Friday, February 19, 2010

Back again at the Moonbuggy

Stefan Martini
Moonbuggy Team Germany 2010

translated by Regina Peldszus, London

Borsdorf, 15.2.2010

At 8am, after a short night at the SEI Hostel and a quick breakfast, we're on our way to the Vocational Training & Technology Center of the Chamber of Trade Leipzig. Out team mates from Moscow have already been holding the fort here for the previous week. For me it's the first day at the center and will therefore be an unusual and eventful day.

I joined SEI 4 years ago, and built the first international Moonbuggy exactly 3 years ago. The conditions we worked in are incomparable with the possibilities of the center today. We had a blank sheet and didn't know where to start. SEI didn't have a workshop back then. We bolted and milled in an old shed and in the yard. A tunnel by wood served as protection from snow and the demolition of the nearby old pub, the Green Inn. Our fingers nearly froze off and we didn't know CAD. I was constantly exhausted from working so much and my hands hurt at the end of each day. I was young and didn't have a clue what I was getting myself into. But we were intrigued and driven by anticipation and not least a strong team spirit. These were true pioneering years and I remember them fondly. sie liebevoll.

February 2007 / February 2010

Today everything is different. A giant vocational training center opens its doors. The halls are warm, there are tons of machines that we could have only dreamt of those days.There's everything! I can move about as I wish and don't have to painstakingly search for potential partners in the telephone book, receiver in hand. The people are nice and show me all I need to know. The team has a Moonbuggy that's proven its worth and has been improved continuously over 3 years. We can concentrate on details. And the buggy became more complex over time.

February 2007 / February 2010

I have to get into delicate drives, into telemetry technology and software evaluation, into calculations, analyses and construction with professional engineering software. I look at the buggy ad try to understand the changes. And I realise, not without pride, that the fundamental design of the frame hasn't changed much. I've had input into all main pieces of the frame. So we must have done a solid piece of work back then. I'm starting work on the same part I stopped working on 3 years ago, the bike-shaft. My job is now to make it lighter without compromising on stability. When we get to the center, we find a nearly empty workshop. Only master Müller and an apprentice are on location. Everyone else is in a training session and only supposed to return later.

After unloading the van of Mr Wittenbecher we start work on the new parts. At first we need an overview. So we get Yevgeny Zakutin's notebook out and talk through a CAD file to figure out what to work on today.

I'll be taking care of milling holes in the bike-shaft of the buggy, without ever having worked on a mill before. But rescue is near: master Müller lends a hand, shows me the biggest machine in the room and gives me an induction. He mills the first of 11 holes that are solely designed to save weight. Afterwards, he lets me get on with it, gives some advice and controls the results. As surprisingly easy it is to the drill the holes accurately, the harder it is to recalibrate the machine. My hands are not used to it and get the first blisters. But with time, I'm getting used to it and the apprentices that have come back give me a hand.

Time flies and before I've finished with the holes it's lunchtime already. I want to finish my work, however. So I stay until I'm done and wait for our Russian team mates who also want to get their parts finished.

After refreshments we start on the other bike-shaft. This one needs holes to save weight too. Thanks to the practice earlier this is working well - practice makes perfect. After we're done with this one too, we see to further weight savings on the bottom of the part. Due to the angular structure of the part it is sometimes hard to clamp it. Also, the holes won't be round but customized according to our drawings. This is more demanding and you need to focus. This concentration lasts til midnight - until writing the daily report.

At the end of the day, I go to bed and crash. We got a lot of stuff done today, but we have to admit that there is still a lot to do until completion of the Moonbuggy. Afterall there are many possibilities to improve the buggy, even when you think you're done. We'll find them. During the last years, we never really considered weight. It was all about sorting out stability and the basic functions. Now we're tracking down every gram of weight, and Yevgeny can calculate exactly how much we're saving with the different steps of each task. Also, once the parts are digitised, he can calculate them in different materials. Thus we know that a construction of aluminum would be ideal. The computer is then suggesting additional rods.

I have only spent 3 hours watching him use the software, and realised that I still have a lot to catch up with.


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