Welcome to my World.
Here you'll find a showcase of design projects, engineered on my free time within my personal budget (and whomever I can convince to sponsor or donate to my cause).
Most stem from a passion for mechanics and flight, and I have thoroughly enjoyed exercising my curiosity (and calculator) to create something fresh and practical each time.
Why Reinvent the Wheel?
Because the washers that hold the wheel on track cost more than nickels with holes through them.
A lot of what you'll find here has probably already been done before, but I've tried to find better and more affordable ways of getting the job done. The projects and creations I've posted here are simple, cost-effective, nuts-and-bolts solutions to boredom. They're the product of a restless mind full of questions beginning with "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" and an addiction to moving from one project to another to another...
Beyond that, I love to learn how to figure out how things work and how to do new things. I hope to present interesting projects here along with enough information and references that others can explore the same topics and develop a working knowledge in a few clicks. (I'm still working on adding links to howto's and tutorials.)
I've been exposed to airplanes and flight all my life and caught the bug early on. Since I was 11, I've built and flown model airplanes (on and off), and I worked in a mechanics shop at the airport during high school. I could never afford to get my private pilot's license, but still intend to in the future.
In the meantime, wireless video equipment has come to the public market at a reasonable price in the last few years. Video goggles allow an R/C pilot on the ground to fly a model airplane with a view from a cockpit camera onboard.
The thing that makes this experience complete (besides flight instruments and GPS data) is the ability to turn your head and look around. Dissatisfied with the cost and limitations of commercially available systems, I designed a simple mechanical head tracker and pan/tilt system to allow the pilot to gain some mobility in the cockpit (virtually). The mechanical head tracker does not suffer from drift (of gyros or accelerometers) and doesn't require you to face north the whole time you fly (as with electronic compasses). Besides that, the total cost to build was only 6-10% of price tag on commercial products.
Take a look at the 1st prototype on the projects page or see it in action in the video to the right on this page. I've created three other working prototypes since, the current one pictured above.
Computers at Work
How to make your computer help you design airplanes, create webpages, control CNC tools, stitch pictures into panoramas, and allow you to work intuitively and comfortably without crashing, and without getting bogged down with viruses. That's my goal with the computers section on the site.
temporarily pause the slideshow.)
Model Aircraft Design
What could be better suited to video flight than a canard? A canard is an airplane with only lifting surfaces. The horizontal stabilizer is positioned in front of the main wing in this configuration, and the engine is typically located at the rear, behind the main wing. For video flight (or FPV, first person view, as it's called), there's no exhaust flying at the camera, or propellor to get in the way. The camera can take a position as far forward as you like since there's no engine up front. The hobbies page has pictures of canards I've built and/or designed.
As it turns out, canards can be incredibly stable if designed properly, or easily fall out of the sky if not. After several catastrophic flight tests on my first models, I did some research and wrote a graphical program called Canard CG Calculator (or canardcgcalc) to take care of preliminary design calculations. Later I modified that program to work for flying wings and conventional, tail-stabilized airplanes as well. These programs are open source and cross-platform (Linux, Windows, or MacOS). They can be downloaded from the computers page.
I recently learned that Linux has a realtime kernel patch available which allows the OS to sync I/O signals down to a few nanoseconds! Ridiculous. What's more is that it's highly useful for things like computer controlled tools like mills, lathes, hot wires and such. With a little more research, I found that even I could understand the digital logic and simple circuitry involved in the control of stepper motors. (I am of course referring to the most basic stepper controllers, not so much the latest and greatest commercial stepper drivers which fall way outside of my budget.)
a 1/2" circle out of 3/16" acrylic.
I've been looking to learn more about stepper motors and computer tool controls for quite a while, so I decided to give it a shot and see if a CNC mill (computer numerical control) could be built on a budget. Well, MacGuyver would be proud - I've spent the last month building a computer controlled end mill on a budget of $100. This includes the stepper driver circuits to interface with the parallel port, power supply, and all of the materials and hardware to create a 3-axis table with stepper motors, lead screws and the works. Nothing like this exists - I believe my costs (not counting my time) were only 5 to 10% of the closest commercial product. Anyway, then I spent $30 on the bits (endmills) so that I could actually cut something... go figure. I'll continue to post pictures and videos on the projects page as I make cool new airplane parts and such with it. (I have filed for a poor-man's patent. Please do not steal my ideas for commercial use or sale.)
I know furniture doesn't sound very dynamic or exciting, unless you still believe that mechanical engineers just build bridges and skyscrapers. But when I starting looking for some new furniture, it was typically overpriced and never the right size. I started with an office chair and built a custom desk to the measurements of my eye level, arm rests, arm length, leg room, organizational habits, etc.
Later I buit a coffee table suited to the actual typical use of coffee tables, which is not a holder of decorative bowls full of fake fruit where I come from. I decided to toy with some kinematic design concepts and incorporate a fold-out table top. Now I can eat, use my laptop, and sketch or take notes comfortably while sitting at the couch.
I also built a king-size bed with some cool features like backlighting (read "mood lighting" if you're my wife, and convenient hidden power outlets. (Again, please don't attempt to copy my ideas for commercial use or sale.)