

Most of the people I’ve talked to who know a thing or two seem to point to the injectors, but I’m really wondering if all 4 of them can clog or break at once. It seems like a small, single point of failure which is not mechanical is stopping the engine from working.

I’ve considered patching together a quick slow drive system that bolts into the rear bumper or underframe which will at least help with garage extraction and act as a push-assist. Nothing major, just big wheelchair motors or a spare ETEK motor or two and welded steel. The trip from garage to auto lift is basically 1 mile, but on city streets. I suspect much night-hoofing will be done and orange glowy triangles and emergency blinkers will be involved. I don’t anticipate starting the conversion until summer at the earliest, and am basically anticipating it being a multi-year project much like LOLrioKart, except much bigger and more complicated! Shenanigans shall commence.

So, why is  it called MIKUVAN?

No particular reason.

Just one of my usual random project nicknames.

I’ll probably end up naming it Derpyvan or something. However, this is definitely one form of decoration I would unironically drive.

Arduino Controls 15kW Electric Motor

Apr 05, 2013 in Electric Vehicle Design, MIT & Boston, Stuff

Motor control companies are scared people will use this “weird” device to slash their motor controller costs! See shocking video before they shut it down!

 

The More Official Launch of Everything, and What’s on the Horizon This Year

Feb 28, 2013 in Bots, MIT & Boston, Stuff

It is with the greatest feeling of exhaltation and fear for the future of robotkind that I officially announce the opening of Big Chuck’s Robot Warehouse Adafruit Heavy Industries Co. Ltd. e0designs. Hell, I even went as far as to get stickers.

I’m still flabbergasticulated at how much better everything looks with a generic Avery shippping label attached to it. Get your RageBridge today! Some other potentially exciting products are coming, of course, and these will only get better as more real world usage data returns to me.

With business-business taken care of for now, I’m going to return to ruminating a bit about what *I* want to do now. This year’s already gotten off to a great start, what with infinity sweet-ass machined parts and assembled PCBs and Motorama and junk.

the robot end of things

Clocker’s performance at Motorama was hampered by some typical “teething” issues with not thoroughly tested first-event bots. So, my short term goal is to just get it running reliably. Besides switching first to #25H (heavy) chain, which has by my measurements 33% thicker side plates than the regular 25, I’m also planning on modifying how the legs attach to the frame. The legs just used the threads on shoulder screws to hold the pressure of about 9″ or so of leverage, and those stripped out at the event after a few runs into walls.

Check out those bent shoulder screws with chunks of 1/4″-20 screw thread in them.

Short of finding a way to double support that area, I’m thinking of just massively single-supporting it, making a spacer with a bore of 1/2″ or so and tightening a long screw most of the way through the standoff. Putting that whole region into compression means the leg has to transmit much more force before causing plastic deformation or breakage of the metal. The primary reason behind this is that double supporting was not really feasible without making the fork even narrower due to the positioning of the screw heads, which is something I didn’t want to do.

I’m willing to give one more event to see how the single support performs; if needed, then things will get narrower to fit.

Besides the leg attachment and chain, I intend on rebuilding the clamp actuator. Right now, with a 1/2″-10TPI ACME leadscrew as the primary linear motion element, it suffers a little from nut-and-bolt syndrome where if the clamp runs against a limit, it likes to tighten so much it can’t get loose again!

Clearly suboptimal. What I’m thinking of doing is switching to a fast-travel, high helix angle leadscrew. This would mean I’d have to gear the actuator motor more again, but the output will travel many pitches for one rotation of the screw (or nut). The higher helix angle makes bolting yourself far less likely.

To this end, I bought some 5-start 1/2″ fast-travel leadscrews on McMaster. They go a full 1/2″ per turn!

This is some premium shit – the nut costs $30 and the screw $40. The screw is a higher grade of steel (4140) though, and it’s heat treated, so overall this whole thing will be way more rigid than the current screw.

These changes are all slated to occur Whenever – Clocker will hopefully have monthly jousts and sparring sessions to keep me in practice, so I’m looking to complete these mods in the next 2 or 3 weeks. I’m going to have to pick a new geared motor for the clamp actuator (not in the mood to chop another drill gearbox given their recent quality declination) and also move away from the extremely shady chain drive that is part of the current actuator. Maybe to less-shady chain, but in the best case I’d want to go back to a gear drive.

other bots

I’m kind of itching for another bot again, but it has to not be substantial enough to take attention away from Clocker. Through much discussion at Motorama, I’m going to create a pilot or prototype for something that we want to field later this year (such as at Dragon*Con) or next year at Moto ’14.

That’s it. You’ll have to wait and see.

The Curious Design Space Intersection Between Engineering and Cute Anime Girls

Jan 11, 2013 in Stuff

As a brief aside from my ongoing efforts to transform my new “storefront” website e0designs.com, which apparently 1700 of you have already seen in a state of abject disorganization with phrases like “polka dotted bacon strips” interspersed between stock grainy photos of robot parts, I’d like to draw your attention to a particularly niche interest of mine which I hope to draw more into the spotlight through 2013 as one of my ill-thought-out New Years resolutions (one of which was making that website, and 90% of which have already been shamelessly abandoned).

First of all, a design space is a somewhat wishy-washy word for the set of all independent variables, and hence all theoretically possible variations, of a certain design. We can say for example that the design space of all wheels encompasses variables like diameter, tread pattern, tread material, core material, bearing type, bore size, width, and potentially many more. A design space for Uberclocker’s fork might be all the possible lengths of forks, angles of departure from the ground,  and placement of the center axle that meet the goal of not making the robot lurch forward upon lifting an opponent, which we would have to define specifically as a test case. Design spaces are usually associated with goals or cost functions, and design space analysis is aimed at meeting the desired criterion of the design through systematic breakdown of requirements and approaches.

What the hell does that have to do with anything? Nothing. I’m just saying that the design space intersection between engineering projects and anime girls is too small. The total space of all that can be designed and built, and the total space of all that is representable as adorabu and Japanese, needs to be expanded.

Which is why I would like to present the work of Cynthia Lu now, as a testament to her powerful integrative design approach towards expanding the space of solutions for making engineering kawaii. Cynthia is the mastermind behind Arduino-chan:

What. I know, right?! She also has a tumblr which contains other gems like Team XBee. I foresee much fanfiction potential between Arduino-chan and her XBee friends, seeing as how often real XBee modules are used in conjunction with Arduinos. She’s also working on her visual art and graphics design career in other ways.

(For more information on the extremely Japanese practice of moe-anthropomorphism, see this TVTropes article, because I’ve abandoned Wikipedia completely for such things, though their article is also quite comprehensive.)

Anyways, I have nothing else particular to say on the matter. Stay tuned for an update on Chibikart running with Hall sensors, as well as an Überclocker update!

RageBridge is Out for Production!

Jan 05, 2013 in Stuff

Where in the world is RageBridge? Well, right now, it’s in the hands of the Shenzhenistani, as I have committed 100 boards to be fabbed and assembled as of Wednesday night.

That’s right. I’m all in. Come late January and going into February, I and my cohorts and enlisted minions hope to be able to begin filling orders. A new website is being set up and populated, and soon it will even have meaningful content to link to! Right now, it’s kind of a hollow shell and embarrassing to look at.

Here’s what went down after the publication of the Market Survey, which you should STILL take if you haven’t!.

(By the way, if you haven’t gorged yourself on How to Build your Everything Really Really Fast… well, it’s right there.)

While the survey was filling out, I was in fact busy designing yet another board revision. I promised no more, but in fact I wanted to add a few last finishing details. The adventures of the previous update with the boost converter told me that I had to better isolate the processor and current sensors (consumers of 5V logic power) from the current-laundering schemes of the 15V boost converter. One suboptimality was the placement of the 5V bus capacitor:

The red circle is the ceramic 5V logic regulator output capacitor, basically the big 10-gallon bucket of electrons that smooths out the wavy voltages coming from the inductor (L1). The issue is that it is on the other side of the inductor as the rest of the 5V circuit, indicated by the green highlight. Imagining that every trace was a resistor (which it is of course), the voltage-smoothing effects of the capacitor are very limited on the side which needs smooth power the most!

Oops. Chalk it up to Energetic Board Design. While this resulted in no problems in testing, I still wanted to change it. The ICs all have their local bypass capacitors, but they are very small (0.1uF). So, any disturbances injected onto the 5V rail will cause worse voltage fluctuations than if there were a large capacitor sitting on it. Think dropping a rock into a bowl of water vs. the proverbial 10 gallon bucket.

The fix was to … add another capacitor on the other side. Pretty simple.

It involved a little component-moving, but now there is another ceramic capacitor of equal size on the other side of the inductor. I also necked down the trace width severely going from said inductor to the 5V logic side compared to the path to the gate drive boost converter to function as a sort of resistive bottleneck – the power consumption of +5V logic is going to be pretty steady, but the boost converter will pull power in pulses. It’s another attempt to shield the more sensitive logic from the rough and tumble of the power side.

But that’s the little change.

The big change is the clearing of space for, and subsequent installation of, a small potentiometer to ADJUST YOUR CURRENT LIMIT!

Directly inspired by the market survey, I realized that a staggering amount of people wanted control of what the limit was. A larger percentage simply wanted adjustability, but a significant number also wanted the ability to completely disable it.

Well, I obliged, and agree that it’s a good idea. After all, 1 current limit does not fit all motors, and I fully believe in the freedom to explode your electronics if you choose to do so; because it’s another sale for me, right?

A 4mm miniature trimpot connected to my LAST ANALOG INPUT will function as an adjustable current limit input. Then, in the latest code, the pot is read a few dozen times (to make sure it’s not crazy) once at power-on to establish the limit. So, it’s not something you adjust live, but can be changed on power-cycle. After a certain threshold, the current limit is removed entirely and hence physically limited only by the motor and system resistance, plus or minus grenading the transistors.

I tested the proof of concept on the black board by … gluing a potentiometer onto it.

Pretty much. After getting this to work, I committed it to the board design with some more component moving and rerouting of traces to clear a path to the last ADC pin.

Here’s a picture of the version 5 boards, also the release candidate.

Because at this point it was basically the 2nd week of December, I elected to pass over MyroPCB, my usual board house, in the interest of just getting a board or two from Advanced Circuits (my other preferred place). It would take much less time, which was of the essence – I wanted to make sure it wasn’t delayed by the Christmas holidays. So, sadly, these board versions are green. Rest assured, however, that the boards being produced are completely murdered out. Black board, black chips, and black FETs. I ought to have the thing black conformal coated for that effect. Too bad, though, that the capacitors are brown with white striping. Hey Panasonic, throw me some black-on-black caps!

Under the left board is a production sample heatsink plate. I sourced these using my e-tentacles on mfg.com, and they come with a silicone insulator pad bonded to it. So, assembly of the boards will be just plopping the thing onto the heat sink. I’m going to build another version of my Nifty Bullet-Connector-Based Test Jig to power and function test the boards when they arrive. Inevitably there will be some duds, so I’d rather spend a few hours with comrades and pizza sniffing them out.

I’m sufficiently amused by the whole process of setting up a board for production through Myro that I kind of want to write all up, step by step, as a case study. It’s definitely not trivial and there was much legwork to me done on my end, like setting up the bill of materials (BOM) with specific details that I would otherwise have hand-waved or ignored. Myro’s quoting and purchasing process is also a little… mysterious. Getting boards done through them before was invaluable experience for stepping up to assembly.

With all that said, here’s the current battle plan:

The boards will be ready to ship, if all goes right, by the 1st week of February. I intend on bringing a pile to Motorama Robot Conflict 2013 – if you’re going, feel free to swipe one off me there.

Orders will be taken through my brand new website e0designs.com. Quit laughing – I know there’s nothing worth reading there yet. January will be spent making a better manual, collecting test data for current and temperature, and refining the firmware.

The trim levels and pricing are the following:

  1. $180 gets you the board, with heat sink plate, but without wire pigtails. A header pin group will be provided but not installed for people who want to, for instance, solder signal cable pigtails.
  2. $200 gets you the board with headers and 6″ long power and motor wire pigtails soldered, ready to connect using servo cables to your signal source. No connectors are included.

The tech support policy is send your questions to a future form service that will be on the e0designs.com website.

And finally, the return policy is flat fee, no questions asked for exchanges stemming from failures and burnouts, except for dead-on-arrival which will be the buyer’s responsibility to ship back for exchange or refund within n days, where n is a number to be determined. The fee is not yet settled. Think Castle Creations’ policy regarding these kinds of things.

Finally, in a commitment to make the controller world a better or at least more varied and colorful place (…says the creator of the black board), the source code and design files will be made available on e0designs.com when shipments begin. Who wants to try and race me to the first quadruple-FET-per-leg Ragebridge?

Keep in mind these terms are not final and are still being discussed and vetted!

But that’s not all.

Whatever happened to the DeWuts?

Remember the cheesy 3D printed DeWalt motor holder? I handed the design off to my preferred Sketchy Chinese CNC Co. Ltd. in mid-December to be duplicated in steel and aluminum. I’m actually more excited about this than the RageBridges for some reason, probably because I still like mechanical things and Überclocker 3 is counting on these hardcore.

Anyways, these ought to be coming home to roost in mid January (soon! Oh, how soon…).  I intend on pushing these out to the new web shop too, for shipment also at the beginning of Feb.

The anticipated price for these is $100 for the full kit, bring-your-own motor. The full kit constitutes the three 6061 aluminum billet components of the mount, the 1566 steel integrated output shaft with retaining ring, the Delrin gearshift locking lever with securing hardware, and motor mounting screws. With the average cost of aftermarket DeWalt drill motors and gearboxes being about $70-80, figure on having a DeWalt 12-18v drive setup ready to roll for a bit under $200. I’m not planning on full-assembled kits yet, but after more thinking and discussion this could change, too.

Overall, this has been a very exciting start to the 2013 year, and a great if somewhat belated start to the Third Five-Year Plan (A post on the progress made under the Second Five-Year Plan will be forthcoming).