Tuesday, 15 September 2015

EM drive, Hackaday prize SEMI FINALS! and International Collaboration

So over the last few months I've been tweeting a lot about parts I've been making as part of a team entering the hackaday2015 prize. They are parts for an experimental (and contentious) drive system called an EM drive. Now.. I need to come clear.. nobody seems to be able to adequately explain the physics behind this possible phenomena... let alone me so it has been fun as people have been asking me a lot of questions and I can only say... I've just been making components! However here is Paul's simple explanation of the project

"The EMdrive is a new type of thruster - recently invented by Roger Shawyer. 
Unlike other propulsion systems which need to repel mass to produce thrust, the EMdrive can convert electrical energy into thrust directly. 

A working EMdrive would start a revolution in spaceflight, enabling manned deep space exploration. 

Several builds have been made worldwide (eg Chinese University, NASA), many show positive results. This topic is still quite new and needs a lot of research. 

Most EMdrives work with frequencies around 2.4 GHz. This makes them big and hard to test under DIY conditions (big vacuum chamber, liquid metal contacts) 
So our attempt is to build one which works with 24GHz, which reduces the form factor significantly. 
A so small EMdrive could be flown to space for 30000$ on a pocketqube satellite. "

  It's got a LOT of attention within the hackaday prize and has solicited hundreds and hundreds of comments on Hackaday, Reddit, Twitter, NASAforums etc and a great interview was conducted with Paul on n-o-d-e.net http://n-o-d-e.net/post/119343131451/building-a-diy-emdrive

I've really enjoyed the feeling of being in a team on this project.. even though we are quite challenged geographically! There are 3 members, myself in Wales UK, Paul Kocyla the project lead in Germany and Montasser Sallam in Jordan. To say we have never met irl, we have forged great bonds and very productive teamwork between us utilising many little productivity hacks... 

One of my favourite little hack/workflows has been our use of OpenScad as a CAD environment.. OpenScad is free and opensource and is a code based CAD environment.. the beauty of this means that it is SUPER simple to share work... me and Paul regularly ping each other direct messages with entire CAD files pasted in as plain text.. I have even been known to open the text in ScorchCAD (an android port of openScad) and do work on the file on my phone.. great for fitting in dev work around other duties... true digital nomadery! 

So we are through to the semifinals and are very excited to be there. The final assembly of the MKII system and test rig (DIY laser interferometer etc) is being put together by Paul to hopefully perform some initial tests just before the final hackaday prize deadline.

If you want to support us.. (we don't want your money) please raise the profile and go visit the main project page on Hackaday and 'like' the project by giving us a skull! https://hackaday.io/project/5596-em-drive

And here is a collection of bits wot I made for it!

 Frustrum cavity.. lots of angles and geometry on this one.. accurate to around 0.02mm and >16um
 Piston assembly for tunable cavity experiment/prototype.
 Improvements in my CNC toolpaths above! Lower one the wrong way top one better! Cavity endplate.
 Above and below, assembly for a RF enclosure and heatsink for test of MKII assembly.

 The MK1 frustrum assembled and dissasembled

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