Wednesday, July 16, 2014

One Year = 600 Hours Work = One Velomobile

YES! My velmobile is completed!

 After one years time and 600 hours of designing and building I officially declared at 7:00 pm tonight that my Radius T-T velomobile project is completed.  It has been a long and fun process to create what you see here.  For those of you who do not already know the name Radius T-T comes from radius being the rounded shape of my design and T-T being short for TerraTrike which is the recumbent trike that is the heart of the machine.

I spent last night mounting the body to the chassis, mounting the hood to the body, installing the windshield, and mounting various locking straps and check straps to the interior of the velo.  By nine o'clock I was done in for the day so I called it quits until this evening when I installed the rear view mirrors and finally put my tools away once again and grabbed my camera.

The paint as you can see from the photos turned out beautifully.  Hard to believe that this paint was not sprayed on but was brushed on.  I love the gloss and the whole paint scheme turned out great.  I really like the little mirrors being a useful and great looking addition to the velo.

I took all kinds of photos tonight of the velo and this one stood out as a keeper.  The body of the velo has a very clean smooth shape and this photo shows that off nicely.

This is what the velo looked like last September.  Hard for me to imagine back then that it would turn out like the photo below. 

My velomobile is 8 1/2 feet long, 37 inches tall, and 36 inches wide.  I weighed the body before I mounted it to the chassis of the TerraTrike Tour II.  The TerraTrike weighs 35 lbs by itself.  The body weighs another 45 lbs with absolutely everything that you see on it.  So I am happy that I got the weight pretty close to my target weight that I wanted and looking as good as it does.  
  Now once I get some free time I can start doing some test runs with it and getting any bugs out of it should they show up. I know the neighbors have been lining up waiting for me to roll it out of the garage after all of this time to get a look at the finished product.  It will be a show stopper in my little town that I live in.  
  First stop will be the police department in town.  I know for sure they will pull me over just to find out what the heck it is that is cruising down the main street.  I know I would do the same if I saw something like this and didn't know that it was human powered.  Will be interesting to see the look on their faces when they take a look at it. As soon as I can get a video camera operator I will shoot a short video of it running around.  Should also be interesting to see.  In the mean time enjoy these photos.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Velomobile Mirror STL Files And Instructions Now Are Available

With the massive amount of interest and email I have received over this past year about my velomobile project I have decided to make available to all you velomobilist (is that a word?) out there that I am offering for sale the STL files and instructions to make your own rear view mirrors for your velomobile project. Sorry I'm not about to make plans for my velomobile itself.  That would take another year  at least just to figure out how to put that all together.  But at least you can make the mirrors that you have been looking for.

These files and instructions can be purchased on my Projects Plans and  3D Printer STL Files link on this site for only $5.00.  To make a set of mirrors you will need to have a 3D printer, purchase simple to find hardware, a set of two inch blind spot mirrors, and paint.  In the easy to follow instructions you will be shown how to assemble the mirrors and mount them on to you velomobile.  Place an order for the STL files and instructions and make your payment using PayPal.  Once I receive confirmation of your payment I will send you an email with the files that you ordered.  Fast and easy and usually orders are emailed out within a couple of days.  So if you have been searching for the right mirrors for your velomobile project now is the time to place an order. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Big And Little Tweaks For Final Assembly Of The Velomobile

My last post I spoke of the problems that occur from time to time in any project.  With the velomobile project I have been fortunate enough to not have to many stumbling blocks that held up progress.  In the past couple of days I have finally ironed out the kinks in the signal light assemblies and got everything up and running properly.  So it looks like I am on the down hill slide as far as this project is going (I am keeping my fingers crossed).  With that in mind here are a few more photos of what I've managed to put together over the past week or so.

In the interior of the velomobile are two control boxes (one on the left of the seat another on the right) to activate the signal and emergency flasher lights. The right control box holds the battery pack for the lights that can easily be removed when need be for replacement.  

  The photo above shows all of the wiring that needed to be place inside the left hand control box along with two signal light controllers.  The 12 volt battery pack is standing next to the stool on the floor which was placed in the right hand control box.  It took me several hours to sort out the wiring, solder all the connections and test everything.  Then stuff it all into place in the velo.  I was lucky I worked out the wiring diagram beforehand otherwise it would have been a real nightmare to figure out.

From the control box all the wiring is placed into plastic conduit and is fed up to the front and rear lights.  This layout makes for a nice clean look inside the velo.  I designed the clips for the conduit to be able to mount on to the inner ribs of the body and made them using my 3D printer.  The plus side to that is if I should have a conduit clip break I can remove it and make a new one in short order.

Here's a shot of one of the front signal light just as it was flashing.  At this point I breathed a sigh of relief as just this portion of the build was one of the more nerve racking assemblies to put together.

Another assembly that I finished up today were the rear view mirrors for the project. Early on in the designing of the velomobile I knew that I wanted rear view mirrors.  I could have used them when I was driving my TerraTrike recumbent so it was a no brainer to have them on the velo.  I originally was planning on painting the velo bright yellow but opted to go with the red and white  paint scheme and in doing so the yellow 3D printed mirror assemblies (photo  above) needed to be redone. (See Sept 2013 post for more info about the mirror assemblies)

I assembled the mirrors and then used epoxy micro-balloon micture to smooth out all the seams. Once that had dried I sanded the bodies of the mirrors using 600 grit wet/dry sand paper to get them as smooth as possible. When I was happy with my efforts I painted the mirrors with primer.  Sanded everything again and got this very finished looking mirror assembly after a couple of coats of gloss white paint. The mirrors themselves are two inch blind spot mirrors that you would normally use on your car or truck.  The mirrors are angled when mounted and can be rotated to any position you like.  This will make it a lot easier to line up the mirrors once I have them located on the velomobile.

This photo show approximately where the mirrors will be mounted on the velomobile body. I really like the look of the white paint on the mirrors as they will match nicely with the white striping on the body.  I won't mount the mirrors in place until I get the body back on to the frame.  Then once I am in the driver's seat I can see where they will best be placed. 
  With any luck I will have the body back on to the frame some time this week.  Again I am keeping my fingers crossed.  Once I do get this project wrapped up I will shoot some video to show you how it all turned out and give you a better idea of how large the velo is.  In the garage it looks big but I know once I get it outside next to a regular sized car it will look tiny.  Either way with the bright paint, signal and brake lights, along with a nice loud horn I will feel a lot safer with it on the street.  Stay tuned as the end of the build portion of this project is near!  

Monday, June 30, 2014

Velomobile Tail And Signal Lights Are Installed!

As with any project problems and delays happen. This has been the case this week with my velomobile project.  I was all ready to install the signal light assemblies and get them up and running when I found out that one of the controllers for the lights is defective.  So this has put a snag once again in to my progress waiting for replacement parts.  The good news out of all of this is that the tail light  and signal light assemblies (but not working) for the velomobile went into the vehicle without a hitch.  So I have to take the bad with the good like anyone else.  Here are a few photos of what progress was made this week.

That big gaping void that was in the back of the velomobile is finally filled with the tail light assembly that I got put together this morning.  A very nice clean look in my humble opinion. Also you can see that the right rear signal light has also been installed. The only thing missing is the small cover that will close up the opening for the access port to mount the body on to the frame.  I have these parts ready for the big day so I will wait until then to install them.

The rear of the velomobile now houses two different lights.  The upper one being a motion sensitive brake light and the lower one being a standard strobe.  

The rear plexi-glass hatch opens up to allow easy access to the two lights to turn them on and off and also to remove the to replace batteries. The door is held close with a magnetic latch.

This lights really brighten up the rear end of the velomobile and that is always a good thing to have when I am going down the road. 

Here are a couple shots of one of the front signal light assemblies.  The lights went into the velo without a hitch.  Just like I knew what I was doing.  LOL.  The clear plexi-glass cover will help with the air flow around the light when I am moving down the road and it gives it a nice clean look as well. 

Here is a closer look at one of the rear lights as well.   I have all of the internal wiring for the signal lights mounting inside of the velo and am anxious to get the replacement parts I need so that I can get all of the signal lights working properly. Once this is done the body of the velo can be mounted on to the frame and final tweaks can be made to make it road worthy.  Stay tuned for further developments.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

2014 Mini Cooper Rear Storage Box Project

Hello fellow Mini Cooper owners!  I finally completed a project today for my new Mini Cooper S Hardtop that may be of interest to you.  I am fortunate to have finally replaced the Mini Cooper Clubman that I lost in a major fire some time back with this beautiful little machine. 

This is the 2014 Mini Cooper S Hardtop.  I absolutely love it but found one item lacking in the car that I had in my original Mini Cooper Clubman.  In the Clubman when you folded the rear seats down you ended up with a completely flat deck from the rear bumper all the way to the front seats.  Not the case in this new Mini.

This is what the rear of the new Mini looks like once you fold the seats down. I like all of the storage space but don't like the idea that there is no flat deck for hauling larger items.  So I immediately went online to find a solution to this problem. 

Here are a couple photos of the storage box that I could get from Mini.  It looks great and does exactly what I want but I felt the cost of $260 was way more than I wanted to pay.  So this project was born before I even took delivery of my new Mini and I knew I could do it for a lot less. 

I did some preliminary design work on the storage box before the Mini arrived by taking measurements at my local dealership.  These guys are great by the way and I am sure they will be very interested in this project as well.  

These last two images were created using Inventor CAD software and then the computer files were brought into Blender 3D to get these great images.  I wanted the computer model to be as close to the real thing as I could get so I could see  where the project was heading.  One thing that stood out in my mind first off was the top deck of the box once it was closed.  It had to be strong enough to hold a good amount of weight.  Not like I am going to haul concrete blocks in my Mini but I still wanted it to be solid.  I also wanted the deck to be able to hold up over time.  In these images I planned on painting the top deck.  This I found out would not work well as it would easily be scuffed just by hauling groceries for my local market.  So this was another issue that needed to be addressed.

Once my Mini was finally in my hands I was able to get accurate measurements and work out a plan of action to build the deck storage box. I started by creating the box out of foam core and packaging tape.  This was an inexpensive, quick, easy way to create the box and make sure it fit into the car first time I tried it. Already at this point it looked to be a perfect fit. Another thing that needed to be addressed in the build was a vent system that is at the tail end of the car.  I did some research as to why this vent is there in the first place.  It allows air to escape out of the car when you are running the air conditioner.  Like putting air into a balloon the air needs to escape to allow fresh air to continue to come in.  I did not want to block these vents so this had to be considered while designing and building the storage box as well.

The deck storage box lids were made of Styrofoam then cut to size and shape using my CNC machine and it was quite a process to get both doors laid out properly for the project.  Here I put the storage box back into the car with the seats up to check the clearances that I needed for the deck lids to open properly.  Lots of checking and rechecking needed to be done to get everything to fit properly.

To work out the deck of the box I designed two lids that would be made of foam and fiber glass.  These lids would be attached to an additional strip of foam that had hard mounts inserted into the pieces where hinges would be added later on.   

The wooden blocks were bonded to the foam using an epoxy micro-balloon mixture to form a putty mixture and then pressed into place between the foam and the blocks.

The stainless steel hinges were then mounted to the wooden blocks. The doors and rear plate of the storage box deck were then aligned properly.

With the eighth inch thick foam core box already built at a cost of only $5.00 I was so pleased with the look that I decided that it would be simpler just to go ahead and fiber glass the box rather than make a new one out of thicker Styrofoam.  In this photo all of the white that you see on the black faces of the box are what happened when I needed to remove the packaging tape that held the box together.  The tape could not remain on the box as the fiber glass would not stick to it and when I removed the tape it peeled the black paper off of the foam core. This would not be a problem after the fiber glassing was completed as the box would be painted later on.  I then puttied all of the inner joints of the box with fiber glass resin and micro-balloons to make a putty that would bond the box together permanently.  Once the inside had cured I then repeated the process on the outside of the box.  This made the box very strong and lightweight which is always a plus.  I also removed the deck lids from the back mounting strip so this part could be fiber glassed into place on the storage box as well. 

While the storage box was curing I went to work on the two deck lids.  In the photo above you can see the parts that needed to be made using my 3D printer to mount aluminum tubing for the already fiber glassed deck lids. The larger oval shaped part that you see is the vent cover to allow air to flow to the rear vents in the Mini that I spoke about earlier.  This will allow the air to flow back to these vents and not restrict air flow. 

I puttied the vents in place like so many other parts on this project and then taped it off on the inside so that I could paint it black.

I masked of around the vent so that it would also be sprayed with black spray paint.  The reason for the gap around the vent and the tape I will explain later in this post. 

Here the vent has been sprayed and the rest of the deck lid was covered with paper to keep the paint where I wanted it to end up.

Earlier in this post I said that I had to figure out a way to give the deck of the storage box a protective cover rather than just painting it.  I came across a company online named Sim Carbon that makes a vinyl wrap for cars that looks like carbon fiber.  This was perfect.  The price for the material I needed came to $42.50 delivered to my door.  This gave me a piece of material that was four feet by five feet in size which was plenty to do this project and enough left over for a couple smaller projects.  I then proceeded to wrap both deck lids with this material.  It has a sticky back that you press down on to any surface using a squeegee.  It took a little practice to get it to lay down the way I wanted but as you can see it turned out pretty well.  

Here's a close up look of the air vent that I had puttied into place earlier in the project and now has been wrapped in carbon fiber vinyl. I completely covered over the air vent and then used an Exacto knife to trim around the vent.  This gave me a nice clean look and the black paint I had sprayed earlier now matched up nicely with the carbon fiber.

The aluminum tubing used in this project is 1/2 inch in diameter that I bought at my local Menards home store.  I took the tubing and polished it to a nice chrome like finish using a fine grade steel wool.  The photo above show the difference of the polished piece (the one on the bottom) compared to the unpolished pieces above it.  

Inside the storage box I mounted to 3D printed pieces to support the prop rods that would hold the deck lids open if I needed to.  These were as usual bonded into place with the epoxy putty mixture.

Once all of the fiber glassing work had been completed it was time to take the project outside and prime the storage box.  I was lucky to have a nice warm day so this was a quick and easy job.  

After the primer had dried I then laid down a couple coats of gloss black paint.  I turned the box upside down first and painted it. After it had dried I then rolled it right side up to finish the painting.  Very little work needed to be done to the interior of the box as it was very smooth.  

Here is a good shot of the Mini Cooper deck storage box in my kitchen.  The aluminum tubing is held in place with end caps that have internal mounting nuts.  Machine screws come through the underside of the deck into these nuts and hold everything in place. With the mounts being made this way there is no hardware showing when the deck lids are closed.  Gives it a very clean look over all.  The circular ring in the top of the deck lids are finger holes to help open up the storage box lids when it is placed in the Mini Cooper.

Here is a shot of one of the small prop rods for the deck lids.  This is folded away when not it use and can be easily unfolded when needed.  The prop rod has a plastic outer surface with a steel inner shaft to give it strength.  The shaft is nothing more than threaded rod that is screwed into the upper 3D printed mount and a white plastic tip on the end.  Makes for an easy assembly and the look is perfect.

Here is the finished deck cargo box installed into my Mini Cooper.  It turned out very well I think.  The look and fit in the car is exactly what I wanted.  To finish off the inside of the storage box I laid in a foam piece in the bottom of both sections of the box to keep items from rattling around while I was driving.  This material is normally used in tool boxes and was perfect for this project as well. 
  The plus side to all of this is the total cost to make the storage box was only around $100 compared to $260 that the dealership had wanted to order the factory box.  Quite a savings to say the least and as usual to tell someone that I designed and built this great looking cargo box myself is always priceless.  Enjoy the photos.