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May 21, 2011, 06:24 PM
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rogerflies's Avatar
I'd have to think my Clutch Winches and Truly Redundant Footswitches are about the only really new features to be introduced in sailplane launching in quite a while. I also built some pretty good turnarounds that were a vast improvement over the bicycle hubs that were the mainstay when I began flying in the late '80s.

I never sold enough to say I was in the winch business. For the most part I was just selling off things I had built, used for a while, and replaced with what I considered to be a better design. I think my Clutch Winches were probably too complex for wide acceptance, but they certainly worked well for me.

I can design things, I'm a decent manual machinist and welder, but I have zero interest in production and marketing. I'd sure like to see someone enter the arena now that Tim McCann and Jim Brandon have stopped building winches.

I'd be interested in doing prototype work on any new designs people can come up with. After finalizing a design, you might be able to find a CNC shop that would make stuff in small quantities for a reasonable price.

The lack of inexpensive direct drive motors with long shafts and adequate power is the real problem. I'm pretty sure I could use a gear reduction motor in combination with an electric clutch to make a decent winch, but the price would be steep and the winch would probably be too complex for most users.
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May 21, 2011, 08:10 PM
Mongo like wind. Wind Good.
V1VrV2's Avatar
A steam CAT launch system would be cool. No moving parts other than the piston and hook. I think the reactor for making the steam might be a bit of an issue though...
May 21, 2011, 09:24 PM
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We were in a paperwork phase at work recently, and I was in CAD withdrawal. I designed and got a quote for a turnaround housing recently. Have to say I was appalled, but then probably it would be cheaper if in more than two pieces to minimize milling time. An alternative would be molded, but probably not worth it for less than 50 or 100 pieces.

I also designed a drum but that didn't turn out cheap either.
May 21, 2011, 10:07 PM
Loopie/Zoomie ≠ Soaring
superskeg's Avatar
Last edited by superskeg; Oct 11, 2013 at 05:00 PM.
May 22, 2011, 08:36 AM
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I'm sure it depends on the exact details of the design. If you have your own CAD files, there is an outfit called First Cut which has an automated quoting system. Their whole approach is automated. You can get a quote in a day, or, more usually, an hour or two. This is useful if you're trying to fiddle with the part to make it cheaper. It's not always intuitive what makes it cheaper. Tends to be cheaper than a machine shop for one offs, but it depends on how your part interacts with their standard sizes and processes. If you can make the part out of plastic, I'm told that if you want somewhere between 20 and 50, it may be cheaper molded. They have a division, Proto Mold, that does aluminum molds. I don't think they last as long as steel, but probably long enough for us. That would probably just be for turnaround sides, not for the drum.

Anyway, my quotes have expired, and I don't remember them. I could requote, but you'd get a more accurate quote with your own files. When I said "appalling" I meant more expensive than the retail prices I've seen for turnarounds or winch drums.
May 22, 2011, 11:44 AM
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I have been giving winch production a lot of thought lately and have a few ideas which I thought were new. I am interested in designing a winch that could be built by an average hobbyist, and does not require the production of any custom metal pieces, including the drum. At most, some welding of frame pieces made from standard sized stock. Here's my idea:
The winch drum would be made from a 20" (or maybe 16") kiddie bicycle wheel sandwiched between two 26" (give or take) wooden discs or donuts. This is similar to some retriever winches, which have a disc on one side of the wheel.
The motor would be mounted on a hinged plate, and drive the drum via a belt. The motor would be mounted so that it's own weight maintained belt tension.
The pulleys on the motor shaft and the drum shaft would be stepped pulleys, similar to those used on drill presses or woodworking lathes, allowing the user to very easily and rapidly change the gear ratios to provide either greater torque or greater line speed. Thus, a flyer with an old woody RES ship could simply select a nice low speed ratio and gently and slowly tow the plane up without having to tap dance on the pedal, greatly improving motor and switch life. The range of available gearing can be also be easily altered by making different diameter drums....I have seen kiddy bike wheels as small as 12" and of course 16" and 20" wheels are all readily available and very cheap. (get them at the junkyard or at garage sales)
May 22, 2011, 06:52 PM
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You'll need to slow the motor down. That means either a really large stepped pulley or a really small drive pulley. If the drive pulley is small, I bet it slips if gravity is all that's tensioning the belt. I think you might want to look at a smaller diameter drum. You could use a piece of metal tubing bolted between two plywood discs, on a 1/2" diameter shaft. Or start with one of these:
May 23, 2011, 02:05 AM
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rogerflies's Avatar
What you described would probably work, but it couldn't possibly be any better than something like a Little Big Winch for that size/type plane. The compact size, light weight, reliability, and ease of use quickly make up for any difference in the price.

I just looked at Ebay for gear reduction starters. Everything I saw was either really expensive (over $300) or a cheap Chinese knock-off. I've had enough disappointment with the CKOs. For around $300 or a little more, I can get a direct drive ball-bearing motor with a long shaft. Right back to square one.

Maybe somebody with technical know-how can look into the possibility of building a 3-phase winch motor with a solid-state variable-frequency power supply. It would probably be doable and affordable if you used a 100-volt battery, but where are you going to find that?

Sorry, but I just don't think there's any magic alternative to a 12-volt battery,an expensive direct-drive motor, and a bunch of precision-machined components for what you want to do.
May 23, 2011, 09:42 AM
Mongo like wind. Wind Good.
V1VrV2's Avatar

I like the 3 phase motor and VFD idea. You wouldn't need the 100 Volt Battery if you could get single phase 220 VAC to the launch pad. This would be best suited for a club field, not an individual. Like the idea though...

All the reasons in this thread are why electric on board motors in sailplanes have gotten so popular. Less expense and no muss - no fuss set up.

Winches are complicated to build and quality is expensive. Build it cheap and you will have a unreiliable piece-o-crap. Trick is to keep it simple and use quality parts. It's not cheap, but looks like it would be to someone who has never built one.

May 23, 2011, 02:02 PM
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Mark Miller's Avatar
Not sure about winch parts but awhile back I was looking to have a CNC cut tow hook like one that i was getting out of Eastern Europe. I drew up the CAD files and sent it off for a quote. If I ordered 500 it was double what I was retailing them for not taking shipping to me into account. Needless to say it was not worth the time and effort. Seeing I was selling less that 50 a year 500 would be a lifetimes worth and who needs your money tied up on a shelf waiting for a sale?

No wonder businesses looking for machine work have gone off shore. At those prices you are only forcing people away from you.

I'd hate to think what a commercial shop charges for a drum.
May 23, 2011, 09:48 PM
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kilwein's Avatar
Made my own winch and it was over $300 in new parts and (new-old) material, battery included in cost, this is not counting my machining time.
Roller and ball bearing supported, fully cooled thru out.
Did not make it pretty, just functional I hope.
I know why they charge hundreds for a pretty one.

Back on topic.
How about one of the wheel motors on electric cars or bikes?
Speed controller not to hard to modify-design-make.
Could even put governor-line speed control in the works.
Cost of just parts is probably more than most people would pay.

IF a person wanted to make a winch with very little maching I think it could be done pretty easy,
but the winch would be a little wider or use belt-chain with front spool to back motor components.
The drum can be fabricated with tube and plate round stock with some drilling and tapping work. If you have a basic drill press with vise-table, you can make the parts fairly easy. Common pillar block bearings for support of the drum.
You may even find some parts you need as scrap from your local machine shop.
Last edited by kilwein; May 24, 2011 at 08:12 AM.
May 24, 2011, 04:12 AM
Proud member of LISF and ESL
Originally Posted by Neil Stainton
I wonder if this HobbyKing geared starter motor could be used as the basis for a small glider winch:

Hey, wait. We had the innovative idea of using this motor to build a winch. Has that now been dismissed?

Neil, are you going to build it? Oh, please, say you will. I want to see it work.
May 24, 2011, 06:34 AM
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rogerflies's Avatar
Why bother with that when you can get a small direct-drive motor for an outboard engine for almost the same money, and it'll do a better job.
May 24, 2011, 08:10 AM
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kilwein's Avatar
You jogged the memory, what about some of the smaller boat line anchor drums?
These could be connected to the geared motor and be relatively small.

I remember seeing some small light aluminium ones.

Originally Posted by rogerflies
Why bother with that when you can get a small direct-drive motor for an outboard engine for almost the same money, and it'll do a better job.
Last edited by kilwein; May 24, 2011 at 08:16 AM.
May 24, 2011, 08:50 AM
Registered User
As for variable speed 12V motors....has anybody got any experience with golf cart motors or electric trolling motors?
To me the biggest barrier to making a good homemade winch is the drum....

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