Ron's potato cannon

Back in May of 1998, A coworker, Ron Harding built this wonderful contraption called a potato cannon. A basic potato cannon consists of various pieces of ABS piping bonded together, with A chamber on the back to hold the combustible gasses, and a long and narrow pipe as the barrel through which the projectile, usually a potato, is launched at high speed.

Aiming the cannon Some of us at work collaborated in demolishing some pre production versions of older prototypes of the Inter@active 900 pager that RIM was shipping at the time. That pager was a precursor to the Blackberry.

The product had caused us much grief in development, so to smash old prototypes as target adds a whole new level of fun to playing a potato cannon.

Note the propane cylinder for fueling the cannon. The cannon is fired by igniting the gas with a spark plug. Ron is using a barbecue lighter to create the spark.

Firing the cannon Old RIM prototypes bite the dust.

This shot was very good timing by the photographer. Note airborne fragments!

Note that the cannon at the time the shot was taken has already recoiled back by about 30 cm. Based on where we found it, I suspect the object in the sky at the top center is the actual projectile.

This shot was not actually done with a potato. A rectangular hardwood 'plug' was used, with shop towels balled up behind it to provide a good seal. The blue haze at the impact point is most likely the shop towel.

It's hard to draw conclusions with the data scattered the way it was!

We continued to shoot at successively smaller pieces of the product. Gradually, various surface mount electronic components became embedded in the hardwood projectile. We didn't stop until each circuit board was broken into at least two pieces.

Remains of the product What was left of unnamed prototypes after two firings

The hardwood plug also had the great advantage of being reusable, as we had quickly exhausted our limited supply of potatoes.

I tried to convince Ron to try an oxygen propane mixture, instead of just propane and air. A better fuel mixture very much needed to be investigated, so naturally, I had to build my own cannon

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