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Pacific Rim: Nuclear Vortex Turbine

This past Halloween I really wanted to making something impressive. I still wanted to pluck something from my favorite movie, Pacific Rim, to continue my theme from last year. I already had a nice leather jacket with the Gipsy Danger logo, a kaiju kill count row, and some patches. This year I needed something better... more complicated...


It didn't take long for my focus to shift toward the star jaeger's eye candy, the thing that really made it visually pop - the cool Iron-Man-like chest turbine thing. Specifically, in the context of the movie, it's called a Nuclear Vortex Turbine (NVT). What it really does, and how it technically works probably isn't a good question to ask... Just know that it looks really cool. This was the perfect thing to not only make, but also make function. I needed it to spin. I needed it to glow.

My plan was to make something I could wear on my chest that would be heavily modeled after the NVT from Gipsy Danger. I would use leather straps arou…
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Steampunk'd Glowing Nerf Persuader

This is something I've wanted to do ever since I started seeing it on the internet. It struck me as a very easy way to make a high quality steampunk gun without spending loads of time building every piece of it. Most people don't have the skills for that. For the ones that do, like myself, sometimes the time or motivation to do that level of work isn't there.

I love Nerf guns blasters. I loved them as a kid because I could shoot them all over the house, at my brother, etc. As an adult (some people I know would disagree with using this term to describe me) and engineer, I still like them because I can shoot them all over the house. I also developed an interest in the technology Nerf has come up with over the years to expand and progress their blasters. Another aspect I enjoy is learning about how the blasters are designed & assembled given that they are all injection molded. I've been involved in the design of several such parts and I always find gems hidden inside…

3D Printed Mechanical Pencil

What better way is there to spend multiple consecutive weekends than sitting at your computer, redesigning a mechanism that has existed for decades, all to be able to 3D print something that can be bought at the store for less than $1? ... That's right, anything. However, when your co-worker throws down the gauntlet there is only one thing to do. Take it up.


This is how the 3D printed mechanical pencil came to be. Luckily though, it actually works pretty well and has enough style to spare.  
This pencil has 4 separate parts and was printed fully assembled as shown in the image below. Its about 6" long and 1/2" in diameter at its maximum, not including the pocket clip. It takes standard 0.9mm lead and 7mm diameter erasers. Three extra pieces of lead can be stored behind the eraser. I would have liked to do a more common lead size like 0.7mm or 0.5mm but the feature sizes required to hold lead that small are very difficult to achieve even on high resolution printers. Its …

3D Printed Tape Measure

Going off the success of my 3D printed dial calipers, I decided to try to print something even more elaborate. But what to print? I contemplated several options but ultimately decided to print a tape measure.


Originally I didn't think a tape measure would be that interesting... I mean, it doesn't even have gears. Once I started piecing it together in my mind and determining the acceptable "cool factor", I realized that the parts count alone was skyrocketing. My calipers had 9 pieces, this tape measure would have well over 100... Now things were getting interesting.

I decided to attempt this based on the parts count and the fact that, if successful, I would be able pull out over 4ft of tape from something about 3" sq. Also, I had no better ideas at the time.


I designed the tricky parts first, then I printed little test pieces here and there to validate the design before integrating them together. Right around the time I starting adding all the cutouts in the main…

3D Printed Dial Calipers

3D printing initially interested me because of its ability to create physical parts very quickly with nearly any geometry. By the time I had access to a 3D printer the ability to print virtually any shape had already been well proven and had even become common place. I was then introduced to the idea that multiple parts could be printed together, assembled, and captured. This may seem like a new concept but it is merely a new way of looking at 3D printing. The printer doesn't care how many pieces its printing, or even if they are connected.

I had seen adjustable wrenches printed already assembled. In the same fashion, I designed a c-clamp to try my hand at this concept. The camp worked perfectly. So then the question became "What's next?"


Dial Calipers. Yes. That sounded more than complicated enough with its gears, dials, and half dozen moving parts. I guess the irony of 3D printing a precision measurement tool with, what is normally considered, an imprecise manufac…

Telepresence Robot

One night I was watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon made a telepresence robot to avoid physical interaction with people. As I watched that scene I thought to myself "I could do that." So I did.

My main motivation in building this was to use it to telepresence with my family back in the north east. I figured this would be a lot more fun and interesting than just the usual Skype session. 

The design is pretty simple: a motorized base with a laptop up top and a webcam. The base has two geared brushed motors which are controlled by the laptop via USB. I used a Maestro from https://www.pololu.com/ which lets you control standard r/c equipment from a PC. I then wrote a little C# windows app which connects to the Maestro and then could control the motors. This app also could connect to another instance of itself over the internet in either a master or slave mode which would allow external control.


The webcam was mounted on a simple gimbal which allowed pan/til…

4ch Plane with Retactable Landing Gear

This is the most mechanically complicated plane I've ever built. It has a wing span of 9.5", weighs 4.25g, has full flying rudder and elevator, and retractable landing gear.


Flight times on this airplane are in the 7-10 minute range with a 30mAh single cell lithium polymer battery. The frame is all made from carbon fiber rod or tube in the 0.5mm - 1.5mm range. The covering is OS film and is 0.5-1 micron thick.

The propulsion system uses a 4mm 10ohm motor, geared down 6:1, driving a 3.25" carbon fiber propeller. The servos that drive the rudder and elevator are each 400mg and are my own custom design. Oh, and the tail wheel is steerable.


Ground handling on this plane is amazing and arguably the most fly part of not-flying it. Landing gear is very very uncommon on micro planes. So, being able to do things like take offs, landings, and touch & goes just makes this plane very cool. When it does get in the air it flies very slow. Although, it has enough thrust to get goin…