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Mouse Trap Cars: Frame Construction

January 22, 2012

Frames need to be strong but yet as lightweight as possible, this article will show you how to pick the right materials to use for building your mousetrap racer.

One obvious consideration in the construction of your mousetrap racer is the frame or the chassis. The chassis is a mechanical component that must provide structural support for the motor, wheels, axles, etc. It is important that your mousetrap car's chassis is designed to handle the stress and forces of operations for your vehicle. When building the frame for your mousetrap racer there are some important trade-offs that need to be considered. A chassis that is too light may be too delicate to handle the force of a wound up mouse trap's spring and will have less weight pushing down on the wheels causing less tire traction. A chassis that is too heavy will require more energy at the start than a lighter frame but will provide more momentum once it is moving. The chassis needs to be strong and stiff. Strong means that it will not beak under a load and stiff means it will not bend or flex under the force of the wound-up mouse trap. The first step to a strong, stiff, and light chassis is choosing the right materials. Balsa wood, pine, or bass wood are excellent choices although balsa wood is somewhat brittle and hard to drill holes into without ripping. Other materials can also be used for making a light weight strong and stiff frame. These include Styrofoam, corrugated cardboard, plastics, aluminum and brass tubing.

Material Orientation

Another consideration in the construction of your chassis is the shape and the orientation of the materials. Lightweight materials can be stiffened by changing their shape or orientation. A ruler is stronger on its edges than it is on its flat sides. By bending up the sides of a piece of paper you can increase its stiffness. Cars made from rails should have the rails oriented for maximum strength. Experiment with different objects in order to find a strong lightweight material that you can use to build your frame.

bonus tip: lightweight materials can be strong depending on the orientation of how the material is used.

Prefab Balsa Frame Set

Ready to assemble the Prefab Frame Set is made out of lightweight balsa wood that is pre-cut and pre-drilled for a perfect fit and perfect alignment. This Prefab Frame Set can be used for any type of vehicle project from mousetrap powered cars, rubber band racers, balloon powered vehicles, and more. All you have to do is glue the frame set together, add your own accessories, and then you are ready to go racing. Prefab frame set includes two complete balsa wood frame sets so you can build two complete cars; build one for racer day and build one for testing. Size as shipped: four balsa wood 18" x 1 1/2" frame rails, and two 12" x 3" desktops. The pre-drilled holes are designed to hold a 3/16-inch axle or smaller; the holes can be drilled out for larger axles if needed.

bonus tip: CD/DVD spacer can be used to tapper the large hole of a CD/DVD down to a smaller axle size.

Ultra-Light Snap-Fit Frame Set

Reducing vehicle weight is just one of the many secrets to building a successful mouse trap or rubber band vehicle. The Snap-Fit Frame set is Made from an ultra-lightweight corrugated plastic material that weighs only one third that of balsa wood and is laser cut to perfection. The snap-fit frame set is guarantee to make your project go faster and further than the rest of the competition. This Ultra-Light Snap-Fit Frame Set can be used for any type of vehicle project from mousetrap powered cars, rubber band racers, balloon powered vehicles, and more. All you have to do is glue the frame set together, add your own accessories, and then you are ready fro racing. Size as shipped: two corrugated plastic 18" x 1 1/2" frame rails, and one 12" x 3" desktop. The pre-drilled holes are designed to hold a 3/16-inch axle or smaller. Ultra-Light Snap-Fit Frame Sets do not require ball bearings. The plastic is made from a reduced friction material that is similar to Teflon so that axles spin with little to no resistance

bonus tip: CD/DVD spacer can be used to tapper the large hole of a CD/DVD down to a smaller axle size.

Making Your Own Frame

Making the frame is up to the imagination of the builder as to the shape, the design, and the materials that are used for the frame's construction. There are literally so many different types of materials to choose from and an unlimited number of was to build the frame of a mousetrap vehicle that you can not pick only one design. The most important concept to think about when designing the frame is making sure the frame you build supports the function of the vehicle. If you are building a super long mousetrap racer then make sure that the frame is strong enough to support the vehicle without twisting and or sagging. And one last thought, with any mousetrap powered racer the frame should be as lightweight as possible. Material can be removed by drilling or cutting to lighten-up the vehicle even more. Some examples are illustrated bellow.

bonus tip: balsa wood frames are easy to work with and very lightweight.

bonus tip: A super lightweight balsa wood frame is make by forming a "I" beam support by orientating the wood as pictured. Pieces can be glued together with wood glue, white glue, super glue, and more.

bonus tip: brass tubing, brass strips, aluminium tubing, and aluminium strips can be used to construct a lightweight and strong frame depending on the orientation of the materials. Brass and aluminum can be soldered for a super strong bond.

bonus tip: foam board, cardboard, plastic, stiff card-stock, and so on can also be used for frame construction depending on the orientation of the material. Pieces can be glues with wood glue, white glue, super glue, and more.

bonus tip: Styrofoam can also be used but you will be limited on the types of glue. Never use cyanoacrylate super glues with Styrofoam, the glue will only eat into the Styrofoam and dissolve the materials. We have found that Liquid Nails works great when used with Styrofoam.

JET Super Glue

JET Super glue is the best all-purpose super glue available and Doc Fizzix's own personal choice for all his vehicle projects. JET super glue is a very fast drying, instant cure, cyanoacrylate super glue that dries much stronger than those cheap over the counter super glues you get at the supermarket. Does glue make a difference? The answer: YES! You have glue, and then you have super glue. But JET Super glue is on a totally different level, JET Super glue is best glue available designed for all wood and hobby projects and you will notice the difference. End of discussion.

How to use

When gluing wood, always line up the two pieces of wood as you want them glued and then a small amount of JET super glue along the joint. The glue will pull into the wood and form a super strong bond.

bonus tip: when using JET Super Glue, hold any pieces together in the position you want them glued and then apply the glue to the joint. Do not try to put the glue on the two parts and then quickly put them together. JET super glue drys so fast that you will not have enough time to position the parts correctly.

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