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  • Mulling It Over

    For several weeks now I have been trying to come up with a practical way to fabricate a hinge for a 1/32nd scale flex-chassis. I have become a bit anxious to find a solution because I am planning to run that chassis in the last scheduled event in the IHSR season a week from today.

    I have had the basic design in my head all this time, but I have been dissatisfied with all of the different ways I came up with to fabricate it. This morning I think I cracked the problem.

    I'm not going to go into how I hope to build that hinge. What I am going to discuss is how I do design.

    I find I have three ways to develop a design. The first I call "Engineer at Assembly"* -- that is, bellying up to the bench, cutting and forming materials and putting them together without a drawing or other plan, and letting the design emerge on its own. Often it involves a lot of trial and error, cut and try. But sometimes once I have physical reality in hand the solution just becomes obvious and it all happens.

    The second is more traditional. I start with a blank sheet of paper (or these days a blank drawing window) and sketch in shapes that I change and embellish until a finished, dimensioned design develops. Done right, that design can be transformed directly into actual hardware. On occasion I find out I made a whoopsie and things won't go together as planned. That usually is because I run into a physical interference with other hardware that was never included in my drawing. So literally back to the drawing board, and fix it.

    The third method is the one I've been using on my hinge design -- that of "Mulling it Over". I play with an idea in my head that I have not yet committed to any kind of reality -- drawing or hardware -- and I keep tweaking it this way and that because I am just not happy with some detail or aspect of that concept. "Mulling it Over" can take a long time -- sometimes years, in a few cases decades. Either because I am just not making progress on the problem, or I haven't had the right conditions to begin construction. It is a process that can end in a workable solution, sooner or later, or never resolve itself and haunt me indefinitely.

    I have found that, for some reason, a breakthrough on a mulling-it-over problem usually comes in the morning, often when I am taking a shower. (Why is it that being naked and wet brings me inspiration?) Some folks claim they come up with a solution while dreaming and wake up with it fully formed. I don't remember ever having that experience. I need time to warm up the vacuum tubes in my head before it all becomes clear. Maybe that's because I was born in the middle of the last century, and my brain uses NLA technology. (NLA - No Longer Available)

    So this morning I have a concept for creating that hinge. It involves a simple change -- adding a part and including double-stick foam to make the whole thing a ton less fussy to assemble. I had to come at the problem from a whole different direction, which only happened after a lot of false starts. On total I think it is a better design, incorporating a bit of extra flex and shock absorption. All to the good.

    How do I decide which of those three approaches to use? Good question. Sometimes I try one -- like "Engineer at Assembly" -- and it becomes obvious that is the wrong approach. Sometimes the right path is clear from the start. Occasionally I need a hybrid approach -- a little of this, a little of that -- until I can pick a direction.

    I suppose there is a fourth method I use, which is going online and trying to hunt up an existing solution I can just up and buy. On the occasions that works it is a great way to solve a problem. Or sometimes an existing solution I found suggests a better one I can fabricate.

    I don't consider that cheating. All innovation builds on existing technology.

    Ed Bianchi

    * "Engineer at Assembly" might easily be confused with the British practice of "Muddling Through". The difference is, while them's that muddle (the muddler or muddlers) are implied to be attempting to fudge their way through a task they are otherwise incompetent to undertake, one who engineers at assembly is presumed to be qualified, at least on paper, to accomplish engineerly efforts such as design and specification, and have at least a nodding acquaintance with techniques of fabrication and assembly. It is to be noted that the term "Muddling Through" is in the public domain, while "Engineer at Assembly" is subject to my copyright, and can only be used under license, obtained through an agreed payment of royalties.
    Last edited by HO RacePro; 05-04-2019, 10:50 AM.

  • #2
    Ha, two of my patents literally came to me in my dreams, including all the experimental steps to prove my claims. Funny thing, the brain is!

    Otherwise, I begin by mulling, first to define the problem/goal and then possible solutions. Then it's time to get fabricating. Sometimes I get it "right" on the first try. But more often than not I find ways to tweak and improve the beast.

    Existing state of the art always lays the foundation for at least incremental improvements if not outright breakthroughs.

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    • #3
      That's funny, Ed - I seem to use the same methods as you! Sharp minds think alike!

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      • #4
        An update...

        I finally built the hinge that I've been mulling over all this time. It came together pretty much the way I had imagined it, but only after a short detour into "Engineer at Assembly", because I thought I did not have the right size piano wire for the spring elements. When I stumbled across a piece of the right piano wire I reverted to my original concept, and everything was good.

        I built the hinge into the chassis I was developing, and it seems to be working well. It has also stood up to a few very hard hits without damage.

        So, score one for "mulling it over".

        Ed Bianchi

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        • #5
          So Ed, is a mulled slot car as good as a mulled cider?

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          • #6
            It is faster off the line, and corners better!

            I had the chassis out on my oval this afternoon. It was turning 1.9-ish second lap times. Not quite in Rattler territory, but very respectable for the class motor and limited chassis width. It is running a 2:1 ratio sidewinder with a ball-bearing rear axle, independent front wheels and that hinged flex chassis. Competitive? Dunno. But at least I get to show off my fabricating skills.

            I now have two SlotIt cars that can nip under 1.7 second laps, which rival my best Rattler lap times. With luck good enough to get me into the mid-field at the IHSR race tomorrow.

            Last race of the season. I'd like to finish on an uptick!

            Ed Bianchi

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            • #7
              It is faster off the line, and corners better!

              I had the chassis out on my oval this afternoon. It was turning 1.9-ish second lap times. Not quite in Rattler territory, but very respectable for the class motor and limited chassis width. It is running a 2:1 ratio sidewinder with a ball-bearing rear axle, independent front wheels and that hinged flex chassis. Competitive? Dunno. But at least I get to show off my fabricating skills.

              I now have two SlotIt cars that can nip under 1.7 second laps, which rival my best Rattler lap times. With luck good enough to get me into the mid-field at the IHSR race tomorrow.

              Last race of the season. I'd like to finish on an uptick!

              Ed Bianchi

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              • #8
                Go get 'em Ed, and take no prisoners!

                Photos, must see photos!

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                • #9
                  Ed, how did the chassis do in competition?

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                  • #10
                    For those who remember Rowan and Martin's "Laugh In" - Arte Johnson's line: "Veddddy interesting" I often start by laying a few bits - body, motor, wheels etc. on the bench and just staring at them - looking for inspiration or I will fixate on an area or function that I see as a problem and wait for a solution to magically appear (that can take a long time) One of my favorite approaches is embodied here:

                    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQHaGhC7C2E

                    Approaches change as well. For years I carved chassis from solid brass but the only limitation on motors what what would fit inside. Spec or restricted motors for many classes and proxies have changed that. The new standard is "Simplificate and add lightness" Available tools and techniques set boundaries as well. If the day ever comes when I don't have a few unsolved problems rattling around or some off-the-wall idea to try, I'll hang up the controller.

                    EM

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                    • #11
                      Ah Tom Lehrer -- would you believe I have a full boxed set of his CD's?

                      Would you believe I have memorized his song listing ALL of the chemical elements set to a "possibly recognizable tune?"

                      Well, okay, you are not THAT gullible, but I do have a boxed set!

                      Ed Bianchi

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                      • #12
                        Gerry, it finished 8th in a field of 11. It would have done better if I hadn't thrown away 4 laps in the first segment. (Well, I could blame it on clumsy marshaling, but I am FAR too professional a competitor to use an excuse that became cliche in 1962.)

                        I think a bit of tweaking could make it competitive, but that is hard to accomplish without a 1/32nd track of mine own to run it on. (Oh yeah Gerry, you know me too well. Visions of homemade slot tracks are bubbling in my brain! Mwahh ha ha ha! [Rub hands gleefully!])

                        I'm pretty happy that I didn't finish last. Progress. Slow progress, but progress.

                        Ed Bianchi
                        Last edited by HO RacePro; 05-14-2019, 03:50 PM.

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                        • #13
                          I'll share one idea I'm playing with at the moment. Stock Drive Products/Sterling Instruments sells miniature timing belts and pulleys. As small as 1/8 inch wide with a 0.080 inch pitch, also metric 3mm wide and 2mm pitch. You can buy them by the each for reasonable prices.

                          Their website even has a calculator page that lets you specify a design and then pick the required components out of pop-up lists. The belts start at a 20 tooth count and go up by INCREMENTS OF A SINGLE TOOTH to 130 teeth or so. Timing pulleys start at 10 teeth and go up to 36 teeth by increments of a single tooth, and then way beyond that in larger increments.

                          I don't need to tell you that timing belt drives are way more efficient than V-belt or O-ring drives.

                          More wicked ideas to play with over the summer break.

                          Ed Bianchi

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by HO RacePro View Post
                            Ah Tom Lehrer -- would you believe I have a full boxed set of his CD's?

                            Would you believe I have memorized his song listing ALL of the chemical elements set to a "possibly recognizable tune?"

                            Well, okay, you are not THAT gullible, but I do have a boxed set!

                            Ed Bianchi
                            I don't have all of his CDs but I do have a book of his lyrics, a gift from my son. I fear that one must be "of a certain age" to appreciate most of his songs (actually, in today's world, many of them are probably politically unacceptable) Further admission of age: I do have a boxed set of (original) Kingston Trio performances - and an LP as well.

                            EM

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                            • #15
                              EM: "For those who remember Rowan and Martin's "Laugh In" - Arte Johnson's line: "Veddddy interesting" I often start by laying a few bits - body, motor, wheels etc. on the bench and just staring at them - looking for inspiration or I will fixate on an area or function that I see as a problem and wait for a solution to magically appear (that can take a long time)"

                              Build approaches?

                              I'm partial to the pile and stare method too, but telekinesis eludes me. Said pile will get moved from the back burner to the front burner, where I'll sprinkle in or remove bits as inspiration dictates. Like composting, a periodic reshuffling seems to help.

                              Other times, I have a build worked out well in advance. these examples are generally worked out during periods where life demands my presence elswhere besides the slot bench. Typically the freedom of mindless toil in the way of mundane household or garden chores allows me to visualize and pre-construct the project, as well as identifying pitfalls and ways to address them, before I start.

                              I dont worry if a project gets high centered. We've all been there. I often select a neutral approach and simply walk away. Percolation is a good tool.

                              IMHO, one should embrace whatever approach presents itself.





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