RCU Review: JR Vibe 90 3D

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    Contributed by: Eric Balay | Published: May 2006 | Views: 119401 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    JR Vibe

    Photos by: Eric & Melissa Balay, Matt Poeschl

    JR Vibe
    Distributed by:
    Horizon Hobby
    4105 Fieldstone Rd.
    Champaign, IL 61822
    Support Phone:
    (877) 504-0233
    Sales Phone: (800) 338-4639

    Part Quality
    Ease of Assembly
    Aerobatic ability

    World Class 3D Action
    Precision 140° CCPM
    Excellent Manual

    Washout pins bind
    Boom support design
    Lofty Price

    Model helicopter aerobatic maneuvers have evolved over the years to include breathtaking stunts and moves that seemingly defy gravity, known as 3D flying. Curtis Youngblood is one of the pioneers of the 3D style of flying, and is widely regarded as one of the best helicopter pilots in the world. His quest for perfection, attention to detail, engineering skills and jedi-like control over model copters have lead him and JR helicopter team members Len Sabato and Marty Kuhns to develop and refine the fantastic JR Vigor CS, culminating in the new JR Vibe.

    Kit Name: JR Vibe
    Kit Price: $1099.99 USD
    Rotor Span: 62.6" (1590 mm)
    Length: 54" (1370 mm)
    Height: 17.5" (445 mm)
    Weight (as tested): 10.8 pounds, dry (4.91 kg)
    Engine: YS .91 ST-4 with CY Muscle Pipe 2
    Radio Used: JR XP9303 w/ 649S PCM receiver
    Gyro Used: JR G7000T with JR 8700G tail servo
    Servos Used: JR DS8311 Digital (3) & JR 8700G (throttle)

    Price (as tested): $3,125.87 USD

    Also available for the JR Vibe:

    • NHP 710mm Carbon Main Blades ($119.99)
    • V-Blades 105mm Carbon Tail Blades ($29.95)
    • CSM Rev-Lock Engine Governor ($89.99)
    • JR 4500mah Ni-mh Receiver Battery ($54.99)
    • JR Hex Start Shaft Adapter ($29.99)

    Kit Box
    This is one Big Box
    More Boxes inside
    Chock full of info
    Fantastic JR 9303
    JR G7000T Gyro Set

    My Vibe kit arrived in a large, colorful box, which quickly became a playhouse for my son Nick. Fortunately, Nick wanted only the box and left the heli goodies behind for me to drool over. The kit is extremely well packaged, with all parts organized in numbered, plastic bags corresponding with the assembly steps in the detailed and illustrated building manual. Several components are pre-assembled, saving me valuable time in my race to get this 3D monster to the flying field.

    Resisting the urge to slice open all of the neatly organized plastic bags and begin bolting parts together like a caffeinated monkey, I focused my attention on the instruction manual. Although this was my first experience building a JR helicopter, I can attest that the black and white Vibe manual is the BEST that I've ever read. The CAD drawings are clear, descriptions are complete, and the assembly flow is logical. Also included are radio programming guidelines and settings for JR equipment, control linkage drawings printed in actual lengths, and exploded drawings with part numbers detailing every part.

    The Vibe kit includes the complete aircraft mechanics, with the exception of main rotor blades. JR wisely lets the modeler (likely a finicky expert heli jock) choose their own rotor blades. I chose to use NHP 710mm carbon fiber main rotor blades, and to replace the stock plastic tail rotor blades with 105mm carbon tail rotors by V-Blades. Power is supplied from the super-reliable YS .91 ST-4, quieted by a Curtis Youngblood Muscle Pipe 2 muffler. A JR helicopter is perfectly matched with JR electronics - I used a JR XP9303 transmitter with R649-S PCM receiver, JR 8311 digital servos on the swashplate, and super fast 8700G servos on the throttle and tail rotor. Tail control is handled by the state-of-the-art JR G7000T heading hold gyro. Wow, it doesn't get any better than this! Let's get started!

    Bagged for Each Step
    Pre-built Rotor Head
    Clear Drawings
    Painted Canopy
    Tail Rotor Gear Box
    Clutch Bell & Bearings

    The Vibe swashplate control can be configured as 140 degree CCPM, or the more common 120 degree CCPM setup. I chose to try the 140 degree setup, which was pioneered by JR and Curtis Youngblood in an effort to eliminate unwanted CCPM control interactions. With a standard 120 degree setup, the stationary swashplate balls are evenly spaced, with the radius of each ball center to the center of the main shaft being equal. Fore/aft cyclic inputs result in the two side mounted servo linkages moving less than the inline servo linkage.

    Because the inline servo travel is different than the other two servo movements, interaction can occur. CCPM interaction means that a cyclic or collective control input results in a different control reaction than expected due to software, electrical or mechanical inaccuracies. For example, you increase the collective stick to make your helicopter ascend, but because of differences in servo speed and/or torque, the swashplate fails to raise in a perfectly level manner. This adds a cyclic component to the collective move, causing your helicopter to veer off line, instead of rising vertically. At best, CCPM interactions are annoying, and at worst, will render your heli unflyable.

    Enter the 140 degree CCPM technique, which extends the two side mounted swashplate input balls forwards, so that their longitudinal distance from the main shaft equals that of the inline swash ball on the rear. Thus, in fore/aft cyclic moves, the two side mounted servo linkages now move the same distance as the rear servo linkage. The angle between the inline ball and each side mounted ball is 140 degrees, hence the new moniker.

    Ground the Carbon
    CCPM Linkages

    An important assembly step is grounding the carbon frame. To eliminate the possibility of errant RF noise, the carbon frame members are electrically connected. By grinding through a small area of the clear epoxy coating to exposed the raw carbon strands, the aluminum cross member will be able to electrically conduct between the side frames. If you neglect this step, you will likely experience radio glitches that could wreck your shiny new Vibe.

    The CCPM linkages are assembled, and prepared for installation. Don't forget the lock-tite! JR ball links are directional, so pay attention when attaching the aft swashplate link to the A-arm.

    JR cautions against fully tightening the frame screws until the major frame is assembled. Then, using a flat surface as a guide, tighten the cross bolts in the order recommended to ensure that the chassis is straight. The gear mesh is also set in this step. Remember, the gears need a tiny bit of play to work smoothly - not tight and not too loose. The manual describes an easy way to set this mesh.

    Large Cooling Fan
    CSM Rev-Lock Governor
    Bolt on the Engine
    Tail Drive Fittings
    Torque Tube Bearings
    Tail Assembly

    The engine cooling fan on the Vibe is larger in diameter than most. This affords greater airflow due to the faster velocity of the fan blades. The fan attaches to the engine crankshaft with dual collets that ensure proper centering of the fan. The clutch bolts to the top of the fan hub through two of the four cross holes. If you experience clutch runout, rotate the assembly 90 degrees to the other two cross holes and check it again. If you're planning on using an engine speed governor, now is a good time to mount the magnet or optical strip to the fan before it's obscured by the fan shroud. I also added a Bru-Line air filter to protect the engine from debris.

    The split main gear is assembled, which is driven by the clutch bell pinion. Dual bearing assemblies support this pinion. The engine to main rotor gear ratio is 8:1, while the engine to tail rotor gear ratio is 4.83:1. The auto hub spins smoothly. Pay attention to the orientation of the washer stack on the hex bolt at the base of the main shaft (beveled side upwards). Once you've added the main gear and main shaft to the heli, it's time to add the swashplate, washout base and arms, and the pre-assembled rotor head.

    The tail transmission assembly starts with preparation of the tail drive shaft and the torque tube bearings. Pay close attention to parts that need green lock-tite, and those that require red lock-tite. JR thoughtfully includes a small tube of each in the kit. The tail drive pinion and shaft is a unique, one-piece forged item, secured to the front tail drive joint by four set screws.

    Many of the small machine screws used on the Vibe are Japanese style cross-point screws, such as the screws that attach the control balls. Most modelers would overlook this detail and reach for a common Philips head screwdriver. Don't! Philips screwdrivers will damage the head of a cross-point machine screw. Invest in a set of JIS (Japanese Industrial Standard) screwdrivers for this task.

    Access for Grease
    Tail Assembly Complete
    Stressed Fittings
    Sticky Washout Base
    Grease the Bearings
    Stickered Canopy
    Gyro Platform
    Cutting the Decals
    Stickered Fin

    A unique feature of the pre-assembled tail rotor gear box is a removable hatch to allow greasing and inspection of the drive gears. All that's left to do is attach the tail hub, four radial and two thrust bearings, and the tail grips. Attach the torque tube drive shaft (don't forget that red lock-tite) and insert the whole assembly into the aluminum tail boom. Precision tail control is excellent due to the ball bearing supported dual point tail slider mechanism.

    The beautiful fiberglass canopy is supplied painted in a yellow/white fade with a black window, and the mounting hole pre-drilled. I added the multi-color decals to the canopy, and the carbon fins. I found it easier to apply the fin stickers a bit oversize, and then cut the excess from the edges and the 3D cutout areas with the fin upside-down on a cutting surface.

    The tail boom supports are comprised of an aluminum tube with a plastic fitting on either end. They went together well, but when I attached them to the helicopter, the fittings were forced to bend at the landing gear attachment points. This sub-optimal design causes stress in the plastic fittings and also in the aluminum support tubes. I expected a better solution given the pedigree (and cost) of the Vibe.

    An inspection of the thrust bearings in the pre-assembled rotor head revealed that they are shipped without grease. Remove the bearings and apply a liberal amount of grease to the bearings and both races. Make sure that you re-assemble the thrust bearings correctly - the race with the larger ID is placed inboard. Again, always remember to lock-tite the hardware.

    To allow full travel of the washout arms, the Vibe main rotor hub and swashplate feature machined cutouts to clear the arms.

    I had difficulty in adjusting the tension of the two clamp bolts that secure the base of the main rotor hub to the main shaft. If I left the bolts loose, the washout base would slide smoothly on the guide pins that protrude from the bottom of the hub. If the pinch bolts were tightened moderately, the alignment of the pins would slightly change, resulting in sticky movement of the washout base due to the pins binding up in the washout slots. I carefully filed the washout base slot and mating pins just a bit, and with the security of red lock-tite was able to tighten the clamp bolts a moderate amount without restricting the movement of the washout base. Left as-is, this friction may improve as the pins and washout slots break-in, but I felt that it needed attention to operate smoothly.

    Speaking of smooth operators, with any helicopter it's critical to fit the ball links to the control balls to achieve precision control. The Vibe is no exception. JR recommends use of their ball link tool, part #JRP960219, to fine-tune the fit of each link. You should be able to twist each linkage with a slight pressure, yet there should be minimal slop. If you prefer the use of pliers to slightly squeeze the sides of each link, work carefully. The grey plastic of the directional JR links is soft, and it's easy to apply too much force and ruin the link. There are no spare links included in the kit, so use caution.

    Rotor Head
    Mounting Electronics
    Ready for the Muffler
    Don't Forget the Brass
    Swashplate Servos
    As Easy As Your VCR
    Narrow Body
    Sleek & Sinister
    Let's Go Fly!

    Our review Vibe uses electronic CCPM mixing to control the swashplate, so it's very important to use three matching servos and identical servo arms. I used three JR DS8311 digital servos and large JR servo wheels. The instructions show how to modify a large JR servo horn wheel for the proper fit, spacing the each ball 13.5mm from the center of the servo arm.

    I mounted the state-of-the-art JR G7000T gyro on the dedicated gyro platform mount, using the supplied RF shield plate and double stick foam tape. After making the necessary endpoint adjustments to the 8700G tail servo travel with the gyro module potentiometer, I added a few wraps of electrical tape to the unit to further secure it to the helicopter should the foam tape fail. The electrical tape is lightweight and cheap insurance against a possible crash should the foam tape deteriorate and fail (due to age or exposure to exhaust residue).

    Install the receiver, battery and switch, using the supplied rubber grommets to isolate the switch from vibration. I chose to encase the R649-S receiver in a receiver box, manufactured by Quick UK. This simple plastic box is an inexpensive way to protect pricey (and delicate) receivers. Route the servo leads through the chassis, making sure that they don't rub against any sharp edges on the carbon frames or contact any moving linkages. In problem areas, I glued sections of fuel tubing split lengthwise to the carbon frame edges to prevent any wires from being cut. With five digital servos working overtime, I needed a high capacity receiver battery (a JR 4500mah pack) to handle the load.

    The JR XP-9303 radio contains software specifically designed for the 140 degree CCPM setup that the Vibe uses. I made a few adjustments to these settings as needed to resolve any control interaction. Programming the 9303 is simple and logical; menu items are easy to access and JR's exclusive "Rolling Selector" makes adjustments quick. The Vibe manual includes recommended collective pitch settings for typical flight modes.

    Flight Mode
    Low Stick Half Stick High Stick
    -10 degrees
    5 degrees
    10 degrees
    -10 degrees
    5 degrees
    11 degrees
    -10 degrees
    5 degrees
    11.5 degrees

    I chose to modify these settings to suit my flying preferences as follows:

    Flight Mode
    Low Stick Half Stick High Stick
    -5.5 degrees
    2.5 degrees
    11 degrees
    -11 degrees
    0 degrees
    11 degrees
    -5.5 degrees
    2.5 degrees
    11 degrees

    The CSM Rev-Lock engine governor is a feather-weight unit, that is packed full of features. Included is a handy flowchart that details the setup procedure, and is conveniently laminated for use in the field. Once programmed, our governor held the engine rpm constant without a problem. In 3D mode, I set the governor to maintain 1900 rpm. The Rev-Lock works flawlessly with the ultra-high speed digital 8700G throttle servo on the RCU Vibe.

    A center-of-gravity check showed the model within specification, with the electronics placed as recommended. The ready-to-fly weight (minus the fuel) is 10.8 pounds, which puts the Vibe at a competitive 3D weight.

    Once broken-in, our YS 91 was smooth and powerful, with the exhaust muffled by the Muscle Pipe II.

    Although the Vibe can be tamed to suit a beginning pilot, it's intended for those looking to hone their 3D skills. I found the cyclic response to be immediate, with the flybar weights placed inwards and the rates set high. After adding 40% expo to the cyclic, reducing servo travel a bit, and experimenting with the position of the flybar weights, I found a good balance between responsiveness and control. The 140 degree CCPM response is instantaneous, and ultra-precise. Loops are large, and the low drag canopy allows increased forward speed and taller vertical lines. Rolling maneuvers are smooth, and invite the pilot to try new tricks. Collective response is powerful, given the available torque of three DS8311 servos at the helm. Fast pirouettes, asymmetrical loops, tick-tocks, funnels, hurricanes, piro-flips, backward rolls, and death spirals are well within the repertoire of the Vibe.

    At low head speeds the Vibe head will tend to wobble a little in a hover. Bumping up the throttle, I settled on 1900 rpm head speed for solid 3D flying.

    Contrary to most model helicopter designs, full collective pitch settings do not compromise the cyclic pitch limits on the Vibe. The linkage can easily handle a full 22 degrees of pitch range. I prefer to use a bit more pitch for high altitude flying in Denver.

    Autorotation performance is excellent, with solid tail authority due to the constant drive tail transmission. With the large rotor disc, the Vibe definitely feels light in the air.

    After you've put a few flights on any new helicopter, be sure to carefully inspect the mechanics for any loose hardware or parts that may have fallen victim to vibration. Check all hardware for tightness, and also inspect the gear mesh.

    See the JR Vibe in action!

    Medium Res 12.6 MB

    High Res 31.8 MB

    Air Time

    At $1100 for the airframe without the main rotor blades, the Vibe is expensive. However, top quality equipment is always at a premium, and the Vibe delivers world class 3D performance in spades. Assembly of the kit is straightforward, and the detailed instruction manual is excellent. I only found two minor issues in building the Vibe - the sticky washout base and the ill-designed boom support ends. Overall, the helicopter displays solid engineering design and should withstand several seasons worth of hard use without concern. Maneuvers are stunningly crisp, thanks to the revolutionary 140 degree CCPM controls. The sleek and slippery canopy improves airflow over the mechanics, allowing faster flight. Is there a 3D maneuver beyond its capability? Not a chance. It's a safe bet that you won't be able to make any more excuses for not being able to coax perfect maneuvers out of this bird. Autos are predictable, loops are huge, and rolls have the pin-point accuracy of a jet fighter. Add the rock solid tail control of the G7000T Gyro and this is definitely a point and shoot heli. JR electronics perform flawlessly, and the 9303 is simple to program. If you want to fly one of the best 3D copters ever designed, the Vibe should be at the top of your list.

    JR Vibe Helicopter, JR Electronics, CSM Rev-Lock Governor & NHP Rotor Blades
    Distributed by:
    Horizon Hobby
    4105 Fieldstone Rd.
    Champaign, IL 61822
    Support Phone: (877)504-0233
    Sales Phone: (800)338-4639
    Website: www.horizonhobby.com
    email: support@horizonhobby.com

    CY Muscle Pipe II
    Manufactured by:
    CJ Youngblood Enterprises, Inc.
    Rt 2 box 619
    Hearne, Tx 77859
    Support Phone: (979) 828-4269
    Fax: (979) 828-4269
    Website: www.curtisyoungblood.com
    email: cy@curtisyoungblood.com

    YS .91 ST-4 Helicopter Engine
    Distributed by:
    YS Performance
    P.O. Box 3146
    Gardnerville, NV 89410
    Support Phone: (775) 265-7523
    Fax: (775) 265-7522
    Website: www.ysperformance.com
    email: perfspec@charter.net

    Quick UK Receiver Box & Skid Stops
    Manufactured by:
    Quick UK
    Unit 2, Threshold Way
    West Entrance
    Fairoaks Airport
    Chobham, Woking, Surrey
    GU24 8HX, England
    Support Phone: (979) 828-4269
    Fax: (979) 828-4269
    Website: www.quickuk.co.uk/acatalog/r_index.htm
    email: quickuk@aol.com

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