Tag Archives: vehicle

DARPA’s Open Source Cyber-Electro-Mechanical Design Tools Are Posted

Just a quick post to remind the world that DARPA has posted the open source design tools (and associated tutorial) that will be used to simulate and eventually manufacture an infantry fighting vehicle. This Fast Adaptive Next-Generation Ground Vehicle (FANG) Challenge is part of the Adaptive Vehicle Make (AVM) program. The primary tool that I’m working with now is CyPhyML written by Vanderbilt University.

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Ford Officially Backing Open Source 3D Printers

In a press release Ford Motor Company bragged about using 3D printing in general, and the open source Makerbot Thing-O-Matic in particular, to develop some of the smaller plastic parts for its vehicles. Zack Nelson, the engineer in the video, lists the easy availability of design files and community support as benefits to using the open source machine.

The full text of the press release is after the jump.

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VehicleFORGE – DARPA’s Open Source Hardware Competition Is Open For Registration

I’m gonna start this post with a little bit of background. I’m a developer on various open source hardware projects, others and my own. Hardware has more barriers to entry than software, particularly when it comes to distributed collaboration. It’s not a matter of exchanging text files; you have to work with images, CAD files, videos, documents, etc and then there’s the problem of incompatible versions of multimedia. Even when everybody uses the same file formats, it can be difficult to convey all of the relevant information. And if you change anything it can be a huge issue. Then there’s the ever-present problem of turning the design into an actual physical thing.

What the open source hardware community needs is a common set of tools, but not just a few tools, an entire toolchain. I tried to work out a common file format and quickly realized that it’s not possible. You need a common database format, and not just a database, you need tools that can edit the project files without losing all the relationships in the database. Basically, you need an end-to-end development environment that links any random developer with all other developers, using identical file formats, and identical tools, that eventually produces a digital description of the machine that can be qualified and fabricated virtually.

It’s a huge undertaking. Without an end-to-end environment each piece is only marginally useful. The chicken and egg problem seemed almost insurmountable.

However, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) had the same thought, and they threw a lot of money at it. In an attempt to cut the development time of military vehicles by a factor of five, DARPA has created a complete, web-based, virtual development environment…oh and they’re releasing it under an open source license.

It’s called VehicleFORGE and for its first trick it will host a year-long, three-stage competition to design the Marine Corps’ next amphibious infantry fighting vehicle. It’s called the FANG Design Challenge and it’s open to any “U.S. person.” Yes, ANYONE (who doesn’t violate ITAR restrictions). All you have to do is register and, when the competition goes live on 14 January 2013, you’ll be able to design a vehicle using cutting-edge open source tools.

I just registered and I can assure you that, after poking around the members area for a while, VehicleFORGE looks polished. It’s only got a few controls, but they’re exactly what you need, they work intuitively, and it’s an overall slick experience. The only stuff that’s live at the moment seems to be the social network stuff (competitors and teams).

Speaking of which, if you’d like to join Team Openalia, just register and do a quick search or follow the link.

I’m fairly certain that the competition will be won by teams uploading a lot of high-performance parts that aren’t included in DARPA’s list of supplied components. However, participating will be a lot of fun. Lets see how well we can do against the other non-professional teams!

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Open-EVSE, an OSH Charging System for Electric Vehicles

Everyone should start keeping track of what Google is doing (if they weren’t already).

Just a few days ago Openalia posted about Google’s open source simulation software for planning heliostat arrays. Today it’s about the hardware and software for an Arduino shield that charges any electric vehicle (EV) off of household current.

The Open-EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) is for charging J1772 compliant EVs. SAE J1772 is a specific type of connector.

So, basically, EVs get parked in the garage and plugged into a special computer to recharge their batteries. It’s important that the wall power be carefully metered out to maximize the life of the expensive battery pack. This thing does that, but it costs way less than its commercial equivalents and it’s open source.

Today we will be interviewing Chris Howell, the driving force behind OpenEVSE.

Okay, Chris, what is your background?

  • I am a Network Engineer and have way too many hobbies… Pilot, Electronics, Ham Radio, RC planes/UAVs…

Did you have any engineering experience before you started?

  • I build networks for a living. I did not have any experience in building complex electronic circuits or programing before I started.

When did you start and when did you decide to go open source?

What made you decide to open source the project?

  • The decision to Open Source “OpenEVSE” was made because the Electric Vehicle industry desperately needed an inexpensive Charging station/ Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE). The existing hardware is far to expensive ($750+) and the manufactures are taking advantage of consumers with outrageous labor costs to install the charging station.
  • My quote to install the charging station form Nissan’s partner AV was over $1200. I already had a breaker in the panel and the charging station was to be located 18 inches away.

Did you choose one particular license over others? Why?

  • Not really… The licences are pretty confusing, we just picked a common license.

Were there any tools/resources that were vital to your success?

  • The Arduino paved the way for OpenEVSE. I bought an Arduino and out of frustration with my ridiculously high Charging Station quote I decided to see if I could use it to generate a J1772 pilot signal. J1772 is the standard in use by the EV industry. It is a 1khz square wave generated by the Charging Station. The voltage drop determined the EV state and duty cycle tells the EV how much current it can draw.
  • After a couple hours with the Arduino I was able to implement the pilot.
  • Other resources that were very helpful were the tutorials from Adafruit and Sparkfun. I had to learn a lot about SMD stenciling, microprocessors and opamps.
  • DorkBotPDX is great for the many prototype boards and OHARARP for the SMD stencils.

Any tools that were just really cool that everyone should know about?

  • I really like the DSO Quad scope. It has been really useful for this project.
  • The electric skillet for solder reflow is awesome.

Could you suggest one really important skill people should learn first?

  • Learn how to program an Arduino.
  • Once you know what a microprocessor can do lots of ideas start flowing.

Were there any significant changes between revisions or forks?

  • No significant changes just a slow progression of improvements and added features.

How much of the project was individual effort and how much was social?

  • The hardware was mostly individual with a few suggestions from really smart people. I brought the project to the stage that I was able to successfully charge my Nissan LEAF. Shortly after I recieved an email from “lincomatic” another LEAF owner who offered to make improvements to the software.
  • Now I still do most of the hardware, but both lincomatic and I add to the software. OpenEVSE is starting to see some small contributions from the community. Hopefully more people will contribute to the project over time.

Are you anywhere close to feeling “done” with the project?

  • The project is not done but it is mature. Open EVSE fully supports J1772 and all the same safety features as the “big boys”… GFCI, ground monitoring, stuck relay detection.
  • There are a lot that can still be added touch screen LCD, Internet connectivity, energy metering, etc.

Do you plan on selling anything when you’re finished?

Has it been successfully used in a real job? By anyone else?

  • Yes, OpenEVSE is in use by owners of the Nissan LEAF, Chevy VOLT, Toyoda PiP and Mitsubishi i-MiEV. Tesla and BMW Active-E owners are currently building Charging Stations. To date over 50 OpenEVSE boards have shipped.

Where do you want to take the project from here?

  • I would like to interface OpenEVSE with a Raspberry Pi to provide a rich web interface and also a graphical interface.

What do you think about open source as a philosophy? As a strategy?

  • Open Source is a great way to get people interested in a project and to spark innovation.

Do you follow any other open source projects?

  • Arduino and Raspberry pi.

In your wildest dreams, what would be open sourced next?

  • Everything…
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Crowd Funding Dump

So, apparently the JOBS Act officially sanctioned “crowdfunding” (yes it’s a real word now).

The catch is that “investors” can only work with “issuers” through the services of a “portal” which has to be registered with the SEC. What this means is that Indiegogo and Kickstarter will have some competition and we’re about to see a lot more innovative ideas pitched (more or less) directly to the public.

Anywho…that’s fascinating and all…but what will it do for open source hardware? I dunno; lets find out. Assuming there’s enough activity (seems like a safe assumption) the Crowd Funding Dump (CFD) will become a regular feature on Openalia.

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Interview With Joe Justice of Wikispeed

Simone Cicero has posted an extensive interview with the team lead of Wikispeed.

Joe Justice of Team Wikispeed

Joe Justice started Team Wikispeed and got 10th place in one of the divisions of the Automotive X-prize. He is continuing to lead his international team of volunteers towards the 100mpg future.

Here are some highlights from Simone’s interview:

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