Sunday, January 21, 2007

Assembly Line

Practically from sun-up to sun-down, I've been working in the NCSU Aerial Robotics Lab, making parts on the student lab's little lathe, the Smithy. This machine (serial number 3023) has seen better days, and usually I end up frustrated with the output. But not today. With a lot of TLC, I'd been cleaning and tightening up the whole thing, and finally got it working well.

So today I used it to make (in order,) almost all the parts for an automatic tracking antenna mount for the Aerial Robotics Club, a pair of lovely Delrin mast steps for our sailing canoes, 16 wooden reinforcing disks for the amas, and a small plastic valve that will be part of another side project I'm working on. By 3:00 AM, my hands were getting pretty weary from cranking those little handles back and forth.

For your viewing pleasure, I've uploaded some images detailing the construction of the mast steps. We're planning to use a roller-furling mast setup, meaning the mast needs to be able to spin in place. Originally, we thought we'd need to make or buy complicated bearing supports like in the Hobie Mirage Adventure saling outriggered kayak. Turns out it was easier than we thought. For now, it looks like we can get away with a smooth Delrin cylinder just slightly (~.01") smaller than the inside diameter of the mast. The photos show the construction of these simple pieces. They're about 2 inches long. It feels good to have the right tools for the job! These will hold the base of the mast, slipping inside the hollow fiberglass. The deck will get a thick piece of Teflon where the mast passes through. We'll be adding a sort of windlass to the masts so we can rotate them from in the cockpits, reefing our sails without leaving our seats!

We've got more work planned for tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Matt Hazard (aka RedBeard)

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