Stuff and Things

Ossum Racer, Part 4: Rear Axle Continued

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In the last post we got a working differential together, since then I have been designing the axle tubes, axle shafts and the drive shaft.

Axle Tubes

I have mentioned from the beginning that I am trying to keep the complex mechanical components compatible in size with off-the-shelf RC components, so I have made the width of the axle and the mounting points exactly the same as the Boom Racing SCX10 axle that I used on my rat rod build.

Printable rear axle with differential compared to Boom Racing SCX10 axle for size

The housing of the differential has been redesigned so that all of the tolerances are contained within one part, and the cover simply screws down on top, holding the two largest bearings in place. Nothing has an overhang more than 45 degrees, so it is all printable without support.

Inside the axle tubes there are two bearings which support the printable axles shafts. The axles shafts have provision for an M4 rod down the middle, which provides both strength and the opportunity to use standard RC wheels if desired.

Printed Prototypes

I printed and assembled prototypes based on this design and it went together well. My plans to test immediately were delayed due to some mistakes I made in the sizing of my driveshaft, but the assembly feels satisfactory when turned by hand, I have high hopes for the first test!

The assembly, printed in ABS filament

Next Step

Stay tuned for the assembly and test video of the rest of the axle shortly, as well as work on the drive shaft and universal joints.

Ossum Racer, Part 3: Designing the Rear Differential

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Over the past few weeks, with a brief hiatus due to international travel for my day job (I’m an Electrical Engineer in the telecoms industry), I have been plugging away at the design of the rear differential.

I have a few design goals for the rear axle

  • Approximately the same size as a “standard” 1:10 crawler axle (both to make this re-usable in other applications and to make it possible to use a commercial axle on this build)
  • Functional open differential
  • Accept standard RC wheels with a 12mm hex drive
  • Rugged enough gears to handle, at least, a “silver can” 540 motor
  • Look fairly realistic (not too important in this build since it will probably be hidden)
  • Preferably printable without support

Of course the rear axle can be made significantly smaller (or stronger, in the same envelope) if we go from a open differential to a spool, which will be a suitable modification if it is to be used on a rock crawler.

Design Approach

I first attempted to design from the outside inwards, starting with my goal diameter for the differential and designing gears to fit inside it. This turned out to be a bad idea, causing endless redesign, it was much more sensible to design the gears and build the casing around it.

There are other aspects to keep in mind, almost all of them relating to tolerances. For example, if a bearing recess is part of the face that contacts the printer bed then the slight bulging can prevent the bearings from fitting.

Designing Bevel Gears

Unfortunately Fusion360 doesn’t have a decent tool to create parametric bevel gears and designing them properly yourself is no mean feat. This is a real nuisance because we have to import gears from elsewhere and then design around them.

Fortunately there is a very nice script written for OnShape which you can find here and it is not too much trouble to set them up as you like, export as STEP files and import into Fusion360.

In order to keep my design “semi parametric” I positioned all of the gears sensibly with respect to the origin, and then defined variables which correspond to the gears dimensions. So long as all of the dimensions of the housing correspond to these variables and aren’t referenced to the gear objects themselves it is fairly easy to swap the gears out with others.

This iteration of the design provides another approximately 2:1 reduction, which means that we should be able to shrink the transmission that was designed in the last post.

Rapid Prototyping – Use It!

This is more of a personal lesson, but perhaps it is worth reminding. If you are like me then you design something to 85% and then realize that you could have designed it better, then you repeat the process, without ever printing anything. With something that takes 100’s of hours to print that may make sense, but for tiny parts like this it is just foolishness. There is a lot to be learned by just printing the item, and trying it out as is.

These are pictures of the first functional assemblies, hastily printed in ABS (not printed on a Robox, I look forward to seeing how well it handles the small pieces though!).

Video: Assembly and Test

Some things are best expressed in video, and assembly is one of those things, so here we go!


Low-Volume Production of Formula 1 Parts with Robox

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For a great deal of parts such as the steering wheel plate and the brake pot hanger, the only alternative to Robox would have been folded aluminium. Not only does this increase the chance of the parts being incorrect, but it would have cost around £150-£175 for the steering wheel plate, and £75-£100 for the brake pot hanger, both with a 2-week minimum lead time.

Contrasting with Robox, the steering wheel plate cost £2.66 and was ready to fit in just over 3 hours. The brake pot hanger cost £14 and took 10 hours to print, which again is much cheaper and faster than any alternative.

Additionally, we find that in many cases, 3D printed ABS parts are also more aesthetically pleasing than folded aluminium, and seem to suit the nature of our cars. For example, the switch box design would not have been possible in aluminium; it would have simply been a folded sheet with wires protruding out the back. Not only is there a safety aspect involved, but the ability to create a sealed box with all wires and connections hidden looks much better than a folded metal sheet. Again, this is achieved with costs being reduced from around £60 to £5.37.

For parts such as the rain light cover, the only alternative to Robox would be injection moulded plastic, or carbon fibre. Again, these options are unfeasible, as both would cost hundreds of pounds. With Robox, the component cost £2.95, and was complete in under 3 hours.

Most of the tooling we manufacture is used to remove wheel bearings, etc. These tools are usually fairly intricate and cost in the region of £300-£400. With a trial piece printed to test fits, usually for under £0.50, we can be sure that these tools will be correct.

Overall, in the past year I would make a conservative estimate that by using Robox, we have saved at least £3,000 and reclaimed around 2 months of lost build time in comparison to alternative methods.

Tour De ForceMatt Scott, Design Engineer

Prototyping F1 Brake Bells

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Before Robox, we had no ability to prototype brake bells. The only option for us was to send them for manufacture, assuming our measurements were correct.

As you can imagine, a few parts came back and didn't fit, costing us hundreds of pounds, and weeks in lost build time.

The other alternative for components like this would be to send one for manufacture, receive it to check the fit, then go ahead with the remaining parts. However, this again is fairly unfeasible due to time constraints, and would still have cost hundreds for the single brake bell to be potentially wrong.

Ultimately, if the whole set of bells were incorrect, it would have cost us something in the region of £2,000. Robox, in comparison, used around £2 of plastic, and reduced prototype time to a single day.

We can realistically say that our Robox printer paid for itself with this one job!

Tour De ForceMatt Scott, Design Engineer

Ossum Racer, Part 2: Motor and Gearbox

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One day we will be able to 3D print functioning combustion engines in 1:10 scale, but for now the car will have to be driven by regular old electric motor, it’s sad but true, I know!

Why Reduction Is Needed

Small electric motors spin incredibly fast, but don’t generate much torque. In order to make them useful we need to gear them down appropriately.

Most RC cars get the majority of the reduction done in the first step, using a very small pinion on the motor, and a very large spur gear, but this is not really suitable for a realistically shaped gearbox, so I will use multiple stages of gears to achieve the desired reduction.

Design Goals

I have the following design goals for this reduction box.

  1. Motor must be low (for centre of gravity)
  2. Fully printable (without support wherever possible)
  3. Strong gears, big teeth, easy to print
  4. All gears to be hidden in a (semi) realistic enclosure
  5. Minimize unique parts

Selecting a Ratio

Although you can get a lot of power out of the “540” sized motors commonly used in RC cars, they still need a lot of gearing down, so it’s time to design a reduction gearbox.

I have done some rough “back of the napkin” calculations which show that a final drive ratio of about 8.5 will be decent starting point. The glory of printing is that we can experiment and revise once the car is working

Theoretical Max Speed Calculation
Example 1 Example 2 Example 3
Motor RPM 17000.00 22000.00 22000.00
Brushless Motor kV equivalent (2S) 2297 2973 2973
Brushless Motor kV equivalent (3S) 1532 1982 1982
Final Drive Ratio 8.50 11.00 8.50
Rear Wheel Diameter (mm) 95.00 95.00 105.00
Distance in One Wheel Revolution (mm) 298.45 298.45 329.87
Distance in One Motor Revolution (mm) 35.11 27.13 38.81
Speed (km/hr) 35.81 35.81 51.23

Gear Design

Although I did not use this tool to generate the gear profiles, I find it very useful for visualising a complete setup, you can follow this link to mess around with it yourself (link).

Gear Generator Screenshot

I decided on a stackable gearbox design, which consists of repeats of the same section, each one accounting for a 11/17 reduction in final drive ratio, resulting in a 5.7:1 ratio at the output.

This leaves room for a further reduction at rear axle (13/21, for example, would result in a final drive of 9.2:1)

Engine Model

Just because we are forced to use an electric motor doesn’t mean we have to look at one, so I began the design of a Merlin V12, scaled to 1:10. This engine will go over the electric motor, and given it’s size, probably also hide some electronics or the steering servo.

There are of course many details to go, but having the rough shape helps me work out the car’s final dimensions.

Gearbox Location

The gearbox can be orientated horizontally or vertically, which I am not yet decided on. I prefer the vertical orientation for aesthetic reasons, but horizontal may be more practical.

Either way, the motor stays at the lowest point, and the output is roughly in line with the rear axle input shaft.


Up Next

The next most pressing issue is probably to design the rear axle, and the telescoping driveshaft that will connect it to the gearbox, so stay tuned. In the meantime, I am curious to hear your thoughts!

Ossum Racer, Part 1: Developing the Concept

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In the last post I introduced myself, in this post I’d like to introduce the project.
I have a real soft spot for the raw nature of roughly 1930’s era, often single seat, open cockpit race cars. The crazier the better. I don’t really consider myself a “car guy” but I love cars that evoke an emotional response, and to me there is nothing quite like a set of wheels strapped to a Merlin V12 to get the pulse racing.

As it happens, there really aren’t (m)any RC cars in this category, and as far as I know, no 3D printable ones. I aim to correct this travesty! My goal is not to build a specific replica, but a believable and functional model, built around component designs that we will be able to reuse in future models. Since many of the real cars like this were one-off builds, such as Jay Leno’s ridiculous(ly awesome) 1917 Botafogo Special,  this seems totally reasonable.

As with a real car of this nature I will let the functionality direct the form to some extent, and so I begin the process with sketches.
First I decide on some rough dimensions, and do a side view and top view sketch on graphing paper, before scanning those and importing them into Fusion 360 at the correct scale. While I plan to design all the parts, including wheels and drive-train, for printing, I want to keep them to a size where standard RC parts can easily be swapped in too.

Next I make a simple pose-able mock-up of a human figure at 1:10 scale and pull in RC components that I designed for my 1:10 rat rod build, this allows me to check that the scale is feasible.

Things look ok, but a rough body shape shows a bit of a problem, these narrow bodies don’t have nearly enough space for a regular-sized battery, which I would really prefer to use, so it may need to grow a little.

Raising the motor slightly is undesirable from a center-of-gravity point of view, but might be a solution, alternatively, does our driver really need legs, he has a sweet car to get around in anyway…

Before spending too much time of these problems I will start with design work on the mechanical components: transmission, front and rear axles especially, because they will dictate everything else. Tune in next time and keep an eye on Ossum in the meantime for behind-the-scenes posts!

You can follow along here if you like:

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BLOG 1: Jason “Ossum” Suter Introduction

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This is the first of what is going to be a series of blog posts in exciting collaboration between myself, Jason Suter (known as “Ossum” around the web), and CEL-UK, the creators of the Robox project.

Before I get stuck into what we are planning to do I feel it would be best to introduce myself. I am an electrical engineer in the telecoms field for my day job but apparently have never quite grown up, because I still dream of being a toy designer or building props for movies. I have been designing projects in CAD for 10 years now but it is been over the last 2 years when I when I got access to a 3D printer that I was really able to start making those dreams come to life, at least in my spare time!

I am passionate about designing things that “do something” with a mechanical or electronic element, so I seem to have naturally fallen in with the RC crowd, but really my projects and interests are diverse, you never know what might happen next.

My first major printing project was a 1/10 scale RC rat rod, which I designed in Fusion 360, had the body printed via Shapeways and the chassis laser cut from aluminium. The design files I released won me a 3D printer, which really got the ball rolling.

I diverted into some mechantronic interior design, if there is such a thing, with a blooming flower night light which was featured in make magazine. This was a challenge to build something that would have been completely impossible for me to do without CAD and a 3D printer.

I went back to my roots with an RC 1/10 scale Willys MB Jeep and M416 trailer, which has been extremely popular. I get a real kick out of seeing my designs being built around the world, it helps me justify the hours that I spend working on them if I know they will be amortized over many builds!


There are some other weird projects in the middle like my giant LEGO skeleton where I flipped the scale and went 10/1, he ended up being 40cm tall!

Besides designing and building myself, I really enjoy getting others interested in tackling it themselves, I have really enjoyed the vibrant community that has sprung up around my designs. Here you can find the facebook page and group.

I have had the idea for a fully printable RC single-seater vintage racer brewing in my head for a while now, and in collaboration with CEL-ROBOX I will finally be bringing it to fruition, and sharing it with the world.

Over the course of the next few months I hope to bring you along on my journey through the design process, and with any luck, inspire you to tackle some things of your own. I’ll be posting fortnightly updates here and on my pages. In the next post I’ll be going into my design goals and how I get started on a project like this.

If you want to discuss any aspect of the project with me, I now have a forum section for this project which you can find here.


3D printed woodturning chucks and jaws

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Robox user Henry @henry sent us some pictures and an article about 3D printer use in wood turning.

Henry writes:

“I am an avid wood turner. I bought my Robox to use with wood turning. I am seeing more and more wood turners turning to 3d printing in different ways.”

Henry wrote an excellent article about 3D printer use within woodturning which was published in American Woodturner issue December 2016 vol 31, no 6 which you can view here.

“This June the American Association of Woodturners is having their annual symposium in Kansas City Mo. This is the largest woodturning symposium in the world with turners from all over the world.

Prior to the symposium I printed up a bunch of chuck holders. They are small and take about an hour to print and are something every woodturner needs. I found one turner who is definitely buying a Robox next week. A couple of people who  have printers and wanted my file. A bunch of people who read my article on 3d printing but could not relate it to woodturning until I showed them the chuck holder. One demonstrator had 3d printed parts that they were using and another is going to bring them up in his demonstration on Sunday. I still have 4 more holders to give out. Here are some pictures of the chuck holders.”

It is really great to get feedback from Robox users and to see how 3D printing is working it’s way into all aspects of creation. 3D printing is not just for new technology applications, it is a new tool which can help with traditional techniques.

As with any tool, a 3D printer should make a task easier, not be a task in itself. These are great examples which show Robox as a part of a tool set, not just a 3D printer.