Saturday, November 30, 2013

Finally Photos Of Me In My TerraTrike Velomobile

With the Thanksgiving holiday I was happy to spend some time with my son who I rarely get to see and show off the progress of my TerraTrike velomobile project.  Eric (my son) was quite impressed by my handiwork and so I finally had a camera at the ready to shoot some photos of me in the drivers seat.

 Here I am in the drivers seat.  I haven't even gotten the velomobile down the road yet and already I have a big smile on my face.

With me in the drivers seat you get a much better idea of the scale of the vehicle.  I am only 5'8 and of average build and I fill the cockpit just about right.  Just enough room for my shoulders to fit inside.  Eric who is closer to six foot tall and a weight and size to match had a hard time sitting in this obvious custom build vehicle.  I'd have to design a large vehicle for him if he ever wanted one.

This shot gives you a good view of the placement of the speedometer and the leg room that is inside the vehicle.  I was also able to take a look at some possible problem areas that I need to address before I actually take it out on the street.  One of the front wheels has a clearance issue that I will eliminate in the next day or so.

This is a good shot of me sitting inside the vehicle and the tight quarters that make up the interior.  All in all I am happy with how it is all coming together and what little I have to do to fix the minor issues that showed up today while I was inspecting the fit up of me in the drivers seat.  This is all expected so it really is no surprise to me at all.  The sweat shirt says it all and as usual it puts a smile on my face with this project. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

TerraTrike Velomobile Retractable Headlight

The dust has settled once again here at the Tinker's workshop this week with the completion of the retractable headlight assembly for the TerraTrike velomobile project.  I've put together a good video of the assembly and how it all goes together which you will find below in this post.  For now here are a few photos of the newly created assembly.

I started the assembly with the purchase of the light that you see here from a company named Cygolite.  It is a 420 lumen LED light that has a rechargeable battery that will be good for 25 hours of use.  This along with five different functions makes this little 4 inch by 1.5 diameter light really stand out.  

After over 40 hours of design time I came up with this assembly.  The light is mounted in the inside of the cylindrical body of the assembly to hide the light when it is not being used.  This assembly will be mounted to the inside of the hood on the velomobile and only the opening for the light will be visible from the outside once it is mounted in place. 

Inside of the enclosure you can see the LED headlight tucked into the back of the assembly.  

The rear of the assembly has a removable cover so the LED light can be taken out so that it can be recharged when need be.  This cover is held in place using a Velcro strip that is fed through the enclosure and the cap to hold it all into place. 

To move the light into position for use all you need to do is remove another Velcro strip from the rear tabs in the assembly, slid the center tab forward and  reattach the Velcro strip once again to lock the light into position. 

The light is activated from a switch on the underside of the assembly through a hole in the white outer enclosure.  Once you have turned the light on the inner light assembly is moved forward to bring the light out into the open for an unobstructed beam of light.  
  The retractable headlight assembly only weighs 11 ounces and is  10.5 inches long, 2.5 inches wide, and 4.5 inches tall. The large white outer tube assembly was 3D printed in two sections and then bonded together using a fiberglass resin and micro-balloon mixture. Total print time for all of the 3D parts came to 14 1/4 hours.  I think the wait was worth it.  Check out the video below to see the entire assembly in pieces and an animation below of how the assembly is put together along with further information about why it was designed an built.  

Click the YouTube link for a larger view of the video.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

TerraTrike Velomobile Wheel Covers Second Time Around

Yesterday I posted info about my first attempt at making wheel covers for the TerraTrike velomobile project.  I learned a few things from my first effort.  Some good and some not so good.  So today I am happy to show you my second and final results at making this portion of the project.

I started once again cutting out a new foam blank for the second attempt for the wheel cover using my hot wire table and some additional jigs to get the correct shape. (See yesterdays post for more info on what this all looked like.)

 The new wheel cover male mold had to be a bit larger and have less of a conical shape to it.  I sanded the second disk into shape and puttied and sanded further until I was happy with the new shape. The new disk is the one on the left in the photo above.
 I then masked off the blank with blue painters tape.  One strip at a time.  Luckily I was using two inch tape so this was an easy task.

Here the disk is completely taped off.  Already it looks very smooth which is a good sign.  I used the masking tape instead of plastic wrap to get a smoother inside surface on the finished part.  You'll see the difference in photos as you read farther in this post. 

Here the male mold has been fiber glassed with two layers of eight ounce cloth and of course the resin.  

Once the fiber glass had cured over night I was able to remove the new part from the mold this morning. This took a bit of effort but the end result of how the part turned out was worth it.

Here the new wheel cover has been marked with the center hole and the outer diameter using a Sharpie pen.

The difference between the first wheel cover and the second you can see in this photo.  The second cover is much flatter than the first one and just a little larger in diameter. The wheel cover was cut out using my band saw and a Dremel tool for the center hole each of which took very little time.

Here is where the big difference is between the first and second wheel covers.  The first cover (on the right) was made using plastic wrap over the male mold.  It worked ok and was easy to remove from the mold but has a very wrinkly appearance.  The second wheel cover on the left is very smooth and much more finished looking.  Again worth the little bit of effort to pull off of the male mold. 

Here is the end result.  A newly created seamless wheel cover for one of the front wheels.  It has a nice fit and will look really good once I do a bit more smoothing on the outside surface and paint it with some glossy silver paint.  The center of the disk will have a ring that I will fit into the opening in the cover that I will make with my 3D printer to give it a nice finished look. 
   I wanted to keep the center of the wheel cover open should I ever need to take the front wheel off to change a tire.  This way the cover would not have to be removed.  Holes will still need to me drilled into the cover for the zip ties that will hold it on to the spokes of the wheel.  I also think I will not have to cut an opening for the valve stem as the wheel can be turned out away from the body of the velomobile enough for me to attach the air pump and fill the tires.  I will double check this though before I go to much further. 
   All in all I am very happy with the second try at making the wheel covers.  All I need to do now is repeat the process for the other front wheel and I can call it good. Another part of the project that I can mark off of my check list. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

TerraTrike Velomobile Electrical Parts, Body Work and Wheel Covers

The last week or more has been kind of crazy here at the Tinker's workshop with all that I have been working on.  So I thought it best to try and get caught up on my posts here and let everyone know what I have been up to.  So here goes.
  The first order of business has been the continuing work on the signal light housings for the velomobile.  Just yesterday I received in the mail the LED's that I had been wanting for the  housings in the vehicle.  I wanted to be able to see if the signal lights were on when I am riding in the vehicle.  Without an indicator light it would be impossible to know for sure.  So this is what had to be worked on first. 

I was able to mount three LED lights into the panels for the signal lights.  You can see them just ahead of the toggle switch.  The two larger openings in the panel will be where the wiring will be fed into and out of the control panel for the signal lights in the body of the velomobile. 

Here the lights are turned on and to say they are bright is an understatement to say the least.  This will be really good in bright sunlight as well as at night as it should light up the interior of the velomobile while the lights are running.

This is what the signal light control panel will look like once it is mounted in the black enclosure. Should look really good once I get that far in the construction.  

The next portion of the velomobile project has been the continuing work on shaping and smoothing out the body for the final fiber glassing that will be done on the outside skin.   As you can see from this photo the rear of the velomobile is getting a bit smoother with the additional resin micr-balloon mixture (white putty) that you see here.  The shape is coming right along and I am more than happy it is turning out as well as it is. 

Another good view of the rear on the opposite side of the velomobile.  I will be happy when I can finally fiber glass it all as at this point the styrofoam is still quite fragile.  It can be dented very easily.

In this picture I have been working on the fit and finish of the front hood.  I wrapped the body of the velomobile with Handiwrap plastic to keep the putty mixture from sticking to it.  I then was able to fill any voids between the hood and the opening with the resin micro-balloon putty mixture and let it dry. 

Another view of one of the front seams of the hood and body of the velomobile. 

Once the putty mixture had dried all I needed to do was remove the plastic wrap and lightly sand the top surface of the hood.  This gave me a nice straight edge that will match up nicely with the body. 

This is what the hood looks like once it is closed.  A perfect fit.   Once I get the hood all dialed in then I can turn my attention to the rest of the body. 

In this shot you can see that the hood still needs a little work but is coming along nicely with the edges lining up pretty well. 

Continuing on now was the first attempt at making fiber glass wheel covers for the velomobile.  I started with a couple of layers of one inch styrofoam glued together to get the right thickness that I needed for the male blank for the wheel covers.   I weighted the panels down with a couple of full paint cans and let the panels dry over night.

I then marked the center of the new two inch thick panel and cut a one inch hole in the middle of it using the hot wire tool you  see below.

This tool comes from a company called The Hotwire Foam Factory.  and I have used it extensively with all of the foam and fiber glassing projects that I have built over the years.  A great tool that you plug into power and it heats up the steel rod.  I then only have to plunge it into the foam and follow my circle that I drew. It is cut out in less than a minute with very little mess.  A great tool for this kind of work.

 I next added an attachment to my hot wire table for the blank that I just completed.  This attachment is nothing more than a piece of wood that I can adjust on the table with a vertical wooden dowel to receive the foam blank for rotating.

With the blank placed on the vertical wooden dowel all I needed to do is move it into position on the hot wire table and rotate the foam blank to cut a perfect circle with the heat from the cutting wire.

 Can't get any better than this for perfectly round pieces of foam for the wheel covers.  

The next step in completing the foam blank for the wheel covers was coming up with another new jig for the hot wire table to cut the conical shape for the wheels.  This attachment uses the same mount that I used to cut the disk out with only this time it is mounted vertically on to the hot wire table.   The table is then tipped at an angle to get the desired shape I was looking for. 

Here is a closer view of the jig.  All of the parts other then the top piece with the wooded dowel in it were put together from scrap wood in the shop  Not exactly pretty but it does the job rather well. 

The foam disk was then placed on the jig, moved into position on the table and then rotated to get the right shape.

After cutting the foam blank into the conical shape I sanded the top surface and then puttied any irregularities that I found.  This was then let to dry overnight and more sanding followed the next day.  Once I was happy with the shape of the blank I covered it with Handiwrap plastic to keep the fiber glass from sticking to the foam blank.

Here the eight ounce fiber glass cloth is laid down over the foam blank.  The nice thing about using the fiber glass is that once the part is completed it is a seamless piece. 

Here is what the project looks like once two layers of fiber glass cloth have been laid down with the resin applied to them.  The cloth goes almost transparent because of the resin. 

I let the resin dry overnight and as you can see I have my first wheel cover made. I trimmed the cover to shape using my band saw which made quick work of it. The wheel cover is very light weight at only four ounces and will easily be ready for paint. 

Here is what the first attempt looks like on one of the front wheels of the velomobile.  It was not a complete success as the conical shape had to much of an angle cut on the foam blank and the cover needed to be a little bigger in diameter.  The wrong angle on the male foam blank makes the cover stick out past the center hub by half an inch.  Not a total loss with this try as I learned how to correct the error in the angle and if a double layer of eight ounce cloth would be stiff enough for the parts.  It is and so the learning process continues.  I also was able to mark out the positions of the spokes on the wheel cover so that when it comes time to mount the cover to the wheel using zip ties it will be an easy thing to accomplish. 

Here I've cut out a new blank for the wheel covers that is a bit larger in diameter and I reduced the angle on the hot wire table so that the wheel cover will lay on the spokes hopefully perfect this time out.  It's all a learning process so it all takes time.  You can see the difference between the first wheel blank on the right compared to the new blank on the left.  After some more sanding I will lay up another fiber glass wheel cover and see how it turns out.  Keep your fingers crossed for me and I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Lots Of Little 3D Printed Parts For The Velomobile Project

Since the new work space in the garage has been properly insulated and now newly heated I am able to aim my attention at finer details that need to be looked at on the TerraTrike Velomobile project.  Precisely all the small little pieces that need to be made for the signal light setup in the vehicle along with a way to install a safety strap to the front hood.  This has taken me more than just a few days as there are a lot of little parts that I needed to 3D print just so I can wire the signal lights up properly.

I started with one of the smaller number of parts that was needed for the safety strap for the hood.  This little clip allows me to bolt the strap to the hood and the body at both ends and secure it without having to do anything fancy to hold it into place.  The clip you see here is only 2 1/4 x 1 1/2 inches in size and 1/8th of an inch thick. Very strong for it's size and very light weight. 

This photos shows the safety strap as it will be used in the vehicle.  It is simply a one inch wide nylon web strap with the two little clips mounted on both ends through the slots in the parts. 

I made a hard mount with a threaded rod connector bonded into a piece of wood and then this was fiber glassed into one of the ribs in the hood to secure the upper portion of the strap.

The lower portion of the strap was mounted in the same fashion on the body of the velomobile.  This little strap will keep the hood from being blown completely forward of it's mounts and avoid damaging the hood and the vehicle in the process. The strap as you can see is more than long enough to do the job and will be cut to length once final assembly has started to take place.
This illustration is what has to be constructed next for the vehicle.  It will be one of two switch boxes for the signal lights that will be installed in the vehicle. As you can see there is a toggle switch and just ahead of it what looks like a small green ball.  This actually is an LED light so that when the switch is thrown the light will blink and I will be reminded that the switch is active and the lights are on.  I don't want to be one of those guys that leave their signal lights on for five or ten miles down the road so this little light will be a good thing to have. The two green tubes in the illustration are flex tubing that will house the wiring for the lights.
In only one of the signal light housings there will be the batteries that will run both sets of lights lights.  There will be a switch for the left as well as the right lights that are independent of one another.  This way you have the signal lights and also the capability to have hazard lights if both switches are thrown on at the same time.  Another good thing to have if I have to pull over for some reason.

 In the signal light box that will be on the left side of the driver will house the two controller boxes to make the signal lights blink properly.  These control boxes will fit perfectly inside this second enclosure as the battery pack will be in the right signal box and will handle both signal assemblies.
Here you can see the two signal light boxes and the differences inside them.  The battery pack that will be in the right battery box holds eight AA batteries to get the 12 volts needed to run the lights.  I suspect that this battery pack will last me more than one season as long as I do not drive down the road with the hazard or signal lights running constantly. 

In order to mount the wiring in the vehicle I will be installing the 3/8th of an inch flex tubing to hold the wiring.  The pieces that you see in this photo are the clips that will hold this tubing in place.  They will be permanently mounted to the ribs and or stringers on the inside of the body.  Then the tubing with the wiring already installed in it will be snapped into place using these clips.

The other clips that I made over the past few days are these coat hook looking guys you see here. These will be mounted just above the front wheel openings and again will hold the flex tubing securely in place to keep the wires tucked away nicely. 
  So as you can see I have been making a lot of parts for the project.  Total time to print the 22 parts that are pictured here took roughly 18 hours to complete.  With this amount of work the velombile project has jumped up to 411 total hours work at this point. The signal light boxes together alone took 12 hours to print but being one of a kind the Makerbot 3D printer comes to the rescue once again.  Enjoy the photos and I'll keep sending out new updates as I progress.