RLT Industries, Inc.
Founded in 1999 by Ron L. Toms, Jr.

Contact Ron (at) RLT (dot) com for more information.
The Kit Business -- Robotics -- Yavoch Game -- SpaceTime Park -- Contact

1999-2013 : The Early Years

In 1999 we jumped feet-first into the (then nascent) e-commerce arena with a unique line of STEM educational products.

Our kits were designed in-house, refined and optimized for performance, ease of assembly, cost to manufacture and ship-ability. At first we cut each piece by hand and collated them into boxes. It was an error-prone process, so we fixed it. In our final years whole batches of kits were being cut as a single CNC pattern by automated machines, virtually error-free. The few people who lost their jobs to the machines were replaced by people who programmed and maintained the machines. Automation increased our quality, our sales and our total employee count too.

The new, automated CNC manufacturing process allowed us to create more complex products. The Perpetual Motion Machine, the Ferris Wheel and the Chinese South Pointing Chariot are three examples. We were especially proud of the chariot--the earliest known example of a differential, made with wooden castle-gears, engineered so the figure on top maintained its orientation regardless of the movement of the wheels on the ground. In other words, if it starts out pointing south, no matter which way you pull it, push it, turn or spin it, the figure on top will always point south.

Our Trebuchet kits also attracted the attention of Hollywood. Between the year 2000 and 2010 Ron Toms appeared on the TV shows Junkyard Wars, Monster Garage, History's Mysteries, Modern Marvels, Mail Call, and In The Name of Science. Ron also consulted to several commercials, the movie Jackass and the TV show Mythbusters, and Disney used one of our tebuchet models in their hit TV show Phinneas And Ferb.

But we were too successful for our own good. We attracted the attention of Chinese-made competition and we refused to lower our standards to compete on price. The market was changing too. Catapult competitions were old news. Now everyone was talking about robotics. So, we developed a prototype for a self-balancing one-wheel scooter as a study in automated control systems. This was intended to be refined, ultimately into a new series of kit products.


2012 : A New Direction

in 2012 we developed our first robotics project, Mike.
(if a three-wheeled tricycle is a trike, and a two-wheeled bicycle is a bike, then a one-wheel monocycle should be a mike.)

        

Technicals:
Prototype 4 and 5 were made with a Razor electric 4-wheeler, an Arduino processor, and an IMU and controller from SparkFun.
Prototype 6 and 7 used a hub motor from GoldenMotor, newer, faster Arduino, IMU from SparkFun and controller from Roboteq.
THIS IS THE SELF BALANCING CODE developed in-house from modified snippets found on the web.

During the development of this product we saw several other self-balancing unicycle companies spring up, such as Ryno Motors, Focus Designs and Solowheel. And Segway still had patent protection for several more years even if they weren't enforcing it on anyone...yet. The Mike project was fun and excting, but further analysis suggested the barriers to entry were bigger than our budget. We decided to switch gears again.


Alternative Wind Power

Just for fun we also invented a new kind of windmill. This is a small prototype operating in winds of approx. one to ten mph. The full-sized version was intended to be made from plywood, sail cloth and bicycle parts.

This windmill was designed to catch more air than a traditional propeller-like design, and therefore turn with more power at a lower rpm--which is bad for generating electricity, but perfect for running an air compressor. The compressed air could be stored in a re-purposed backyard propane tank (fitted with apropriate pressure regulators) and used to power air-tools in our shop.



2012-2014 : Back to Our Roots

CNC Kit Crafting was what we did best, so in 2013 we used our kit-design skills to create Yavoch, the most modern and most playable version of 3D chess ever made. Our first year out was a huge success, but we chose to pull the product due to manufacturing issues relating to acrylics and lasers (FIRE!) and for further refinement of the game. This project is still active but currently on-hold.


2015-2018 : Going Big

After a year and a half of research, planning and construction, we opened SpaceTime Park in the spring of 2016. This was a science-themed venue where kids walked through a one-kilometer exact scale model of the inner solar system at the speed of light.


Featuring full color 3D-printed globes of the planets using actual data from NASA, it was the most accurate and most immersive planet walk in the world. Far more than just a list of facts and data about the planets, our displays were designed to spark an interest in science and engineering in the kids who visited. Several of our visitors aspired to be the next Carl Sagan, intent to pursue goals like building floating colonies on Venus, visiting Titan and terraforming Mars!

The park also had dinosaurs, climate science displays, an off-grid solar power exhibit, of course a trebuchet show and more. We got fantastic reviews, but we grossly misunderstood the economics of running a public venue and, sadly, had to close.


What's next? That's a good question. We have a million ideas, but at the moment RLT Industries is "re-organizing" and exploring our options. If you'd like to talk to Ron Toms about speaking engagements, consulting opportunities or just brainstorming ways to make the world a better place, send me a note. I'll be happy to chat with you.

Contact Ron (at) RLT (dot) com for more information.