Five Days to Go: A Look At the Morph under Construction

Today is October 23. We have five days to go before the Oct 28 unConference, and construction of the Morph is hot and heavy in San Diego.

Earlier, on September 17, I visited Graham Butler and the Morph Team to review the final design of the Morph, and to plan how the first production prototype of the Morph could be shown at the upcoming MassTLC Innovation unConference. ( Above, Graham holds the front end of the Morph. The upper part is aluminum, while the lower fork is made of steel.
Intrepid Cycles is located in San Diego. Graham also builds frames in his home country of Brazil.
A screen shot from Graham's computer. We tested different rider sizes. It looks like Bill and Rory both fit easily on the same bike. The footrests mainly take up the difference, along with the adjustable pedal post.
Seth Arseneau drove from Albuquerque to work with us. Seth is handling the rear, morphing part of the bike, even though here he's holding the front end which was made by Graham and company in San Diego. Seth is focused on some of the highly machined parts that make the Morph do its magic.
These are the "upper morphing arms." They allow for an adjustable lift system so a variety of rider weights can be accommodated with a single version of the Morph.

This is the assembled upper morphing arm. The silver parts have been machined out for weight reduction and cool looks. The tool did not cut all the way through so we maintain maximum strength in the arms. Note the metal table. This is Seth's very cool fast welding table that makes holding weldments easy.

The upper morphing arm, upside down. You can see the lead screw and the "carriage" which allows the mechanical advantage of the gas springs to be changed by turning the bolt on the end of the lead screw.
It may seem like a minor thing, but I need a crutch holder so I can stow my crutches when I ride. We used a couple of pens taped to together on the scale model to see how that might work.
As the Morph moves down, the crutches will tilt back.
When all the way down, the crutches will tilt back nicely. Maybe we should have a little flag on them for visibility.
Here Graham is checking out the Morph with a proposed storage system that hangs under the seat. (shown as a rubber band.)
Bill's idea is to have something that hangs below the seat and can hold lots of groceries, for example. Especially in high rider mode.
This is the Schlumpf Speed Drive. It gives a 2.5x increase in gearing when you hit the button in the crank center. This 2.5x is important, because we have a very small front wheel...only 18" in diameter.  This is 1.5x smaller than a 27" (700c) normal bike wheel. So, when you morph down, you'll engage the Speed Drive and you'll have plenty of gearing to get all the speed that the low, fast, highly maneuverable Low Rider mode offers.
Bill used his Travel Bike on the trip to San Diego. The front end of the Travel Bike has many similarities to the Morph. Same 18" wheel. Same 8-speed internal hub with brake (from Shimano). Also, a couple bungee cords are holding my wheelchair on the back, and that also acts as a luggage cart. Nice setup!

Morph Parts Taking Shape: Seth Arseneau Making the Chips Fly

Seth Arseneau in his machine shop. Seth is playing multiple roles on the Morphing Handcycle project. First, he is helping with important decisions about exactly how to build the machine. Right now, Intrepid Equipment is building enough parts for seven Morphing Handcycles of the Morph 4 design. Seth has already contributed to the design that is being cut from metal right now. Seth suggested that the main morphing joint be made from an external bottom bracket so it is strong, light, and easy to construct. That change is in the design. He also suggested that the upper morphing arms be made from a single plate of aluminum, rather than the welded tubular design we initially had. This has also been included in the design, Seth has cut the first pass of the arms on a friend's CNC mill.

Seth's experience with cycles and handcycle racing has been paying dividends on this project. You'll hear more about some new designs in a future blog post.
This is the upper morphing linkage arm. So nice to see it in metal, instead of CAD! Nice job, Seth. 

Drawing for the upper linkage arm. We are planning to remove much of the metal for lightness and look. The outline will not be a hole, though, to keep the arm rigid. We are planning to anodize the part, and then take out the material, so it will be a two-color part.
A 7000-series aluminum oval part for the lower linkage arm.
Seth likes an exact fit. Here, all the cross supports are lined up to make sure they are all identical and accurate.
Here you can see where the cross support fits in the lower linkage arm.

Straight vs. Cut/Welded Linkage Arm Design Using Ball Joints for Bearings

[January 29, 2010] From Graham Butler:

After our last meeting I thought long and hard about the design of the linkage arms.  You guys were right about the cut and welded design being a difficult thing to manufacture. So I started working on some simpler linkage arms, where we would have some stock billet aluminum parts that were welded to straight tubes.  I have attached some screen shots of how this would look.

I don't really like this  (please let me know your impressions and opinions).  I think that the upper linkage arm is one of the most visually dominant parts of this bike, and I think that if it looks great, then the entire bike will have a better aspect.  So I went back to tubes, but this time bent instead of cut and welded.  ( I should be able to make a bending die that will be able to take care of this).  This time however, I put in the tie rod ends as the pivot points.  This would legitimately save us from machining precision bearing seats.  As long as the linkages are stiff, it should work fine.  I have attached some screen shots of this.

Having been around the mulberry bush a few times now, I think that really we are now at a choice junction.  We need to decide on the direction of design for out pivots bearings or tie rods.

Bent welded linkage arms.

Example of straight linkage arms.
Machined plug inserted and welded into square aluminum tubing.
Straight tube linkage arm.

Cut/welded linkage arm. (From hard will it be to make this?)
Ball joints used for bearings.
Another view.
Top view of cut/welded design.