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    Designing a 3D-Printed Model Airplane Kit

    We're joined by Jacky Wan this week as he shares his latest design: model airplane kit that's completely 3D-printed! Jacky chats with Sean about how he designed the kit pieces to snap together with strong joints, and how orienting the print pieces at specific angles streamline the look of the model.

    Destroying a Soda Can with a Ping Pong Ball!

    We're introducing a new series this week demonstrating Simple Feats of Science! Kishore and Norm are joined by Zeke Kossover from San Francisco's Exploratorium science museum to show how you can destroy a soda can with a ping pong ball moving at almost the speed of sound! (Thanks to the Exploratorium for sharing with us these experiments.)

    Testing Tactic’s License-Free FPV Video Transmitter

    Most video transmission equipment used for First Person View (FPV) flying requires a FCC amateur radio license (aka "ham license") to operate legally. There is definitely good reason for that requirement and getting the license is not an overly complicated process. Even so, many people balk at the licensing obligation and either avoid FPV flying or do so illegally.

    An alternative to getting a ham license (at least for US citizens) is to use non-licensed equipment--that is, devices that meet the FCC requirements for use without a license. Most of the common RF-transmitting devices in your home fall under that umbrella. That's why you don't need a ham license to operate your wireless router, cordless phone or remote garage door opener.

    There are currently a handful of FPV video transmitters (VTX) that qualify for unlicensed use. By virtue of their certification, these transmitters have relatively low power output. Less power equals less range. But how much power is enough? I decided to test one of these systems to see if license-free FPV flight is practical.

    Tactic FPV-T1

    Tactic recently released a line of FPV gear that includes a camera, a 7" monitor with dual built-in 5.8GHz video receivers, and three 5.8GHz video transmitters. The VTX units are available in 25mW, 200mW, and 600mW models. It is the 25mW FPV-T1 ($45) that is license-free. The FPV-T1 is actually larger and heavier than the more powerful models. This, however, is a reflection of the plastic case that encloses the FPV-T1. The other units have a heatshrink casing. Even so, the FPV-T1 weighs less than 20 grams with the antenna.

    The Tactic FPV-T1 is a 25mW FPV video transmitter that does not require an amateur radio license to operate legally.

    There are 22 channel options within the 5.8GHz band for this VTX. The desired channel is selected by positioning a bank of five dip switches on the back of the unit. A chart in the manual illustrates the proper switch positions for each channel, so keep it handy.

    One of the biggest factors that can determine the reception quality and range of a given set up is the antenna selection. The FPV-T1, like the Tactic FPV-RM1 receiver/monitor, includes a linear polarized whip antenna. While they work acceptably well, they are pretty much the bottom rung of the 5.8GHz FPV antenna ladder.

    Tested: Form 2 SLA Desktop 3D Printer

    A few months ago, we previewed the new Formlabs Form 2 SLA resin 3D printer, which on paper looked to be an improvement on the Form 1+ printer in every way. Since then, Formlabs supplied us with a review unit to evaluate those improvements in long-term testing. The upshot is that the Form 2 lives up to its promises--it's an amazing 3D printer. But you should read our extended review before you go out and buy one.

    Photo credit: Formlabs

    Compared to original Formlabs Form 1 printer, the Form 2 has a bigger print volume, a more powerful laser, a new resin cartridge system and new peel mechanism, among many other updates. When we reviewed the Form 1+, I was mostly pleased with its prints, but there were a number of things that I felt needed addressed, including the tendency for several critical components to fail in my early test units. Formlabs has done so with the Form 2--we've not had a single mechanical failure. Our review was with a pre-production printer with original firmware and beta software. [NOTE: I'm not going into detail about how the SLA printing process works, as on a base level, it has not changed from the Form 1+. Take a look at that review for an in-depth explanation.]

    The Print Quality

    Impressive Detail!

    We were very pleased with the Form 2 prints, most were done at 50-100 microns. The resolved detail was very impressive even at 100 micron, especially when compared to prints off of industrial 3D printing machines not meant for home-use. For most prints I can't see needing to go much below 50 microns as the quality was great. Prints that completed had very few flaws, too. Occasionally, very small details in our prints broke off during printing (ie: GIR's antenna tip, Nautilus tip). On many of the Form 1+ prints the side that printed nearest the platform tended to have some 'mushy' details, and I did not notice this on the Form 2. Noticed on some prints, we will address this in the upcoming video.

    What it Takes to Keep a B-29 Superfortress Flying

    Last month, we looked at the dedication and financial resources that are required to keep a WWII-era P-51 Mustang in flyable condition. It is definitely not for the meek or frugal. As civilian-owned warbirds go, the P-51 probably represents the middle of the road in terms of overhead. Many aspiring warbird owners seek former trainer and liaison aircraft because they are generally much easier and less costly to maintain and operate than fighters. At the opposite end of the scale are large, multi-engine transports and bombers. While there are a few of these pricier treasures in private hangars, they often demand resources that only a diverse and well-funded organization can provide.

    When it comes to WWII airplanes, few are bigger and none are more complex than the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. I recently had an opportunity to get an up-close look at FIFI, the only airworthy B-29 in the world. The airplane was at the Vintage Flying Museum in Fort Worth, Texas undergoing off-season maintenance. Just by seeing the huge airplane in the hangar with its massive engines uncowled, it was immediately obvious that it takes a tremendous operation to keep her flying. I later spoke with Kim Pardon and Brad Pilgrim from the Commemorative Air Force (CAF), the nonprofit organization that has owned and operated FIFI for more than 40 years. They were able to provide an insider's perspective of what's involved to keep FIFI in the air year after year.

    Rininger – Keeping FIFI airworthy is a huge financial commitment. All things considered, each hour of flight costs about $10,000. (Photo courtesy Tyson Rininger/Commemorative Air Force)

    Learning About FIFI

    The CAF has numerous WWII-era aircraft operating from various airports around the country…including other 4-engined bombers. Yet, FIFI is the only airplane in your fleet that has a full-time crew. What is it about this airplane that demands the extra resources?

    Brad Pilgrim - FIFI is probably the most maintenance intensive airplane in the CAF's fleet. In order to keep up with the required maintenance and the flying schedule, we have to keep a couple of full-time mechanics on staff.

    Kim Pardon - FIFI is also the only CAF aircraft that generates the kind of revenue it takes to sustain this level of maintenance. Most other CAF aircraft rely primarily on volunteer maintenance. The organization has a lot of dedicated and talented volunteers. Because we (the B-29 crew) travel almost 24 weeks a year we rely heavily on our paid maintenance staff to travel with us and help us fulfill all of our tour obligations.

    Meet Gordon Tarpley, C-3PO Suit Builder

    Meet Gordon Tarpley, a prop builder and cosplayer who specializes in C-3PO. He's one of the few C-3PO cosplayer and performers, and has been working on his suit and performance for years. We chat with Gordon about his build process, how he's improving his suit, and what it takes to perform as this iconic Star Wars character.

    Tested: Xiro Xplorer Aerial Photography Multi-Rotor

    As we start to make some headway into 2016, the popularity of multi-rotors shows no sign of easing up. In fact, numerous new multi-rotors are currently hitting the market full of eager buyers. I'll be bringing you reports on as many of these units as I can get my hands on. I'll start off with the Xiro Xplorer, an aerial photography (AP) quad. The Xplorer's 350mm size puts it in the same class as popular AP units such as the DJI Phantom 3 and Blade Chroma.

    The Xplorer's plastic outer shell features flat, dark grey sides with sharp angular lines, giving it an appearance somewhat like a stealth fighter. It's a fresh look for the now-familiar quad-rotor profile. This ship is available in two ready-to-fly versions. The "Xplorer G" model ($700) includes a 3-axis gimbal that is designed to hold a GoPro Hero 3 or Hero 4 camera. The "Xplorer V" model ($800) has a 3-axis gimbal with a built-in camera. This camera is capable of 1080P/30FPS video and 14.4MP still photos. Hobbico (US importers of the Xplorer) provided a V model for this review.

    Explaining the Xplorer

    The Xplorer V is a very complete AP system. Other than a smart phone or tablet used to run an interface application, all of the required components are in the box. It even includes an 8GB-Class10 microSD memory card for the camera.

    My first impression of the Xplorer was very positive. The fit and finish of the parts is excellent. Nothing has a cheap feel or appearance to it. Even the packaging is well-executed.

    The Xplorer V's camera is attached to a convenient clip-on 3-axis gimbal. It provides very good image quality with resolution up to 1080P for video and 14.4MP stills.

    With so many contenders in the AP quad market, it's getting increasingly tough to stand out from the herd. The Xplorer, however, does have some unique features. One thing that I found useful is the quick-release nature of the gimbal. The gimbal simply clips to the bottom of the quad and all of the necessary electrical connections are automatically made. The process of attaching or removing the gimbal is literally a 5-second task.

    Designing a 3D-Printed Ducati Motorcycle

    3D printing expert Jacky Wan returns to our studio to share his amazing Ducati superbike print--a model consisting of over 40 3D-printed pieces using his Ultimaker. Jacky explains the process of converting a visual effects model into this print, how the pieces fit together, and how he painted and finished it. You can even download the model to print for yourself! (The rider was designed by Mike Balzer of slo 3D creators)

    Building a Star Wars Shadowtrooper Helmet Kit!

    We've had the Shadowtrooper armor kit from Anovos completed since last year, but one addition kit that we wanted to build was the helmet. Over the course of a day, Frank and Norm tackle the helmet build, showing you how to clean up the vacuum-formed parts and put them together. With only four plastic pieces, this is a great place to start on your own Stormtrooper kit!

    TRANSCRIPT: We Got This Podcast--Star Wars vs. Star Trek

    An Internet search for "Star Wars vs. Star Trek" yields 8.1 MILLION results. That's because for the last 40 years, the two franchises have dominated pop culture, developing passionate fan bases in the process. But which one is "better"?

    It is this question that Mark Gagliardi and Hal Lublin, hosts of the We Got This podcast, set out to answer definitively. To help them, they called in two friends and experts -- Adam Savage and John Hodgman. After an hour of debate, a conclusion was reached.

    Courtesy of Michael B. Johnson

    To listen to the FULL podcast (which includes some pretty funny non-sequiturs, including a conversation about the potential dating life of the actor who played Chewbacca's son Lumpy in the Star Wars Holiday Special), go here or to iTunes. And check out some of Mark and Hal's other We Got This subjects, which range from sweet vs. sour pickles to the best James Bond film.

    In the meantime, enjoy, and feel free to chime in with your opinion in the comments.

    Chatting with Legendary Speaker Designer Andrew Jones

    At this year's CES, we had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Jones, audio engineer and legendary speaker designer who has worked at KEF and Pioneer. Now the Vice President of Engineering at ELAC America, Jones is redefining the home speaker market with the ELAC Uni-Fi UB5 series. We were completely enamored with these bookshelf speakers, which are priced at just $500 for a pair. Patrick Norton chatted with Mr. Jones about the challenges of designing speakers, which we've transcribed below.

    Tested: This is kind of a serious geek out treat for me. We're here with Vice President of Engineering at ELAC, Andrew Jones. I've enjoyed your work for a long time. It turns out you're kind of big into maker culture. I asked you when you started designing speakers and you said forever. How young when you started building speakers?

    Andrew Jones: I guess it was around twelve, thirteen I got interested in hi-fi and I have a identical twin brother. We'd both got interested in hi-fi together. His interest veered towards electronics and mine to the speakers, but I like to say we started off at birth, because with being identical twins, it's not only that, we're mirror twins. He's left handed and I'm right handed, so we were born in stereo.

    That's crazy. He's building amplifiers, you're building speakers. What was the challenge when you first started?

    The challenge was understanding, first of all. It's fine to go and buy something but it's knowing how it works, so when you're young you start taking things apart, realize you don't know how to put them back together again, so you're going to have to learn that process. All through school I studied maths, physics, and chemistry. I went to university to do physics with acoustics, because I knew that's what I was going to need for speakers, and then I did a few years' research in both speaker techniques but also anti-noise. You know all the modern day noise-cancelling headphones? I was working on big speakers on ships to cancel the noise from the engines, that kind of thing, but my real interest was hi-fi so I joined KEF.

    KEF was, at the time in England, the speaker university, and my mentor, Laurie Fincham, was the technical director there. I learned everything there, and we got to know everybody in the industry that was important and knew things, so you could just ask questions of anybody. If I was stuck on something, I could ask Peter Walker from Quad. He'd just give me a call, "Andrew, I was thinking about what you said the other day," and lay out a beautifully simple explanation. It was a wonderful training that set me up for everything I've done since then.

    Designing 3D-Printed Mechwarrior Mechs

    We're joined in the office by 3D modeler and designer Jacky Wan, who shares with us his 3D printed Mechwarrior online mechs. These figures were created on his Ultimaker by extracting in-game models and then modifying and adapting them for printing. Jacky chats with us about what it takes to turn game files into printable objects!

    Meet the Mcor Arke Full-Color Paper 3D Printer

    Traditional desktop 3D printers use melted plastic as their build material, but Mcor's printers layer sheets of paper on top of each other to create their models. We check out the new Mcor Arke, a printer that cuts from a large spool of paper, glues those sheets together, and then prints color on them to turn digital files into large paper models!

    Interview: Valve's Chet Faliszek on Steam VR and HTC Vive Pre

    We return to the HTC booth to meet up with Valve's Chet Faliszek, who has been working with developers on virtual reality games and content. We chat with Chet about the latest updates to the HTC Vive Pre, the Steam VR platform, and what developers have learned from their experimentation with roomscale VR!

    Interview: Palmer Luckey on Oculus Rift's Launch Price and Hardware

    We couldn't leave CES without checking in with the Oculus team and checking out the final hardware and packaging for the Oculus Rift. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey chats with us about the Rift's $600 price, how much custom hardware goes into building the headset, Oculus Touch changes, and Oculus Home software.

    What Makes a Good Digitizer Stylus for Artists?

    New tablets and notebooks are being equipped with advanced digitizer styluses for artists to write and draw, but it's not simple to perfectly simulate a pencil or pen on a screen. At CES, we ask Wacom what they think are the important features of digitizers that artists should test when shopping for devices like the Apple Pencil and Microsoft's Surface.

    Competition to Make Real-Life Star Trek Tricorders

    The technology imagined by science fiction has driven lots of innovation and interesting research. The Tricorder XPRIZE is a competition to create a device that replicates the functionality of Star Trek's medical Tricorder--one piece of hardware that can diagnose and monitor health conditions.

    Hands-On with HTC Vive Pre Developer Kit VR Headset

    We go hands-on with the new HTC Vive Pre developer kit to test its new camera-enabled Chaperone guidance system! Afterward, we chat with HTC and SteamVR developers to learn how this advancement will affect the final Vive virtual reality headset. Plus, our frank impressions of the system.

    Tested: Foxeer Legend 1 Action Camera

    It's been over a year since I reviewed the Mobius Action Camera. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Mobius, this camera emerged in 2013 as a smaller, lighter, and cheaper alternative to GoPro models of the time…with only slightly lower performance specs. Adding a Mobius (well, two actually) to my camera bag drastically broadened my ability to shoot onboard video with my RC models. Thanks in large part to its $80 price tag and good performance, the Mobius gained wide acceptance in the rough-and-tumble world of quad racing…where cameras take a beating. The Mobius has also been embraced around the world as a dash camera, helmet camera, and all-around "whatever" camera.

    Here we can compare the size of the Legend with some of its peers. From left to right are the Mobius, GoPro Hero 3 Black, Legend, and Tactic Drone View

    Time and technology march inexorably forward and the Mobius has now been joined by other cameras with a similar form factor and price point, but improved performance. One of those cameras is the Foxeer Legend 1. While the Mobius tops out with 1080P video at 30 frames per second (FPS) or 720P at 60 FPS, the Legend offers those resolutions at doubled frame rates. Foxeer's little camera is also capable of 1296P resolution at 30 FPS and 16MP (4608 x 3456) stills. While those are impressive specs, image quality and ease of use are also important factors. Let's take a look at how the Legend stacks up.

    What's in the Box

    When I purchased my Legend, black was the only color available. Now they can also be had in orange, red, and green. These new colors should make the camera much easier to find when a mishap sends it sailing off to parts unknown. I've already had to tromp through a plowed field to find mine after the airplane it was riding broke up in flight. I eventually found the camera, but it sure would have been nicer to look for an orange needle in a haystack rather than a black one.

    The 166-degree lens of the Legend protrudes forward and is unprotected.

    The Legend measures 74mm x 36mm x 17mm and weighs 50 grams. It has a built-in 850mAh Li-Po battery that is charged through a mini-USB port. A micro-HDMI port is provided if you want to connect to a monitor for live video feed. Playback of files through the camera is not an option. The camera accepts micro-SD memory cards up to 64GB.

    Up front is a relatively large F2.5 lens that provides a 166-degree field of view (120-degrees in the horizontal plane). The lens is the leading edge of the camera, so it's just begging for scratches. I'm sure it won't be long before lens protectors are available through aftermarket firms and the 3D printing community.

    Tested in 2015: Terry's Favorite RC Things

    Looking back on my RC-related experiences over the past year, it is clear that 2015 was a season of change. This is especially true on the flying side of the hobby as multi-rotors have continued to gain popularity among an ever-widening spectrum of users. The FAA's recently established registration requirements for aeromodelers is a stark reflection of how drastically the RC climate is evolving. Despite the broad changes to the RC landscape, there were no game-changing technological breakthroughs to speak of. So, my favorites for this year are mostly variations on well-established themes.

    Small Quads

    I flew a lot of different multi-rotors this year. Most of them were the small indoor variety that are great learning tools for beginning pilots. They're also perfect for established pilots to hone their skills with very little risk or overhead. I've preached about the benefits of small quads for years and that isn't likely to change anytime soon.

    It's pretty obvious that prices for small quads have dropped over the years. It wasn't uncommon to spend $100 or more on one just two years ago. But now there are numerous models available for under $50. Only recently did I discover that quads from the newer generation tend to fly better as well.

    After doing some flight testing for my roundup of sub-$50 quads, I also dug out a couple of my older nano-quads. I was surprised by how much more stable the newer ships felt and how much easier they were to fly. Despite the fact my opinion is based on a very small sample with numerous variables, I'm confident in saying that substantial improvements have been made in nano-quad technology. I don't know what the exact differences are, but the effects are definitely positive and will be appreciated by new pilots.

    Small quads are perfect for learning the basics of flying. They've become better and cheaper. The Estes Proto-Z is my current favorite.

    I can't recall any bad nano-quads that I've tested recently. Stick with a name brand unit and you should be fine. Better yet, buy one from your local hobby shop rather than a toy store or Ebay. I also suggest finding a model that uses a controller similar to standard RC transmitters. If I had to pick a favorite nano-quad from the current herd, the $25 Estes Proto-Z gets the nod. It is cheap, tough, super simple and it flies really well.