Friday, March 28, 2014 - 03:01Laser Cutter Becomes An Etch A Sketch
The mirror in a laser cutter moves along an X Y axis. An Etch A Sketch moves its stylus along an X Y axis. Honestly, this laser cutter with Etch A Sketch controls is so obvious, we’re shocked we haven’t seen it before.
The Etch A Sketch interface is extremely simple – just two rotary encoders attached to laser cut knobs set inside a small, laser cut frame. The lines from the encoders are connected to an Arduino Pro Mini that interfaces with the controller unit on the laser cutter, moving the steppers and turning on the laser only when the head is moving. There’s an additional safety that only turns on the laser when the lid is closed and the water pump is running.
The circuit is extremely simple, and with just a few connections, it’s possible to retrofit the Etch A Sketch controller to the laser cutter in just a few minutes. Just the thing for a weekend hackerspace project.
Filed under: laser hacks
Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 22:54Developed on Hackaday: Need Card Art — Who Likes to Draw?
Our offline password keeper project (aka Mooltipass) is quite lucky to have very active (and very competent) contributors. [Harlequin-tech] recently finished our OLED screen low level graphics library which (among others) supports RLE decompression, variable-width fonts and multiple bit depths for fonts & bitmaps. To make things easy, he also published a nice python script to automatically generate c header files from bitmap pictures and another one to export fonts.
[Miguel] finished the AES encryption/decryption schemes (using AES in CTR mode) and wrote an awesome readme which explains how everything works and how someone may check his code using several standardized tests. We highly encourage readers to make sure that we didn’t make any mistake, as it was one of you that suggested we migrate to CTR mode (thanks [mate]!).
On the hardware side, we launched into production the top & bottom PCBs for Olivier’s design. We’re also currently looking for someone that has many Arduino shields to make sure that they can be connected to the Mooltipass. A few days ago we successfully put the Arduino bootloader inside our microcontroller and made the official Arduino Ethernet shield work with it.
Finally, as you may have guessed from the picture above our dear smart card re-sellers can pretty much print anything on them (these are samples). If one of you is motivated to draw something, please contact me at mathieu[at]hackaday.com!
Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 21:00Designing a WakeUp Light
[Akhil] and his wife recently finished their WakeUp Light project. As the name suggests, this kind of morning alarm uses light to wake you up in the morning. The main constraints when starting this relationship-strengthening adventure were cost, ability to work with any table lamp, and having a simple but effective control interface, all while keeping all the design open. The created platform (put in the wooden box shown above) is built around a Stellaris Launchpad (ARM Cortex M4 based) and uses an AC dimmer circuit found in this instructable. For our readers interested in those, [Akhil] mentions two very interesting articles about their theory of operation here and here.
An Android application has been made to set up all the alarm parameters, which uses the phone’s Bluetooth to communicate with the (well-known) HC-05 Bluetooth transceiver connected to the Launchpad. For safety, the current design also includes an LM4876 based audio amplifier connected to the microcontroller’s PWM output. The next revision will integrate a Digital to Analog Converter and an SD-Card slot for better quality and music diversity. A presentation video is embedded after the break and you can find the official repository at GitHub.
Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 18:01Fail of the Week: Secret Agent-Style Book Hideaway
Ah, the movies are an inspiration for so many projects. How many times have you seen a spy movie where a cutout in the pages of a book are hiding something? This was the inspiration which led [Paul] and his crew to try using a laser cutter to remove a handgun-shaped cutout from the pages. The fail began before the project even got started. The sacrificial book they had chosen was too thick to cut directly so they tore it in thirds for the cutting process.
The hijinks are portrayed well in the clip after the break. The infectious giggling as this first trace of the laser cuts the outline makes the video worth watching. As they try to go deeper, the success falls off rapidly. This makes for a great Fail of the Week discussion: Why can’t you cut through multiple layers of a book with a laser cutter? Is this merely a focal length issue that would be solved with a higher-end cutter or is there something else at play here. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.
Fail of the Week is a Hackaday column which runs every Wednesday. Help keep the fun rolling by writing about your past failures and sending us a link to the story – or sending in links to fail write ups you find in your Internet travels.
Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 15:01Telepresence Robot Proves It’s A Small World After All
[Chris] works as part of a small team of developers in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the US. [Timo], one of their core members, works remotely from Heidelberg, Germany. In order to make [Timo] feel closer to the rest of the group, they built him a telepresence robot.
It was a link to DoubleRobotics that got the creative juices flowing. [Chris] and his team wanted to bring [Timo] into the room, but they didn’t have a spare $2499 USD in their budget. Instead they mated a standard motorized pan/tilt camera base with an RFduino Bluetooth kit. An application running on [Timo's] phone sends gyroscope status through the internet to the iPad on the robot. The robot’s iPad then sends that data via Bluetooth to the RFduino. The RFduino commands pan and tilt movements corresponding with those sensed by the gyroscope. A video chat application runs on top of all this, allowing [Timo] to look around the room and converse with his coworkers.
All the source code is available via GitHub. The design didn’t work perfectly at first. [Chris] mentions the RFduino’s Bluetooth API is rather flaky when it comes to pairing operations. In the end the team was able to complete the robot and present it to [Timo] as a Valentine’s Day gift. For [Chris'] sake we hope [Timo] doesn’t spend too much of his time doing what his homepage URL would suggest: “screamingatmyscreen.com”
Filed under: news
Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 12:00Hackaday 68k: So You Want A Kit?
This is also a demo of Hackaday Projects, our new, fancy online documentation tool for all your adventures in making and tinkering. Did you know we’re having a contest on Hackaday Projects? Make something sci-fi, and you’re in the running for some really good prizes. There’s soldering stations, o-scopes, and a lot of other prizes being thrown at the winners. It’s awesome. First one to build a working Mr. Fusion wins.
In this update, I’m going to go over the beginnings of the video board, why Hammond enclosures are awesome and terrible at the same time, and some thoughts on turning this into a kit or product of some type. Click that, ‘Read more…’ link.
The Video Board
Like I’ve said before, I’m using the Yamaha V9938 video display processor as the graphics chip on this computer. It’s the easiest way I can get an 80×24 text mode – perfect for that *NIX goodness – and should be able to pull off some cool demoscene stuff. It’s pin compatible with the V9958, so I have that option, and it’s also fairly simple to interface to the rest of the computer:
That’s from the V9938 Technical Data Book. Big PDF warning there. On the right side of that graphic is the DRAM interface for the video memory and the pins for video output. There are a few different configurations ranging from 16k of VRAM to 128k of VRAM. Of course I’m going with the 128k option, using a quartet of TMS4464 DRAM chips I picked up from Jameco. Here’s the schematic of the VRAM interface:
I don’t want to wire wrap that. It’s a lot of fiddly, short bits of wire. It’s also extremely simple and won’t be seeing any changes in its design. The solution to my laziness is, of course, to make a PCB.
Because the connections to the V9938 are just an 8-bit data bus and a few control signals, and the output is dead simple for composite output, this greatly minimizes the amount of wirewrapping I’ll need to do. Even if I tried wrapping a V9938, I’d run into a problem: the pin pitch isn’t 0.1″, rendering all my wirewrap adapters useless.
If you’re wondering about the physical size of the board, it’s just a wee bit larger than an Arduino. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but a 128kB V99X8 will not fit on a standard Arduino shield. 16kB, maybe. In any event, when I get these boards back, I’ll have a go at driving it with an Arduino. Just because.
Yeah! Fancy Video!
I’ve never had any luck with Hammond enclosures. The die-cast aluminum guitar pedals? I’ve ruined dozens of them drilling holes for pots, switches, and jacks. The enclosure for the 68k is no different. It’s a beautiful case, no doubt about that, but I am cursed with a mystical ability to always mess up the drilling, painting, or some random thing when it comes to Hammond enclosures.
The original plan for this backplane + enclosure combo was to have a small extension board on the front (hence, “frontplane”) that broke out the power and reset lines so this computer would at least look the part of an early 80s homebrew computer. Also, having a power and reset switch on the outside of the case is a good idea anyway.
Because of the complete failure of my ‘frontplane’ plan with the stock front panel, I’m going for something much, much cooler: a custom CNC’d aluminum panel. Right now I have holes for a power switch, a reset button, and a 5mm LED for power indication.
The basic circuit for this frontplane is very simple: The lines on the backplane are broken out on a huge 2×32 pin header. There’s also a small three-pin header for the PS_ON and POWER_OK lines for the ATX power supply. Ground the PS_ON line with the switch, and the power… uh, turns on. The PS_ON line provides +5V when the power is on. Attach the LED to that.
The reset circuit is the same from the CPU board: a Maxim DS1812 supervisory and reset circuit in a single TO-92 package.
Creating the milled front panel and new, improved frontplane was an interesting exercise in mechanical design. First, I created the front panel as a 3D model, exported the top view as a DXF, and imported that into Eagle. Then, I took the board file for the backplane and overlaid the holes. Then it’s just a simple matter of removing the parts and traces from the backplane I don’t need – everything except the pin headers – and making a board.
So there you go. Fun adventures in mixing mechanical design with circuit board creation. This, like just about everything else relating to the 68k project, is up on the github.
Oh yeah, a kit
For some reason I can’t comprehend, a lot of people have asked if I’m going to make the 68k into a product, or at the very least a kit. I don’t quite understand the demand; the fun of homebrew computers is designing and building them.
That doesn’t mean I won’t entertain the idea. In its current form, though, a 68k kit would be absurdly expensive, take hours and hours to assemble – the RAM card alone would be three or four hours – and would have an extremely high number of unsatisfied buyers. It only takes one misplaced wire to screw the entire thing up, you know.
So, an improved, single-PCB kit is the only option. This is months and months in the future, but here’s what I’m thinking:
- Uses the currently-in-production 68SEC000
- Already assembled.
- A MiniITX or MicroATX motherboard form factor.
- Uses 30 or 72-pin SIMMs for the RAM.
- Some sort of expansion port.
- User-updatable ROM.
That last bullet is the sticking point. I’ve been turning this around in my head for a while, and I can’t come up with a good way of doing it. The problem is I need a small amount (~64kB) of EEPROM or Flash that can be accessed on a parallel bus. That means 15 address lines, 16 data lines, and control signals. I need a way of reprogramming this, in system, with few additional parts, cheaply.
The obvious solution is to throw a big FPGA in the system for address decoding, an SPI bus, and in-system reprogramming of the ROM. That may end up being the eventual solution to this problem, but I’m thinking there’s an even more clever and cheaper way of doing things.
I’ve toyed around with doing the whole ‘in system ROM reprogramming’ thing in a 6502-based retrocomputer, and it is possible by using a microcontroller and a bunch of shift registers to program the ROM. This takes up a lot of board space and is extremely kludgy.
Another solution would be something like this amazing retrocomputer that actually should be a product. It uses a 40-pin PIC microcontroller as the RAM, ROM, and ACIA. It is, without question, the most innovative project in the retrocomputing world for the past few years and presents an interesting solution to the problem of in-system ROM programming: just put the ROM on a big microcontroller.
Are any of these ideas the right solution? I don’t know, because I’m not designing this computer as a product right now. This problem has been bothering me for a while, and I’d love to hear some more ideas. In any event, there’s plenty of space on my ROM board to prototype some in-system reprogramming. Come up with a good idea and I might put it in.
That’s it for now. You can continue to follow the progress of the Hackaday 68k over on Hackaday Projects. Be sure to comment and give a skull to the project. Seriously, give the project a skull. I’m losing to [Mathieu]‘s Mooltipass project in the skull department. I need more skulls.
Filed under: Hackaday Columns
Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 09:013 DOF Open Source Robot Arm Is Just the Beginning
[Dan Royer] of Marginally Clever had a dream. A dream to build an open-source 6 DOF robot that anyone can make! To do so, he’s been learning robotics for the past two years, and has just finished the first step — he’s designed and built an open source 3 DOF palletizing robot!
He’s based this little guy off of the commercial ABB 460 palletizing robot, which is a tried and true industrial robot. It features all laser cut parts, a few nuts and bolts, some stepper motors and an Arduino UNO for the brain. He’s released all of the design files on Thingiverse and the firmware on GitHub – yet another project we’d like to build if only we had a laser cutter!
And don’t worry, the Arduino UNO is only being used for this first prototype — he’s already started writing code for the RUMBA (Reprap Universal Mega Board with Allegro-driver) controller for revision 2.
Stick around to see it write its first greeting with a marker — Hello World!
It’s an exciting project and we can’t wait to see further development! Keep up the good work [Dan]!
Maybe we can teach it manually in the future too!
Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 06:01Building a Network Controllable RGB LED Lamp from an Old Scanner
Being able to use one of your old projects to make a new one better can be quite satisfying. [Steve] from Hackshed did just this: he integrated an Arduino based webserver into a new network controllable RGB lamp.
The overall result is an amazing color changing lamp that works perfectly. All that is left to do is create a case for it, or integrate it into an existing lamp. This is a great way to use an LED strip that would have otherwise gone to waste. If you can’t find a scanner with a color wand like this one, you can always start with an RGB strip.
Filed under: Network Hacks
Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 03:01Electric Scooter MK 1 — Tundra Upgrade!
After discovering his all-terrain snow scooter was terrible on ice — [Dane] decided he needed to do some upgrades.
In case you don’t remember, we first shared [Dane's] project back in December, where he zipped around city streets covered in snow. The scooter used a big knobby tire and a front ski to slide around on. To make it suitable for ice, he had to redesign it a bit to handle slippery surfaces; he needed to give it skates.
He had originally hoped to find figure skates at a thrift store (where he originally found the classic scooter), but had no luck — so he made his own. Some 1/2″ x 1/4″ steel bar later, a bit of welding, and he had a rather rugged front skate to work with!
After he was content with his upgraded front-end, he started adding studs to the back tire. He’s using plain old 3/8″ self tapping screws, and a whole lot of epoxy to make sure they stay in.
So does it work? Oh yeah.
Filed under: transportation hacks
Thursday, March 27, 2014 - 00:00Piezos For Haptic Feedback
The most common way to put some sort of haptic feedback in an interface hasn’t changed much since the plug-in rumble pack for the Nintendo 64 controller – just put a pager motor in there and set it spinning when the user needs to feel something. This method takes a relatively long time to spin up, and even the very cool Steam controller with voice coiled directional pads can’t ‘stick’, or stay high or low to notify the user of something.
[Tim]‘s day job is working with very fancy piezoelectric actuators, and when an opportunity came up to visit the Haptics symposium, he jumped at the chance to turn these actuators into some sort of interface. He ended up creating two devices: a two-piezo cellphone-sized device, and a mouse with a left click button that raises and lowers in response to the color of the mousepad.
The cellphone device contains two piezo actuators with a 10 gram weight epoxied on. A small microcontroller and piezo driver give this pseudo phone the smoothest vibrations functions you can imagine. The much more innovative color-sensing mouse has a single actuator glued to the left button, and a photosensor in the base. When the mouse rolls over a dark square on a piece of paper, the button raises. Rolling over a lighter area, the button lowers. It’s all very, very cool tech and something we’ll probably see from Apple, Microsoft, or Sony in a few years.
Videos of both devices below.
Filed under: hardware
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 21:00WS2812b Ambilight Clone For The Raspi
For how often the Raspberry Pi is used as a media server, and how easy it is to connect a bunch of LEDs to the GPIO pins on the Pi, we’re surprised we haven’t seen something like Hyperion before. It uses the extremely common WS2812b individually controllable RGB LEDs to surround the wall behind your TV with the colors on the edges of the screen.
One of the big features of Hyperion is the huge number of LEDs it’s able to control; a 50 LED strip only eats up about 1.5% of the Pi’s CPU. It does this with a “Mini UART” implemented on the Pi running at 2MHz.
There’s only one additional component needed to run a gigantic strip of RGB LEDs with a Pi – an inverter of some sort made with an HCT-series logic chip. After that, you’ll only need to connect the power and enjoy a blinding display behind your TV or monitor.
Thanks [emuboy] for sending this one in.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 18:013D Printering: Custom RC Camera Mount Takes To The Sky
3D Printers are only good for printing trinkets and doodads, right? Not really. Although, I do print the occasional useless object, most of my prints are used for projects I’m working on or to meet a need that I have. These needs are the project’s design requirements and I’d like to share the process and techniques I use when creating a functional 3D object.
My pal [Toshi] has RC Airplanes and flies often. I have an Action Camera that I never use. Why not combine the two and have some fun? The only thing standing in our way was a method to mount the camera to the airplane. 3D printing makes it easy. If you have a popular vehicle or application, there may be something already available on a 3D model repository like Thingiverse. Our situation was fairly unique I decided to design and print my own mount.
Let’s start with the camera placement. Looking at the plane, there are two pretty obvious spots that would be good places to mount the camera; on the wing strut or the cross-bar between the pontoons. Certainly mounting the camera to the rectangular pontoon cross-bar would have been far easier than on the angled airfoil-shaped wing strut, but after giving it some thought, mounting on the strut would give a better view of the aircraft. I wanted part of the plane in the field of view.
Now we have an idea of where this thing is going to mount we have to take some measurements and make some notes. As you can see below my notes are super crude (and may have some extra doodles on there) but have the necessary information I need to design the camera mount. If you look hard you can even see I have a couple of brainstormed mount ideas, including a hinged design I determined would be unnecessarily complicated.
The wing strut is soft foam-filled plastic and is in the shape of a teardrop. To prevent damage to the strut when the camera is mounted, the shape of the mating portion of the clamp should be similar in shape. To do this, I just measured the length of the strut profile and both the thickness of the leading and trailing edges. These dimensions were used when creating the profile of the cutout in the clamp. Notice, I also added some chamfers at the leading and trailing sides of the cutout to prevent any potential pinching.
Keep It Simple, Stupid. Sometimes low-tech is the best way to go. The wing strut is at some angle, an angle I don’t know. I want the camera to be square to the ground, not angled like the strut. I used a method similar to a storey pole to record the struts angle and emulate it in my modelling software. With the plane on the floor a piece of paper was held with one edge also square to the floor. The angle of the strut was traced on the paper. At this point it is possible to measure the angle with a protractor but I just held it up to my computer screen and adjusted the angle of the mount until it matched my trace. Low-tech but effective.
It is pretty standard for cameras to have a 1/4″-20 female thread on the bottom for mounting to a stand. My camera was no different. The main mount is going to have a through-hole in it for the attachment screw to pass. Having a 1/4″ hole and a 1/4″ screw is going to cause some assembly difficulty, specifically the screw not easily going through the hole, able to turn freely or causing misalignment. There are industry standards for this exact situation, Google “clearances hole sizes” to find out what is appropriate for your screw size, there are a lot of charts available out there. The projects I work on require me to reference this type of information quite often so I downloaded a great app called ‘Nuts & Bolts‘. Notice on the bottom right of the screen it shows the clearance hole sizes. I’ll be using the free fitting recommendation, 0.2660 inch diameter.
I could have just had a hole in the main camera mount and screwed a bolt in to secure it but a design requirement was that no tools would be required for installation or removal. A 3D printed knob would do just fine. I had some 1 inch long 1/4″-20 bolts kicking around so that is what I decided to use. Since the bolt was so long, it would bottom out in the camera before it secured the camera to the mount. That extra length will have to be compensated for when designing the knob.
The depth of the female threaded hole on the bottom of the camera measured to be 0.200 inches. Since the intent is to NOT bottom out the screw before the camera was secure I backed off this measurement to 0.150 inches for use in the calculation:
BoltLength - ExposedThread - MountThickness = KnobThickness 1.0 - 0.150 - 0.300 = 0.550 inches
0.550 inches is how long the spacer portion of the knob will be.
There are two knobs and 3mm x 25mm screws that are used to secure the camera mount to the strut. I made knobs for the screws the same way I did for the main camera screw. The main difference is that these screws didn’t have a hex head to transmit torque and prevent the knobs from spinning on the screws. The holes in the knobs were made to have no clearance at 3mm in diameter and the screws were glued into the knobs for a permanent installation.
These 3mm screws engage captive nuts in the main clamp body. I used ‘Nuts & Bolts’ again to find out both the clearance hole size for the 3mm screws and the hex size of the 3mm nuts. The main clamp body has hexagonal recesses a little larger than the nuts, the nuts of which are glued in place.
Overall, I’m extremely happy with the final result. Installation to the aircraft takes only a few moments and is very secure. The mount location turned out to be in the perfect spot showing just a touch of the engine cowl. And the best part is it didn’t drop the camera! Check out the video of the maiden joy-ride below.
3D Printering is a weekly column that digs deep into all things related to 3D Printing. If you have questions or ideas for future installments please sending us your thoughts.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 15:00The Mostly 3D Printed Violin
While Thingiverse is filled with Ocarinas, there’s little in the way of printable instruments for more serious musicians. [David Perry] hopes to change this with the F-F-Fiddle, the mostly 3D printed full-size electric violin.
The F-F-Fiddle is an entry for the LulzBot March 3D Printing Challenge to make a functional, 3D printed musical instrument. Already there are a few very, very interesting submissions like this trombone, but [David]‘s project is by far the most mechanically complex; unlike the other wind and percussion instruments found in the contest, there are a log of stresses found in a violin, and printing a smooth, curved fingerboard is quite the challenge.
While there are a few non-printed parts, namely the strings, a drill rod used as a truss rod, some awesome looking tuners, and of course the piezo pickups – the majority of this violin, including the bridge, is 3D printed. It’s an amazing piece of work, and after listening to the video (below), sounds pretty good too.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 12:00Shapeoko 2 Mods: Dust Mitigation and Limit Switches
Not long ago the Shapeoko 2 came out. In case you missed it, the Shapeoko 2 is the 2nd generation bench-top CNC Router of the namesake. All axes roll on Makerslide and v-wheels. The X and Y axes are belt driven, power is transmitted to the Z axis by lead screw.
As with most products, there will be people who must hack, mod or upgrade their as-received item. If you are a regular Hackaday reader, you are probably one of those people. And as one of those people, you would expect there have been a few individuals that have not left this machine alone.
CNC Machines are dumb, they do what you tell them. Sometimes us humans ask them to do things that result in the machine trying to travel past its physical limits. To protect his machine from human error, [Zorlack] decided to make limit switch brackets for his Shapeoko. They are 3D printed, accept standard limit switches and bolt directly onto the Makerslide rails of the machine. These types of switches are used as travel limits, where if triggered, the machine stops moving in that direction. If you’d like a set, they are available for download at the above link.
We’ve discussed recently how much dust a CNC Router creates and how to manage that dust on the cheap. [Jason] blew away the ‘on the cheap’ record with this Dust Shoe for his Shapeoko. It is made only from an old tennis ball can. The lid is removed and a hole is cut in it just a bit smaller than the outer diameter of the router. The lid is then press-fit onto the router. Next, the plastic portion of the can is trimmed to length and slits are cut into the plastic to create flaps similar to brush bristles. These flaps were straight when cut but [Jason] used some heat to create a permanent outward curve. The newly created skirt snaps into the lid previously installed on the router and can be removed easily for tool bit changes. We’d like to see the next version have an outlet for a vacuum to collect the contained dust.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 09:01Copper Oxide Thermoelectric Generator Can Light An LED
On Hackaday, we usually end up featuring projects using building blocks (components, platforms…) that can be bought on the market. We however don’t show many hacks that rely on basic physics principles like the one shown in the picture above.
In the video embedded below, [nylesteiner] explains that copper oxide can be formed when heating a copper wire using a propane flame. When two oxidized wires are placed in contact with each other, an electrical current is produced when one wire is heated much hotter than the other. The trade-off is that the created thermocouple generates a small voltage but a ‘high’ current. However, when you cascade 16 junctions in series you can generate enough voltage to light up an LED. Even though the complete system isn’t particularly efficient at converting heat into electricity, the overall result is still quite impressive in our opinion. We advise our readers to give a look at [nylesteiner]‘s article and blog to discover his interesting adventures.
Filed under: chemistry hacks
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 06:00Facebook to Buy Oculus VR
Facebook has agreed to purchase Oculus VR. The press values the deal at about $2 Billion USD in cash and stock. This is great news for Oculus’ investors. The rest of the world has a decidedly different opinion. [Notch], the outspoken creator of Minecraft, was quick to tweet that a possible rift port has now been canceled, as Facebook creeps him out. He followed this up with a blog post.
I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition.
Here at Hackaday, we’ve been waiting a long time for affordable virtual reality. We’ve followed Oculus since the early days, all the way up through the recent open source hardware release of their latency tester. Our early opinion on the buyout is not very positive. Facebook isn’t exactly known for contributions to open source software or hardware, nor are they held in high regard for standardization in their games API. Only time will tell what this deal really means for the Rift.
The news isn’t all dark though. While Oculus VR has been a major catalyst for virtual reality displays, there are other players. We’ve got our eggs in the castAR basket. [Jeri, Rick] and the rest of the Technical Illusions crew have been producing some great demos while preparing CastAR for manufacture. Sony is also preparing Project Morpheus. The VR ball is rolling. We just hope it keeps on rolling – right into our living rooms.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014 - 00:01Now You’re Washing with Gas
[Michiel] likes to wash his clothes in warm water. Like a lot of machines, his draws from the cold water line and heats it electrically. Gas is much cheaper than electricity in the Netherlands, so he wanted to be able to heat the water with gas instead. Hot-fill machines already exist, but few models are available and they’re all too expensive. [Michiel] rolled up his sleeves and hacked his brand new washer into a hot-fill machine.
He started out thinking that he’d just connect the hot water line instead, but that proved to be too hot. He found out it needs to be about 35°C (95°F), so he decided to mix input from the hot and cold lines. Since it’s a shiny new machine, [Michiel] wanted an externally mounted system to keep from voiding the warranty. He got two solenoid valves from the electronic bay and used a PIC16F to make them dance. He wired up a light switch on a two-panel face and used the blank plate for power and status LEDs.
[Michiel]‘s design works like a charm. The machine used to draw 2000W to heat the water, and peak usage now is as low as 200W. He noticed that the washer drew a lot of power in standby mode so he added a solid state relay and a bit more code. Now the electricity to the machine is cut after two hours and [Michiel] saves about €97 per year.
Filed under: green hacks
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 21:01Who Wouldn’t Want 3D Printed Candles of Yourself on Your 70th Birthday?
[Christian Lölkes] needed a unique gift for their CEO’s 70th birthday — We mean really, what do you get someone who probably has everything? Well… you 3D scan him and make candles in his likeness of course!
Since they have both a 3D scanner and 3D printer at work, this was the obvious choice. Instead of printing the mold out, they opted to print a high resolution figurine of their CEO, and then make a reusable silicone mold instead. When you’re designing a figurine for candle casting, it’s important to make a nice wide base, as this will make pouring the hot wax into the mold much easier.
There are lots of different ways to make molds, but to make theirs they decided to use a toilet paper roll for convenience. After taping up the mold with the figurine inside, it’s time to fill it with silicone. Unfortunately bubbles form in silicone so you need a way to force the bubbles to rise to the top and pop — vibrating the mold is a good solution, and setting it on top of a washing machine is an easy way to accomplish it.
Once the silicone is cast, you have to cut the mold in half carefully as to not damage your figurine. Then it’s just a matter of zip-tying the mold back together, inserting a wick and pouring wax in! Cool.
Filed under: 3d Printer hacks
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 18:01Retrotechtacular: The Magic of Making Cars in the ’30s
We usually shy away from calling things ’magic’ in our features because, you know… science. But in the case of this Chevrolet manufacturing reel from 1936 the presentation is nothing short of an industrialized version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Well, not in the sense of mischief, but in that there is almost no explanation and the way the footage is laced together you get the strong feeling that, at the time, this type of industrialization was magic; a modern marvel. The techniques and skills of each worked passed down from a master to an apprentice but virtually unknown to the general public.
The clip, which is also embedded below, starts off in the machine shop where mold makers are getting ready to go into assembly line production. From there it’s off to the foundry for part casting and then into the stamping plant where white-hot (perhaps red-hot, but black and white film) metal is shaped by man-mangling presses. The image above follows the cast, stamped, and machined parts onto the assembly line. We like seeing a room full of pistons being QA checked by hand using a width gauge and micrometer. The film continues through to the finished vehicle and we think you’ll agree there’s more than enough voyeuristic video here to overcome that lack of narration.
Retrotechtacular is a weekly column featuring hacks, technology, and kitsch from ages of yore. Help keep it fresh by sending in your ideas for future installments.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 15:00Vending Machine is Now Cyborg Friendly
Don’t you hate having to pull out your wallet or cellphone in order to pay for something? What if you could just wave your hand and transfer money that way? Well [David] did, so he decided to do something about it. He made the vending machine in his hackerspace, FamiLAB, cyborg friendly.
The problem was, the vending machine wasn’t technically his to play around with… so he had to do this hack without actually modifying the machine itself — which we admit, actually makes it quite a bit more interesting!
But first, why is [David] even doing this? Is he a cyborg or something? Well, not quite, but he’s quite enthusiastic about bio-tech (is that what we call it now?) — anyway, he has NFC implants in his hand, and magnets in his fingertips to give him a sixth “electro-sense”. Wanting to take the most advantage of these augmented abilities, he put together this clever NFC credit card emulator.
To read his hand, he’s using an Adafruit RFID/NFC Shield stuck on the front of the machine, with an Arduino Mega 2560 to control it. To get around messing with the credit card unit, he’s placed a solenoid next to it, which is close enough that when energized with his information… the credit card machine reads it. Whether or not you like the cyborg action itself, what [David's] put together is pretty incredible. He has detailed instructions and material on GitHub if you’re interested in knowing more.