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Tops and spinners on wheels
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Wheels often smooth out landings, but they're mostly just for fun. Centrifugal landing gears and spinning rollers could only come next.
About this creation
Please feel free to look over the images and skip the verbiage.

Why wheels on a top? Well, why not?





Tops usually bump and grind to a halt after they land. Some "rolling tops" may do that at first, but they eventually taxi to a nice smooth stop.

Some even have retracting centrifugal landing gears. Wheels up!



Rolling tops in action...



But wheels actually serve a purpose in broad, low-slung tops with spoked, square, or triangular rotors -- especially when they also have large axial moments of inertia (AMIs). Without wheels, tops like the ones below would face very bumpy landings indeed.






You can judge from the video just how big these tops are. For all-yellow Big Bird, mass, diameter, and spin time by hand are 120 g, 228 mm, and 8-9 sec, respectively. Since the heavily cross-braced rotor is quite rigid, spin time by hand is limited mainly by poor aerodynamics and low release speed due to a very large AMI.



Some fixed-wheel close-ups. (The retracting landing gears are shown below.)





How long and smooth a taxi you get and how it sounds depend on many factors, including wheel diameter. The airplane wheel in the 1st photo rolls with much less resistance than the much smaller wheel below it, but bearing friction also figures in here. It also makes a more interesting sound.



Back in the day when this heavy triangular top had hard plastic wheels (here small Znap propeller wheels, 32219), landings were pretty rough (5:16, 1st video).



Now 30x14 VR tires (47674) cushion the landings. They also stabilize the rotor a bit against impacts by lowering the center of mass (CM) and adding some AMI. The extra weight is only a fraction of the weight of the clear X-Pod barrels (47674).



Wheels on the bottom of a LEGOŽ top do come at a price, though:
  • The added aerodynamic drag shortens spin time -- sometimes significantly.
  • The loss of ground clearance increases the risk of crashing the rotor on the ground while cranking hard on the stem.
  • Loss of ground clearance also hastens first touchdown -- which through the magic of precession may come long before the top is actually ready to fall. This reduces the top's effective spin time.
Unfortunately, the ground clearance issues tend to be most acute in the tops most in need of wheels, but retracting centrifugal landing gears can help.



If you can't keep this high-AMI, low-clearance rolling top within 10° of vertical as you crank it, you'll botch the spin-up. Mass, diameter, and spin time by hand are 100 g, 290 mm, and 9-10 sec, respectively. The smooth rolling taxi after touchdown lasts another 4 sec or so.

Practice helps a lot with high-AMI, low-clearance tops of any kind, but there's no shame in using a spin-up tool.



This simple "Twirl-o-matic" tool just divides the labor of twirling between 2 hands. Turns out that letting one hand apply all the torque while the other concentrates on keeping the stem vertical is often all you need to unleash the play value in a challenging top. (Video here.)



This single-stage planetary spinner with 1:4 overdrive also does a nice job with AMIs this high.



When you have an unhealthy attraction to spinning things, you'll spin anything. You might even grow up to become an evil LEGOŽ top maker. But sometimes you just have to say no to ground clearance.



Well, this spinning roller gets along just fine without any.



Now, a spinning roller may spin like a top, but a true top falls over at rest, and that's out of the question with 3 or more points of floor contact. So the roller's only top-like, but who cares? It has a lot more play value than you might think.

Under blacklight, for example, you can draw cylindrical cycloids with brightly glowing phosphorescent (glow-in-the-dark) wheel rim tracers while hub tracers draw a single horizontal circle. Jumpin' geometry, Batman!





Truth be told, my first roller here was made to do just that. The video shows the resulting flicker fusion threshold illusion at 3:20.

Honestly, could this MOCpage get any nerdier?

Of course it could!

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Retracting landing gears

The only thing better than a rolling top is one with retracting centrifugal landing gears (6:24, 1st video). You know you've always wanted them.

Top landing gears are fun to design, and they help with the ground clearance issues already mentioned. They also promote wobble in several ways, but small price to pay.

Centrifugal force pulls the wheels of this 70 g Lunar Lander out and up automatically as it picks up angular speed.









Wheel height goes from 25 to 40 mm as diameter expands from 224 to 232 mm. Poor aerodynamics and lack of rigidity limit spin times to 8-9 sec by hand, but tops like this are more about fun than performance.

How about "Saturn Lander" for this one? Oh yeah, there's no land on Saturn. Well, it'd be silly to go all that way and not stop on its enigmatic moon Iapetus, so "Iapetus Lander" it is.











Here, wheel height goes from 14 to 39 mm as diameter expands from 154 to 196 mm. Poor aerodynamics and lack of rigidity limit spin times to 6-8 sec in this case.

Finally, a use for those ancient suspension arms! Front End here really needs some rubber to get its wheels rolling on touchdown. The rubber also adds much-needed AMI, and the weight's not an issue.







The tie rods make the wheel axles radial when the tires first touch down. Mass, diameter, and spin time by hand are 63 g, 164 mm, and 6-8 sec, respectively.

In each case above, the wheels retract automatically during spin-up and lower automatically as the top slows for landing. Together, gravity and elastics restore the wheels to their resting down positions.



With hard plastic wheels and no elastics, this older Front End just skidded to a stop.

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Small rolling tops

Of course, rolling tops don't have to be large or complicated. These simple 14 g small fry stay up 8-12 sec by hand.







The orange and green one is especially cool under blacklight (2:43 in the last video).



The idea of turning dishes into wheels came from the owner of The ToycrafterŽ, who once used LEGOŽ to prototype a spinning roller like the ones discussed next. For 3 decades (1972-2002), this toy company made wonderfully creative tops and related spintoys.

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Spinning rollers

Rolling tops inevitably lead to gizmos that simply roll on the ground as they spin. You can call these top-like spinners "rolling spinners" or "spinning rollers" or just "rollers", but you can't call them "tops", because they can't fall over.

Most of these photos show Big Red, my first roller, in old trim, but the structure hasn't changed. The 71 g current version (2:47, 2nd video) is 240 mm in diameter.











Like many rollers, this one has a pleasing mechanical feel in the hand during spin-up and makes a nice mechanical sound as it rolls to a stop. Poor aerodynamics, high rotor AMI, high total wheel AMI, and high total rolling resistance at the wheel contact patches limit average roll time to 8-10 sec by hand, but I got 13 sec once with a lucky twirl.1

Converting these small rolling tops from the last section to 3-point rollers is as easy as removing their tips. Roll times are 3-4 sec by hand.



And this 94 g Titanic top converts to a roller just by putting it on a spinning display dolly. Roll times run 4-5 sec by hand. Spin times without the dolly are 2-3 times longer.













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Footnotes

1 It's easy enough to convert Big Red here to a rolling top -- just lengthen the tip downward by ~16 mm to jack the wheels off the ground (not shown). But in the end, it has much more play value as a roller.



As a rolling top, Big Red stays on tip for up to 6 sec with a very lucky twirl, wobbling all the way. Average time from release to first touchdown is more like 3-4 sec, with a rolling taxi to follow.

Note that the wobble here isn't a matter of unbalance. Rather, lagging and flapping motions of the long, thin spokes get excited during spin-up, and the structure's just not stiff enough to keep them from turning into wobble-inducing vibrations during spin-down.

Poor aerodynamics and high rotor AMI limit the top version to release speeds of under ~600 RPM by hand. The wheels stay on remarkably well at that speed, but most of my spin-up tools could easily send the wheels flying.

After spin-up and release, aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance bring the top down to critical speed very quickly. Tip friction is probably negligible by comparison.

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Comments

  May 1, 2017
Okay, thank you very much for the pics in advance my friend! Great to hear that you'll stay here. I have Flickr but only as a second account and not the main. Here is my home, here are all my good friends and I don't care much about Facebook as example ;) So you'll never find me on FB XD. Have a great day my friend and take care. Love and greets from Germany ;)
 I made it 
  May 1, 2017
Quoting jds 7777 I'm just waiting till I get a notification about some sort of cold-fusion powered tops you've come up with :)
No luck with that so far, JDS, but the Technic centrifugal ectoplasmic concentrators are coming along nicely. And they glow without backlight!
 I made it 
  May 1, 2017
Quoting Sven ;o) And about your dicey spinner: Yes, that's exactly what I wanted to see. The spinning effect under black light where the white turns purple ;)
I'll send you a personal e-mail when the photo's been added.
 I made it 
  May 1, 2017
Quoting Sven ;o) Oh my friend, I'll never leave Mocpages because my career started here, I like the page, the community and the very nice friends (like you) I found here. But the page needs some improvements to catch up with all the other sites many moved over to. Biggest problem is that the page is down very often for a longer time without any warning/information. And at this point many decided to move to another platform.
Glad to hear it, my friend, because I plan to stay, too -- mainly for the friends and format. In addition to the outages, I think many have also been drawn away by Flickr's higher-res images, but I don't care much about that. And I don't like their video handling at all.
 I made it 
  May 1, 2017
Quoting Nick Barrett Wheels make everything better...
Yes, chocolate, too.
 I like it 
  May 1, 2017
I'm just waiting till I get a notification about some sort of cold-fusion powered tops you've come up with :)
 I like it 
  May 1, 2017
And about your dicey spinner: Yes, that's exactly what I wanted to see. The spinning effect under black light where the white turns purple ;)
 I like it 
  May 1, 2017
Oh my friend, I'll never leave Mocpages because my career started here, I like the page, the community and the very nice friends (like you) I found here. But the page needs some improvements to catch up with all the other sites many moved over to. Biggest problem is that the page is down very often for a longer time without any warning/information. And at this point many decided to move to another platform.
 I like it 
  May 1, 2017
Wheels make everything better...
 I made it 
  April 26, 2017
Quoting Sven ;o) Again a really nice and well crafted collection of spinning tops my friend! Really like them all but the black/white pyramid (with the dice numbers) is my favorite because how it looks when it's spinning. Would love to see it spinning under black light. Ps: Don't wonder about my lack of activity atm but I'm very busy and have not much time for Lego stuff.
About the "Pretty Dicey" top: Those video frame rate effects don't show up in person, but if you have a strobe light that goes up to 100 Hz or better, you'll see many different patterns morphing into each other as you sweep the frequency up and down. Lately I've been designing explicitly for effects like these. None of the parts here fluoresce, so I don't expect much under blacklight (other than the white turning purple), but I'll check and post a photo.
 I made it 
  April 26, 2017
Quoting Sven ;o) Again a really nice and well crafted collection of spinning tops my friend! Really like them all but the black/white pyramid (with the dice numbers) is my favorite because how it looks when it's spinning. Would love to see it spinning under black light. Ps: Don't wonder about my lack of activity atm but I'm very busy and have not much time for Lego stuff.
Thanks, Sven, and relieved that you haven't given up on good old MOCpages like so many others. The mix of MOC genres has changed dramatically just in the last few months. Nothing wrong with that per se, mind you. But much of the diversity we once enjoyed and still value is now gone, too, and that's a =big= problem for the long-term survival of this site.
 I made it 
  April 26, 2017
Quoting Nirds forprez New variation on your prodigy as a top-star. I like it!
Very kind, NFP! Of course, it's easy to be a star when you're playing solitaire. I need some competition!
 I like it 
  April 26, 2017
New variation on your prodigy as a top-star. I like it!
 I made it 
  April 26, 2017
Quoting Petey Bird Wow, those are some wonderful tops! And they just work so well. Really cool device you have there for getting them started. Very, very original, you're in a league of your own!
Very kind, Petey! It's a lot of fun to get a visual idea for a top and then drag the longest, smoothest spins you can out of it. I'm no artist, but I think of tops now as a kinetic art form. Check out my MOCpage on planetary spinners.
 I like it 
  April 26, 2017
Again a really nice and well crafted collection of spinning tops my friend! Really like them all but the black/white pyramid (with the dice numbers) is my favorite because how it looks when it's spinning. Would love to see it spinning under black light. Ps: Don't wonder about my lack of activity atm but I'm very busy and have not much time for Lego stuff.
 I made it 
  April 26, 2017
Quoting Doug Hughes Wheels!! And, retracting wheels!!
Thanks, Doug! Just couldn't resist those landing gears. It's probably a guy thing.
 I made it 
  April 26, 2017
Quoting Didier B That blue one (main picture) is absolutely excellent. One of my favorite top among all you've been creating. Didier
Many thanks, Didier! The 1st version without wheels was one of my earliest tops. But it stayed up only 1-2 sec and just gathered dust for 2 years. Now it's one of my favorites, too. When you live in Denver, you end up drowning in those blue and orange Bronco colors. Sooner or later, they bubble up in your building whether you like them or not. Now I kinda like them.
 I like it 
  April 26, 2017
Wow, those are some wonderful tops! And they just work so well. Really cool device you have there for getting them started. Very, very original, you're in a league of your own!
 I made it 
  April 26, 2017
Quoting Clayton Marchetti Wow! What. Brilliant idea! I love the top of the sharks chasing the boats. Outstanding!
Too kind, Clayton! My dark side apparently wanted to come out and play that day. At least no one ever really gets bitten, but I feel kinda sorry for those poor hungry sharks. They have to make a living too, you know!
 I like it 
  April 26, 2017
Wheels!! And, retracting wheels!!
 I like it 
  April 26, 2017
That blue one (main picture) is absolutely excellent. One of my favorite top among all you've been creating. Didier
 I like it 
  April 26, 2017
Wow! What. Brilliant idea! I love the top of the sharks chasing the boats. Outstanding!
 I made it 
  April 26, 2017
Quoting Philippe Moisan Nice videos.
Thanks, Phillipe!
 I like it 
  April 26, 2017
Nice videos.
 I made it 
  April 26, 2017
Quoting Nils O. Attention, new ideas coming in! :-)) I've never thought about a "top on wheels" before - until now. I'll have to give it a try, now ;-)) Great job! :-))
Thanks, Nils! Really hope we'll get to see some of your tops. You never know what's going to happen when a top gets exposed to table scraps.
 I made it 
  April 26, 2017
Quoting Walter Lee Geez you've outdone yourself again! Truly inspiring.
Too kind, Walter!
 I like it 
  April 26, 2017
Attention, new ideas coming in! :-)) I've never thought about a "top on wheels" before - until now. I'll have to give it a try, now ;-)) Great job! :-))
 I like it 
  April 26, 2017
Geez you've outdone yourself again! Truly inspiring.
 I made it 
  April 25, 2017
Quoting Oliver Becker "Great Wheels on Fire", my friend! Again you do suprise the community here and me little myself... ;)
Thank you, Oliver! Strange things happen when you're in a room full of parts with a LEGO top in your hand.
 I made it 
  April 25, 2017
Quoting Jonathan Demers Jeremy, these are incredible!! At first I thought they were fake, because they spun so fast! Excellent work, and keep building stuff like this!
Thanks, Jonathan! Don't worry, I don't seem to be able to stop.
 I like it 
  April 25, 2017
"Great Wheels on Fire", my friend! Again you do suprise the community here and me little myself... ;)
 I like it 
  April 25, 2017
Jeremy, these are incredible!! At first I thought they were fake, because they spun so fast! Excellent work, and keep building stuff like this!
 I made it 
  April 25, 2017
Very kind, Alexander!
 I like it 
  April 25, 2017
This is some pretty cool stuff, I must say :)
 
By Jeremy McCreary
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