Archive for the ‘Product Reviews’ Category

Modified Zoom-O Catch and Fire Ball Launcher Shoots 240 rounds per minute

Ever since getting the old ball launcher I have wanted one that could shoot multiple rounds rapid fire style. The catch and fire came out recently but it was a single shooter. After some inspection I had some ideas of how to mod the gun to get a more semi-automatic action out of it.

First I took off that big catcher since I have no intention of catching anything. And as you can see it starts to look more like a paint ball gun.
modified zoom-o catch and fire ball launcher - profile (click to enlarge)

Then I opened up the case to see what’s inside. I have some pictures and video of the trigger mechanism, but for now that’s not important.

The parts I were focused on were these two little pincer holder things. They keep the ball from touching the spinning wheel until your trigger pushes a plunger into the ball.

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BlipToys website is alive – Zoom-O replacement discs possible

Can you believe it! The BlipToys website is finally up! They finally have a presence on the internet for you to browse products and contact them for support.The site looks pretty good and you get to see other products they offer including the Trigger Fire launcher I haven’t seen in stores yet. They also have other toy lines like Card-works and Pin Print and Hairballs under the Wild Time brand.

I contacted them this morning through email and asked about replacement discs for my very important readers.

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Zoom-O Catch and Fire hands on test and modification notes

Here are some results of my test of the Zoom-O Catch and Fire motorized ball launcher gun from Blip, Inc.

If you are looking for a quick intro on this toy you can go here.

In this post I comment on Comfort, Noise, and Shooting. Then I talk about everything I’d like to change about this toy in Modification Notes.


It is so uncomfortable to hold and shoot. It has too much weight in the front which you end up supporting with you index finger. Meanwhile you can barely get the rest of your hand around the second fat trigger. Even when you pull the second trigger it only moves slightly. My hand cramped up in a few minutes. If I had trouble with it I can’t imagine how a 6 yr old would manage.
pulling bottom triggerpulling top trigger

In the sequence of photos above you’ll see my ring finger squeezes the bottom trigger first, then my index and middle squeezes the top trigger.

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Zoom-O Catch and Fire Ball Launcher Toy by Blip only $19.99

Back in Feb 07 I reviewed a similar toy from Blip called Zoom-O Ball Launcher and I was commenting on how it would be so much better if they made a gun out of it so kids can shoot each other instead of just shooting up in the air. Well it looks like my wish was granted. I was at Target today and spotted this large gun hidden on the bottom shelf (and the older ball launcher was no where to be found). Because of my previous product review I felt obligated to buy it and take a closer look.


Zoom-O disc launcher replacement parts

zoom-o max launcher

Over the past few months a number of visitors have shown interest in
replacement discs for various Zoom-O disc-launcher toys.
Some discs were eaten by pets , others simply broke, and others got lost in the neighbor’s bushes.

You want replacements, and you want them now!

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micro mosquito RC flying helicopter (vs havoc heli picco z)

I picked up the Micro Mosquito from Radio Shack the other day. Its hard to compete with the Picco Z even with 3 motors and 3ch control.

Click below for a review

part I

part II

Take apart that PC Box Fan- see what’s inside brushless DC motor

PowMax brushless DC motor PC fan

I have been thinking about brushless motors for a while now, and I wanted to replace a small brush motor with a brushless one but wasn’t sure how to go about it. I looked up how they work to refresh my memory, then I thought I might make one out of permanent magnets and a few coils, but how was I going to control the switching of the coils? If I did use some kind of IC chip to do the logic it would add cost. Then I thought maybe I can just use some kind of analog circuit. Like maybe an infrared sensor tied to a transistor to time the pulses, or maybe a hall effect sensor. So Looked up “simple brushless motor” and found this site. It shows you how to make your own with all those sensors including a reed switch, pros cons etc.

I started to feel like making my own would be a pain and not efficient anyway, so I tried to think of a brushless motor I could find around the house and remembered that PC fans are brushless. I was pretty sure the PC only gave a voltage to the fan and did not offer any pulsing, so the motor must have some logic circuit built in. Perfect. I looked for photos online of PC fans opened up but a quick searched turned up nothing. I don’t know if a PC fan has enough power for what I’d like it to do. But I knew I was ready to take one apart.

So I found an old PC fan that I am pretty sure didn’t work and went at it.

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Picco Z Silverlit (Airhogs Havoc Heli) Toy helicopter

Picked up my Picco Z helicopter today from Target for only $29.99. Its really fun to fly and works pretty well.

It takes some getting used to but after a few or 20 crashes you get the hang of it. The best part is its so light it will almost never break froma crash. I think over time if you crash it enough the body parts might twist a bit and give you a different flight feel, but I think its manageable.

As for the technology behind it: I think the coolest thing aside from its miniature size is the main rotor design. The blades are made of Polypropelene which means they are light, durable and flexible. There is a main rotor/propeller that provides lift and another smaller propeller above it to provide stability. these props are tied together using connecting rods. So the top prop is basically a gyro. it has small metal weights on its tips. That means that when it starts to spin from a flat ground level, it acts as a gyroscope and resists tilting motion. As the heli tilts forward. the gryo remains level for a second and tugs the main blades. It tilts the blade to create more lift in the front bringing the heli back to level.

This guy R0XoRiZoR does a good job explaining how this works. And he has pictures. (scroll down to his post from July 2004.)

and this guy watersharer

Here is a video I took to show the gyro in action.

I am not ready to take mine apart yet but here is a site with some pics of a bearing/CF shaft mod and custom frame by azimov.

2-1-07 *Update*

tiny motor

And by the way if you are looking for replacement motors you might try these guys at Robot Store HK I do not know if they are the same size as the rotor motor or tail motor, but they look pretty close.

I tried going on the manufacture’s site TECO but I cant seem to find any product info or specs.

Anyway Robot Store HK seems to be a really good resource for hobby robot parts.

You can find more Picco Z Havoc Heli information here.

USBCell-AA Battery with USB Charger built in

This is pretty damn cool. Its a AA rechargeable battery (NiMH) that you can simply plug directly into any powered USB port to recharge. The charger is built in! Yup it actually has a circuit and little LED to tell you when its charging, 90% charged and fully charged. It even shuts off after a certain amount of time.

USBCell closed

The picture kind of says it all. Its got a neat little cap you pull off to expose the USB connection right under it.

The purpose here, according to the manufacture Moixa Energy, is to encourage people to use rechargeable batteries by making it more convenient to recharge without needing to carry or look for a charger/adapter etc. To keep people from buying alkalines out of convenience.

Ok, so now for the downside.

According to their website, the battery will take about 5 hours to charge up to 90% capacity from dead. And another 1.5 hours or so to “top-off” the remaining 10%. Then it shuts off automatically.

You can put them in a standard charger as long as it doesnt provide more than 600 mA of current. So these cannot be charged quickly like those 15 min chargers or 2 hour chargers. No matter what you do you are gonna have to wait 5 hrs.

Then when you are finally done waiting and you put them in your device, they are only going to last about half as long as other standard AA rechargeable NiMH.

The reason is simple, in order for it to have room for the USB connection the actaul battery part of this.. um battery.. is in fact only a 2/3 AA. So the part that stores the energy, the NiMH part, is physically shorter than your standard AA NiMH. And if you look at the specs on their site you’ll see these puppies only offer 1300 mAh. Compare that to an Energizer Rechargeable AA offering 2500 mAh, and you are looking at a conveniently rechargeable battery that last half as long as others. bummer.

But still, its pretty cool and convenient. As the site suggests these are especially convenient for computer or video game users who have wireless devices like a wireless controller for example. wireless controller You can leave these plugged in all day if you want and when your battery in the controller is low, you just swap the dead ones out and put the new ones in.

One device I know I would NOT want to use these is in a in a digital camera. I hate when my batteries are dying at the worst moment, so I would rather have AA with tons of mAh, a USBcell would be a step backwards.

So its still got its uses, and I think they deserve an A+ for mechanical design and concept. Wish I would of thought of it.

And I bet down the road maybe the short 2/3 AA will have more mAh.

By the way they are about 4x more expensive than the average AA NiMH, but that’s what you pay for convenience I guess.

$20 for 2 (You can get 4 AA for $10 most places)

They are shipped from the UK, where the company is based, for only $3.

And they have a “No Quibble” 30 day refund policy. Cant beat that, right?

I havent bought them yet but I am considering to try them out. I will let you know how I like it, or not.

Take a look at their other batteries. They even have a AAA with a USB plug that folds out. How’d they do that?

USBcell AAA fold outUSBcell AAA fold detail

I just found a great link to a video demonstation for this device given by the Moxia CEO and founder Simon Daniels.
Thanks to nafcom for finding it.

The CEO of USBCELL brings up another “advantage” where he can put a different chip in the battery to “communicate” with the customer while the battery is charging in your PC. A message can pop up on your computer screen to encourage you to recycle. He also envisions bundling it with digital cameras and promoting a photo print service etc. Great so now when I charge one of these things I will have to battle with some annoying pop up ad. Just call it what it is, you are advertizing through hardware, you are not “communicating” you are annoying the customer.

All that said, I still think its great technology and I am jealous of Simon Daniels!

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Trudeau Crumb Bug Vac

I came across this lil cutie while looking for a vacuum. It’s made by Trudeau (which makes other interesting devices) and is sold at BedBathandBeyond for only $9.99. So of course I had to pick one up, see if it works then see how.

When I got it I was pretty skeptical. The bristles looked like they were just for show and the fan didn’t look too menacing. Not to mention the small motor and 2AA batteries it was driven by.

So I got some crumbs off a Thomas’ English muffin and dropped them on the floor and gave it a try. At first I lightly passed it over the surface and it didn’t pick up much. But then I applied just a slight down force to bend the bristles and bring it closer to the surface and it sucked everything right up. You could hear the crumbs wacking around in the thing. So I was impressed. Not sure if I would actually use it, or why you need one but it works and works pretty well. Clean up is easy you just pull off the bottom and dump it.

Here is a quick video to see and hear it pick up the crumbs

And here is a video of me openning the vac to show the crumbs inside. I promise its not a camera trick. The original file was too long so I split it into two movies.

Ok now here’s a look inside the product so you can see how it works. My favorite part.


First a shot of the packaging. Pretty simple and affective, you can see what I paid for it.

crumb bug package

It actually came with no instructions. Nada. I guess you dont need em. Well you first have to figure out how to open it. You know 2 AA batteries have to get in there some how.







Crumb bug open top

.The first thing I did was I tried ot twist it open. By doing that I was able to remove the top cover. Then you see the battery holders







crumb bug open bottom


Then I realized there are two tabs on the sides you use to unlatch the bottom cover brush part. I was able to see the impeller and the cup that holds the crumbs.






crumb bug battery close-up

Here is a close up of the Battery holders. You can also see the electric motor which is a simple brush electric motor. You might find these motors in any small toy car. They are very cheap but work very well, and are easy to find.

You can also see how the switch is designed. Its a simple set of thin flexible metal strips that are close to but not touching the contacts on the base. When you push the white plastic button on the top housing it makes the contact and completes the circuit. This was a smart way for them to save cost and assembly time as compared to using a small momentary switch which has to be mounted and soldered to wires.



crumb bug open half

Here is a look at the impeller housing and bottom housing to see how they interface eachother.








Trudeau Crumb Vac impeller cover removedThe impeller cover is easily popped off in 4 places revealing the impeller. The impeller rotates in a clockwise direction in this view.






Part Scavengability:
I guess there are a few parts here to take, but its so small you might just want to add to it instead of taking parts away from it. Here is a list.

  • Mini Vaccum – About 3″ diameter
    • Motor – low power/high speed
    • Impeller – I havent tried to remove it yet, but you should just be able to pull it right off
    • Filter
    • Switch – Simple metal contacts
    • Battery tabs
    • Battery holder- 2AA
      • battery tabs
      • wires
  • Bottom housing, round
    • Bristles
  • Top Housing, round
    • button – round




I think its a great design. Its simple, cheap and it actually works!
For 9.99 you get a motor and impeller assembly.
I think its hackable.


Power- medium suction.
Noise – a bit noisy and whinny

Modification Wishlist

  1. I would like to replace the motor with a quiet high efficient one.
  2. I want to make a simple low power floor vac that scurries around and picks up dust and crumbs. I think this mody can be used together with another drive motor, wheels and some logic.

Potential value adder- Original cost $9.99

  1. I would pay an extra $10 for it to be quiet.
  2. I would pay $30 to $50 for a wheeled floor crumb cleaner.

Can you think of another use for these parts? Or another mod to this product.

Sumbit your prodmod idea in the comments below!

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