The SuperTrickler started as a personal project, back in December 2019, after Rex Petersen – a professional precision loader and director of MODGUNN SECURITY ApS in Denmark – became frustrated with the available gun powder measuring equipment.
In general the equipment was either too slow, lacked features, had pseudo accuracy, sketchy claims or clumsy interfaces. To make matter worse, many commercial machines employed poor practices in relation to the use of the scales or balance attached to them. All of these factors compounded into one solution and so began the story of the SuperTrickler.
Rex – known by his children as ‘Daddy Einstein’ – purchased a 3D printer, a few rolls of plastic filament and so began creation of cogs, containers, belts & tubes. Trial & error, success & failures, all working toward learning the craft and understanding in great detail what it takes to deliver a precision measurement device that can truly handle a variety of gun powders. At this time he setup a Facebook group for other re-loaders with the aim of community contribution to the project. However, interest was high and contributions by others were non-existent, so Rex went at alone.
The first problem; the electronics, Rex had not done any electronic design for nearly 35 years, and back then, everything was done using pencil and paper, from the electronic design down to the printed circuit board (PCB)! A big learning curve loomed and he began to dwell in the realms of computer aided design (CAD), modern PCB design and manufacturing and the prototyping process and modern electronic components and design. The project started using an off-the-shelf prototyping micro-controller called and Arduino Mega, some stepper motors and a bundle of hook-up wire.
Early attempts were traditional, using a powder thrower and trickler attached to motors and pulleys, all controlled by a micro-controller. Successful yes, but not meeting the expectations of Rex. There were still two major hurdles; the user interface and the variety of powders. Many companies claim their equipment can deal will any powder and although fundamentally true, they did not do it well. Rex in his ammunition company uses a great many difficult to use powders and this became an important design requirement. Then there was the user interface, Rex was using a rudimentary HMI (Human Machine Interface) and wanted much more than simple press buttons and basic display functionality. It was this requirement that led to a partnership with Peter Kowald.
Rex had discovered on the market a colored touchscreen HMI ideal for the job, however interfacing with it was difficult and out of frustration posted on a forum asking for help. Peter – a retired automation and process control engineer – was sitting in Australian reading Rex’s cry for help and responded with “Hi Rex, yeah mate I can help you, I have built an interface library (software) for that device and you can have it, if you like send me your code and I will pop it in and get it going for you”. So Rex sent the code to Peter. He integrated the HMI code and while there (having 30 years of C/C++ programming experience) thought it would be nice to tidy up a few things and nudge the structure of the code a bit here and there. He also threw away the scales interface code to write a much faster version etc. etc. He sent the code back to Rex with a “there you go mate, hope all goes well”. To cut a boring geek story short, it was not long before Rex was asking for other complex changes. Although Rex had done an impressive job of programing his micro-controller, he soon realized that to take it to the next level was out of the amateur programing league and a phone call was made to Peter to discuss a partnership in developing the SuperTrickler.
Peter was an ideal choice. As a country kid in his youth, he had much reloading experience, so explaining the goals and hurdles was not like talking to accountant who knows the prices of everything and value of nothing. So a deal was struck. Peter would concentrate on the software, Rex would design and build the mechanics and do the live testing. They would both discuss the issues and look for ways to resolve the electronic requirements and mechanical delivery challenges that were to lay ahead.
Next on the agenda was the variety of powders. The concept of throwing powders through a measure has been with us for a long time. This method has one major advantage (speed), however it has two major drawbacks. It was fast but the measurement had to be hand dialed and it often would have to be wrestled with to measure large kernel powders. It became obvious that throwing powder in this manner was not a good solution and Rex hit upon the idea of two tricklers – a large tube for bulk trickling and a fine one to finish with precision. The design was easy enough, however by accident Peter came across another unit available on the market at the time with two tricklers with patents on their design. This brought the project to a rapid stop. However, after detailed investigation into their copyright and some legal advice we found that we would not breach the patent as our design (apart from two tubes) employed no other characteristics of the design. The SuperTricker Facebook community was extremely helpful as some of the members had experience or contacts in this area and assisted in overcoming the legal issues. Rex had always been totally open on the group about all aspects of the design and progress and it was not long before other manufactures of similar equipment began to change their design to this same dual trickler arrangement.
With the HMI, delivery speed and systems out the way, the design called for the next step; to address a host of reloading issues totally ignored by other manufactures. By now Rex was up to speed with the electronics and the off the shelf Arduino Mega had been replaced through several iterations. Now it was a dedicated and sophisticated electronic computer board with a touch screen display. It contained all the devices and components needed to control the SuperTrickler and interface with other devices.
By this time the SuperTrickler was attracting worldwide attention and both Rex and Peter’s time started to shift away from the drawing table and into correspondence. Out of this came a collaboration with an American company that would manufacture the unit and distribute it worldwide. Rex and Peter could get back to the drawing board to concentrate on the details at hand with the solid goal of making the BEST precision delivery unit that is feature rich, with a robotic interface, is user friendly and would cater for both the beginner or basic user and the power user. The aim was not to have another unit on the market. Rather, they wanted a unit that re-loaders wanted (Facebook group) designed by re-loaders, built by re-loaders for re-loaders.
Frustratingly, research and development takes time and money. It’s hard to create a machine that does not shy away or talk over and around issues that plague re-loaders (whether they know it or not). This was compounded by the worldwide electronics component shortage. To turn lemons into lemonade, this time was used constructively to make design refinements, add artificial intelligent, refine trickler tubes (already refined) to another level, refine the impact of air currents to a breakthrough level compared to other commercial machines, along with many other things that only the detailed precision loader would ever notice. This additional time has allowed them to design structural improvements to enable cheaper manufacturing, lowering the cost to the purchaser.
When true precision matters, Rex and Peter are proud to have designed and brought to the market a highly advanced, affordable powder delivery system.