Entries in Category Engineering and Inventions

First Flight of the Falcon Heavy

Yesterday I made the three-hour pilgrimage north to Kennedy Space Center to gawk at the first test flight of the most powerful operational rocket in the world, SpaceX's Falcon Heavy. Short of buying a ticket, my position on the causeway bridge of the A. Max Brewer Parkway is probably one of the best views to be had of both Pad 39A, from which the rocket launched, and of Landing Zones 1 and 2 to the south at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where the side boosters landed in textbook unison.

Here's the video, taken with my GoPro clamped to the bridge railing:

I took some still photos as well; the best ones are in a Flickr album. Enjoy!

Crystal Palace Upgrade

Another year, another fix to Crystal Palace, a somewhat cheaply built clone of the Prusa i3 V2 3D printer that I've been upgrading steadily since I bought it last summer. This time the extruder cooling fan failed, so I ran down some superior ball-bearing replacements and got it running today.

Happy New Year to my readers!

A Cam Mechanism Hole Punch

I'm informed by google's doodle that today is the 131st anniversary of the invention of the hole punch. Here's a lovely example from my office:

Some Notes on Crystal Palace

I've put my notes on assembling, fixing, and upgrading Crystal Palace, my 3D printer, on this page. The machine is a Prusa i3 v2 clone made by Reprapguru, and it's needed a lot of improvements to get to the level of quality and reliability it currently enjoys. Hopefully these notes will be useful to anyone else that has this machine or one like it.

Link Dump, March 2017

  • By now surely everyone has heard that SpaceX has accepted “significant deposits” from two private citizens for a trip around the moon, using SpaceX's Dragon capsule and Falcon Heavy rocket. The video above is some lovely footage from the last SpaceX mission, showing their reusable booster returning to a landing pad at Cape Canaveral.
  • Not to be outdone, Blue Origin have revealed completed units of its new BE-4 engine, intended for their own orbital New Glenn platform.
  • Paris-based startup Hypersuit is developing a virtual reality platform that the user lies down on, simulating bird-like flight, spacewalks, swimming, etc. I’ve got a personal story to tell about this. The first time I tried a development version of Oculus Rift with my friends Antonio Haley and Jon Lusk, one of the demos was a 360 degree video of a wingsuit flight from a cliff in some impressively vertiginous fjord someplace, probably Norway. After trying it standing up, my first instinct was to run to our warehouse area and bring over a furniture dolly (a sort of wheeled platform for moving cargo around) to lie on, belly-down as wingsuit flyers do. One of my comrades brought over a desk fan to add something to the simulation. Obviously I looked ridiculous. But I’m glad someone did something serious along these lines!
  • And another wacky idea from France: a fleet of autonomous personal hydrofoils for urban river transport? It looks cool enough but I'm skeptical of this one; it's a bit too TED-friendly if you take my meaning.
  • The port of Rotterdam has been operating some aquatic robots designed to collect floating trash. I’ve considered building something like this. In coastal south Florida there are many marine canals in residential backyards and there’s quite a bit of trash in those canals, to the point that real estate agents know that lots at the end of those canals, where trash accumulates, are less desirable. To my mind, the dealbreaker with selling a trash-collecting skimmer robot is the prosaic part of frequently having to lift a heap of gathered trash from some sort of bin in the robot, four feet up from the water surface, to the homeowner’s dock for disposal. But we’ll see what operational experience in Rotterdam reveals!