Keynote Video: Jeremy Fielding Wants to Help You Move


For many DIY hardware projects, the movement most likely to occur is when we take the assembled unit off the workbench and transport it to where it is destined to spend the rest of its working life. From weather sensors to smart mirrors, there is a huge range of devices that don’t need to move a millimeter to function. But in the long run, you risk stumbling upon a project that is a little more dynamic. Maybe you would like to motorize your blinds or build a remote controlled rover. With these more active designs come a whole host of new issues that you may not have encountered before.

Lucky for us, people like Jeremy Fielding are here and ready to share their knowledge. In his fascinating presentation for the Hackaday Remoticon 2021, Building moving equipment: the fundamentals that everyone should know, he took viewers on a whirlwind tour of what he learned about designing and building complex machines through his years of professional experience. Whether it was a relatively simple articulated workbench for the workshop, a gigantic earthmoving machine, or a high-dexterity robotic arm, every project he worked on presented unique challenges that needed to be resolved.

Not all Jeremy machines will fit in your average workshop.

Many of the projects Jeremy has worked on are on a much larger scale than what your average hobbyist is ever going to come across. When there’s an arrow pointing at the little human in a photo of you and the machine you’re currently working on, you know things are getting serious. But as anyone who’s watched his YouTube videos knows, he really has a knack for taking those high-level concepts and distilling them into something more digestible for the home gamer.

It is practice makes perfect

Sketch the first concepts on paper.

If you only take one thing away from Construction equipment that moves, is that prototyping is a step to be skipped at your own risk. These days we have some amazing tools at our disposal, especially when it comes to CAD software, but nothing really replaces putting your design in the real world and seeing how all the moving parts interact with them. with each other.

That said, a prototype doesn’t have to be as strong or stiff as the end product. Before you start cutting or soldering, Jeremy says there are plenty of bases you can prepare with nothing more exotic than heavy cardboard and duct tape. Even if you want to make your prototype out of something a little more durable, like wood, it doesn’t necessarily have to be on a large scale, either. A miniature version of your design may not give you quite the same look as a 1: 1 representation, but the reduced time and materials required to build it can more than make up for the reduced fidelity.

Jeremy also says that there is a lot to be gained by simply drawing your design concepts by hand. Graph paper is ideal because it will allow you to establish a scale, but it is not strictly required. At this point, you are just trying to figure out what the main shapes of the mechanism will look like. This type of rough paper sketch can often save you a few material revisions by shaking some of the fruit at hand early on.

Choose your power

Once you’ve come up with a mechanical design and are pretty sure it will perform the way you expect from your prototype, the next step is to figure out how to power the thing up. In his presentation, Jeremy spends a considerable amount of time talking about many of the different motors and actuators available to both the professional and hobbyist budget. Just as we are fortunate to have access to powerful tools, we can also count ourselves lucky in the locomotion department: for today there is a vast world of ways to advance one’s creation without breaking the bank.

For example, he talks about the widespread availability of low cost brushless DC motors which can be directly attributed to the growing popularity of RC quadcopters and other airplanes. While these motors require more sophisticated control circuits than the simple permanent magnet motors that we have all pulled out of a broken toy or gadget over the years, the clear and numerous benefits offered by the new technology (report higher power / weight, increased fuel efficiency, better speed control, reduced noise, longer life, etc.) will be worth the extra effort in many applications.

Figuring out which motor you need is only part of the equation. Literally.

As you would expect with his industrial background, Jeremy is not afraid to switch to AC motors when the project calls for it. It takes the viewer through several types of AC motors and even explains where you’re most likely to find each type if you find yourself looking for a particular powertrain. An accomplished parts collector himself, he’s learned to expect a single-phase induction motor in that curbside washer or dryer, while newer conveyor belts sometimes hide a three-phase unit.

But maybe we’re getting a head start here. How do you even know which motor you will need for a given application? To that end, Jeremy explains in detail how to identify the torque and speed requirements for a given job, and then uses those numbers to determine what type of powertrain you’ll need. Note that we didn’t say engine. This is because, in many cases, you will need gears, pulleys, belts, or other means to couple the motor to the rest of the machine. This is where some people start to feel overwhelmed, but with a few simple practical examples Jeremy shows that figuring it all out isn’t as hard as you probably think.

On your marks, ready? Go!

Jeremy’s presentation at Remoticon 2021 continued until just under the hour, but looking at her now, it sure won’t. With such a fantastic communicator, you’ll be halfway through the video before you know it. In fact, don’t be surprised if you’re hungry for more of his particular brand of technical education when all is said and done. Luckily, he has nearly a decade of videos for you to check out, many of which delve deeper into some of the topics covered during Building moving equipment: the fundamentals everyone should know.

Between Jeremy’s easy-going style and infectious optimism, it’s also likely that you walk away from this presentation with a sudden urge to do something that will come off the bench and move. Don’t worry, it’s natural. Take a deep breath, prototype a few bindings, and let us know when it works.


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