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The ESP8266 Becomes a Terrible Browser

เสาร์, 10/04/2014 - 21:00

The ESP8266 are making their way over from China and onto the benches of tinkerers around the world for astonishing web-enabled blinking LED projects and the like. [TM] thought he could do something cooler with his WiFi to UART module and decided to turn one into a web browser.

There’s no new code running on the ESP8266 – all the HTML is being pushed through an Arduino Mega, requesting data from a server (in this case our fabulous retro edition), and sending the data to the Arduino serial console. The connection is first initiated with a few AT commands to the ESP module, then connecting to the retro server and finally dumping everything received to the console.

It’s not much – HTML tags are still displayed, and images are of course out of the question. The result, however, isn’t that much different from what you would get from Lynx, meaning now the challenge is open for an Arduino port of this ancient browser.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks, wireless hacks

Split Flap Display: If You Can’t Find It, Built It

เสาร์, 10/04/2014 - 18:01

It’s pretty hard to deny that split-flap displays are incredibly awesome. This one has been a long time coming, and it’s not a refab or surplus build. [Tom] fabricated these beautiful alpha-numeric split flaps from scratch.

Having recently seen an alarm-clock split flap hack just a week or so ago we found ourselves wondering where in the world people manage to find this type of awesome mechanical hardware. If you can’t get it out of grampa’s attic, the next best thing is to build it from the ground up.

This was not a build to be taken lightly. [Tom] started years ago, and part way into the project we looked at some of the control hardware for the installation. Make sure that you dig deep into his blog posts. It’s the only way you’ll put together the whole picture of how he ended up with each belt and stepper motor driven character module.

Filed under: classic hacks

The Teensy Becomes an MPC

เสาร์, 10/04/2014 - 15:00

A staple of every recording studio today, the Akai MPC began as a simple sampling groove box in the early 90s. The form factor of a few force sensitive pads assignable to different samples should be familiar to anyone with a little bit of MIDI gear, but these are rarely custom-made devices. Now, it runs on a Teensy. [Michele] created his own MPC-style MIDI pad controller with the Teensy 3.0, the Teensy audio adapter board, and an ingenious PCB design that uses replacement MPC pads.

[Michele]‘s MPC was first featured in the MIDI hacklet, but back then the only working component was the pads themselves. The velocity sensitive pads are made of two copper traces laid on a single acetate sheet. A bit of Velostat is glued to the back of the pad so when the pad is pressed, it contacts both of the traces. The harder the pad is pressed, the lower the impedance, and with everything sent to an analog pin, each pad becomes a force sensitive resistor.

With the key feature of an MPC taken care of, [Michele] turned his attention to the sampling and software of his device. The new Teensy 3.0 audio adapter board – and a great new library – takes care of everything. [Michele] doesn’t have a proper video of his MPC up yet, but he was able to film a random guy playing his machine at Rome Maker Faire yesterday. You can check that out below.

Filed under: musical hacks

Camera Mod Lets this Raspberry Pi Shoot in Different Spectrums

เสาร์, 10/04/2014 - 12:00

For [Peter Le Roux'] first “real” electronics project, he decided to make a camera based off the venerable Raspberry Pi platform. But he didn’t just want a regular camera, he wanted something that could shoot in near IR wave lengths…

It’s a well-known fact that you can remove the IR blocking filter from most cameras to create a quasi IR camera hack – heck, that hack has been around nearly as long as we have! The problem is even if you let the IR light into the camera’s sensor, you still get all the other light unless you have some kind of filter. There are different ways of doing this, so [Peter] decided to do them all with an adjustable wheel to flip through all the different filters.

He designed the case after the PiBow enclosure – you can see our full Pi Case Roundup here – and had it all laser cut out of wood. Stick around after the break to see a nice explanation of the light spectrum and the various filters [Peter] uses.

Now if only it was this easy to hack a camera for Predator vision…

Filed under: digital cameras hacks, Raspberry Pi

Perceiving Invisible Forces with an EMF-Detecting Dress

เสาร์, 10/04/2014 - 09:00

In June of 2014, [Afrdt] spent two weeks on a boat as an artist-in-residence in Linz, Austria. During that time, she created a dress that detects EMF waves and outputs them to vibration motors and a headphone jack.

[Afrdt] started by making two EMF coil antennas and sewed them to cuffs that snap together. She crafted fashionable fabric stripes that both conceal and carry the cables from the coils to an Adafruit FLORA that’s sewn into the body of the dress. The wearer experiences haptic feedback via vibration motors in the chest, and sonic feedback from a mini female headphone jack built into the collar. The zipper functions as a low-pass filter and volume control for the jack. One side bears resistive tape and runs to the FLORA, which is programmed to play an 800Hz tone. The other side runs to the headphone jack via conductive thread. As the zipper is opened, the pitch increases to toward the maximum pitch of 880Hz.

She drew inspiration for this project from [Aaron Alai]‘s EMF detector project and built the code on top of it. Broader documentation and many more pictures are available both at [Afrdt]‘s site and the residency program’s site.

This project is an official entry to The Hackaday Prize that sadly didn’t make the quarterfinal selection. It’s still a great project, and worthy of a Hackaday post on its own.

Filed under: The Hackaday Prize, wearable hacks

Robotic Octopus to Take Over the Seas

เสาร์, 10/04/2014 - 06:00

Much of robotics has been advanced by recreating animals movements – Why reinvent the wheel when nature got it right first? But have you seen many aquatic creatures movements re-imagined with mechanical linkages? The Foundation for Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH) has recently presented their robotic octopus at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems.

The eight armed (or is it legged?) roboctopus was based on of a real octopus which have a really cool method of propulsion which allows them to move at speeds of up to 40km/h. The researchers in Greece created slim silicon arms to recreate this movement, allowing their robot to propel itself at speeds of around 10cm/s — after adding webs to the arms, they were able to almost double its top speed to 18cm/s, or one-half its body length per second.

The cool thing about the bot is that other marine wild-life seem relatively unperturbed by it, which could open up many possibilities in underwater research!

Between robotic kangaroos, rats, red snappers and even elephants we’ll be able to have a robotic zoo in no time!

[via TechPlus24]

Filed under: robots hacks

Art from Brainwaves, Antifreeze, and Ferrofluid

เสาร์, 10/04/2014 - 03:00

Moscow artist [Dmitry Morozov] makes phenomenal geek-art. (That’s not disrespect — rather the highest praise.) And with Solaris, he’s done it again.

The piece itself looks like something out of a sci-fi or horror movie. Organic black forms coalesce and fade away underneath a glowing pool of green fluid. (Is it antifreeze?) On deeper inspection, the blob is moving in correspondence with a spectator’s brain activity. Cool.

You should definitely check out the videos. We love to watch ferrofluid just on its own — watching it bubble up out of a pool of contrasting toxic-green ooze is icing on the cake. Our only wish is that the camera spent more time on the piece itself.

Two minutes into the first video we get a little peek behind the curtain, and of course it’s done with an Arduino, a couple of motors, and a large permanent magnet. Move the motor around with input from an Epoc brain-activity sensor and you’re done. As with all good art, though, the result is significantly greater than the sum of its parts.

[Dmitry's] work has been covered many, many times already on Hackaday, but he keeps turning out the gems. We could watch this one for hours.

Filed under: hardware, misc hacks

Share Your Hackaday Story as we Celebrate 10 Great Years

เสาร์, 10/04/2014 - 00:01

Tomorrow we mark 10 wonderful years of reading Hackaday. Share your experience by recording a 1-2 minute video about how you discovered Hackaday and your favorite hack from all the greats that have hit the front page. Tweet the link to your video to @Hackaday with the hashtag #10years and we’ll add it to the playlist.

It doesn’t need to be anything special (but go nuts if you wish). I recorded a one-shot talking-head format as an example.

If you are lucky enough to be in the LA area, get a free ticket for Saturday’s event. In addition to all the clinicians and speakers, there’s a small collection of the Hackaday crew in town.

Filed under: misc hacks

Trek to Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories

ศุกร์, 10/03/2014 - 21:01

I’ve been a huge fan of EMSL for quite some time now, and my recent field trip proved that it has earned the name Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories for a good reason. For instance, look at the reflection in the glass near the bottom and you’ll glimpse the hearse that [Lenore] and [Windell] have sitting in front of the shop. But stop at the threshold, inside there are delights that ate up a couple of hours without me even noticing. And they thought they were going to get work done that day.

Don’t judge me by my appearance. This is late afternoon on a summer Saturday in Sunnyvale. Why does that matter? Obviously summer Saturdays in Silicon Valley always start with the Electronics Swap Meet and Engineer’s breakfast! That was a ton of fun but if you’re doing it right it’s also a bit tiring. No worries, a shot of excitement came over me as soon as I walked in that front door.

The Curiosities

Before we get into what EMSL actually sells, I simply must mention what [Windell] called their mini-museum but I would call a curio cabinet. One of the things he collects is mechanical devices, of which the variety of anti-backlash gears was my favorite. They are basically two gears stacked on top of one another with a spring that holds tension so there is no give between teeth.

But then it caught my eye. The original Bulbdial Clock prototype! I’ve been in love with this design since before I started writing for Hackaday. Also pictured above is a 3D printed functional Strandbeest model and the original Mario Bros.

I didn’t snap a pic, but [Windell] asked me to hold out my hand and then placed “the oldest thing you’ve ever held in your life” in my palm. A fragment of muonionalusta, it was heavy (basically a metal lump) and had a triangle pattern to it. I asked [Windell] if he had an emotional connection to it as I didn’t think I was feeling sufficient awe. That changed when he explained that the triangle pattern only forms when the metal cools slowly over the course of about 1-2 million years. Then it hung out for about another 4 billion years before ending up here. Awesome — and from eBay (I asked).

Their wares

I’m not dancing around the fact that this is a store. But it did feel more like a playground specifically designed to delight me.

Having worked my way through The Elements of Computing Systems and the nand2Tetris project I have a pretty good feel for how an ALU works. Silly me, I could have just picked up a Digi-Comp II which makes the procession of bits a visual and delightful experience. This build is a laser-cut modernization of a kit first available mid-century and once you flip the switch gravity drives the computation through to completion. It was fun playing with it and even more fun to see the scaled-up version which uses 8-balls.

I got a great look at the newest version of the new Eggbot Pro which is a solid chunk of serious CNC machine. Sure, you might not think drawing the nutritional information on the shell of a chicken egg is all that useful. But I’m not ready to jump into a shop-bot-style build yet. Something like this would let me dip my toe in the CNC pool (as it were) with a low barrier of entry. Also of note is the torch-addon for the Eggbot. I didn’t see it in action, but just seeing it again was enough to make me smile.

Everyone needs some art

Work is fun and all, but life is art. I was pleased to see that EMSL thinks so too. I made sure to capture a few of the interesting wall hangings found around the place.

There are a pair of electronic fabrication framings. One is used to make the transparencies for photo-processes of PCB fabs. I forget what footprint those are but hopefully [Lenore] will leave a comment and let us know. There was also a framed solder paste stencil.

Way up high in their CNC shop was some ASCII art and a beautiful abstract sculpture. The Tie-Fighter is CNC milled by spray painting a board black and then milling away the letters to expose the wood-color below. It’s a similar process to this CNC halftone technique. Speaking of, I was given a hush-hush preview of a product in development that makes very interesting use of the half-tone technique. But my lips are sealed for now. I asked [Windell] to write an explanation or tutorial when they go public so keep your fingers crossed for that.

The abstract art is a laser cut set of slats. Put them together correctly and they become a grid to isolate individual LEDs but put them together wrong and you get a visually interesting art-piece. I’m certain this “wrong” way was far more painstaking to produce!

Thank you to both [Windell] and [Lenore] for showing me the shop and their inner sanctum. I couldn’t sign off without mentioning that this finally pushed me over the edge and I ordered my own Bulbdial kit after I got home. This thing is the most well-engineered kit I’ve ever encountered and I somehow managed to find 2 hours over a couple of weekends to assemble it. My wife is still adjusting to the new addition to our living room decor, but she did concede that it makes a pleasant night-light!

Filed under: Featured

Interacting with Virtual Reality Brings us Even Closer to a Real Holodeck

ศุกร์, 10/03/2014 - 18:00

One of our readers has been playing around with virtual reality lately, and has come up with a pretty cool beta run of his research — virtual interaction using your hands.

Using an Oculus Rift, the Leap Motion controller and a beta run of Unity 4.6, [Tomáš Mariančík] put together a test environment for physical interaction. The Leap Motion controller is capable of tracking your fingers with extremely high detail, which allows him to create a pair of virtual hands inside the test environment that almost perfectly mimic his movements. The hack here is making it all work together.

In the following demo he shows off by interacting with holographic menus, grabbing body parts off of anatomically correct human being (thanks to Unity3D), and manipulating his environment.

He admits the software isn’t quite polished yet, but was too excited to show off the concept to wait. We’re certainly excited to see what comes next — how about some haptic feedback gloves and some motion sensing sandals to allow you to walk around?

Filed under: Virtual Reality

Joule Thief Steals Power for a Clock

ศุกร์, 10/03/2014 - 15:00

A common project among electronics tinkerers is the joule thief, a self-oscillating circuit that can “steal” the remaining energy in a battery after the voltage has dropped so low that most devices would stop working. Typically the circuit powers an LED until almost all of the energy is extracted from the battery, but [Lionel Sears] has created a specialized joule theif that uses the “extra” energy to power a clock.

The circuit uses four coils instead of the usual two to extract energy from the battery. The circuit charges a large capacitor which provides the higher current pulses needed to drive the clock’s mechanism. It can power the clock from a single AA battery, and will run until the voltage on the battery is only 0.5 volts.

Normally the clock would stop running well before the voltage drops this low, despite the fact that there’s still a little chemical energy left in the batteries. The circuit can drive the clock for an extended time with a new battery, or could use old “dead” batteries to run the clock for a brief time while the final little bit of energy is drawn from them. If you’re so inclined, you could even use hot and cold water with a joule thief to run your clock! Thanks to [Steven] for the tip.

Filed under: clock hacks

Transformer Inductive Coupling Simulation is SFW

ศุกร์, 10/03/2014 - 12:00

[James] has a friend who teaches at the local community college. When this friend asked him to build a transformer coupling simulation, he was more than happy to oblige. Fortunately for us, he also made a video that explains what is happening while  showing the output on a ‘scope.

For the simulation, [James] built primary and secondary coils using PVC pipe. The primary coil consists of 11 turns of 14AWG stranded wire with 4V running through it applied. The first secondary he demonstrates is similarly built, but has 13 turns. As you’ll see, the first coil induces ~1.5V in the second coil. [James] first couples it with the two windings going the same way, which results in the two 2Mhz waveforms being in phase with each other. When he inserts the secondary the other way, its waveform is out of phase with the primary’s.

His second secondary has the same diameter PVC core, but was wound with ~60 turns of much thinner wire—28AWG bell wire to be exact. This match-up induces 10V on the secondary coil from the 4V he put on the primary. [James]‘ demonstration includes a brief Lissajous pattern near the end. If you don’t know enough about those, here’s a good demonstration of the basics coupled with an explanation of the mechanics behind them.


Filed under: misc hacks

Auto Bike Light: On When Moving Off When Not

ศุกร์, 10/03/2014 - 09:01

If you’re plagued by perpetually dead bike light batteries you’ll like this one. It’ll also fix the problem of remembering to turn the lights on in the first place. This hack uses an accelerometer to switch the light when the bike is in motion.

In this case the bike light was chosen for its ability to fit the control board inside the case. But with this proof-of-concept you can easily spin a tiny board with uC and accelerometer to replicate the functionality (the Bluetooth module shown above is going unused in this application). Many accelerometer chips have low-power mode that can be used to was a uC so we could easily see this having very little impact on the normally battery life of your light. The one caveat being the need to regulate the voltage as many of these lights take a 12V cell.

The other alternative is to make sure your battery is always charging during the day. This solar setup is one way, but then you won’t want to leave the thing unattended.


Filed under: transportation hacks

Even More Power Wheels Racers

ศุกร์, 10/03/2014 - 06:00

With the Power Wheels Racing series wrapping up for the year, the teams are winding down and writing up their build and rebuild logs for their cars. In previous years, the kids from MIT, a.k.a. MITERS, have brought small electric cars to the races, but nothing like this. It’s a true Power Wheels, or at least the plastic shell, an alternator, a huge battery pack, and a completely custom drivetrain.

[Dane], [Ben], [Rob], [Mike], and [Ciaran] started their build with an alternator that was salvaged from [Charles]‘ Chibi-Mikuvan, added a motor from a CDROM drive for a sensor, and basked in the glory of what this cart would become. The frame was crafted from 1″ square tube, a custom disc brake machined, and a 10S2P battery pack built.

The alternator the team used for a motor had a rather small shaft, and there were no readily available gearboxes. The team opted to build their own with helical gears milled on the MITERS Bridgeport mill. That in itself is worth of a Hackaday post. Just check out this video.

With the build held together with duct tape a baling wire, the team headed out to the races in Detroit. Testing the racer before getting to Detroit would have been a good idea. During the endurance race, a set of 10″ rear tires were torn apart in just four laps, impressively bad, until you realize the smaller pink tires that were also from Harbor Freight fared even worse.

After a few races, the MITERS team figured out the weaknesses of their car and managed to get everything working perfectly for the race at Maker Faire NY.

Filed under: toy hacks, transportation hacks

Simple Photo Flash Trigger for Water Balloon Photography

ศุกร์, 10/03/2014 - 03:00

There have been countless projects to make custom photo flash trigger circuits. Usually the circuits react to sound, triggering the camera flash at the moment a certain sound is triggered. That type of trigger can be used to detect the popping of a balloon or shattering of glass. Other triggers detect motion, like a projectile crossing a laser beam for example. [Udo's] friend had a fun idea to take photos of water balloons popping. Unfortunately neither of those trigger methods would be well suited for this situation. That’s when [Udo] had to get creative.

[Udo] built a unique trigger circuit that uses the water inside the balloon as the trigger. The core component of the circuit is an Arduino. One of the Arduino’s analog pins is configured to enable the internal pull-up resistor. If nothing else is connected to the pin, the Arduino will read 5 volts there. The pin is connected to a needle on the end of a stick. There is a second needle on the same stick, just a short distance away from the first. When these needles pierce the balloon’s skin, the water inside allows for a brief moment of conductivity between the two pins. The voltage on the analog pin then drops slightly, and the Arduino can detect that the balloon has popped.

[Udo] already had a flash controller circuit. He was able to trigger it with the Arduino by simply trying the flash controller’s trigger pin to one of the Arduino’s pins. If the Arduino pulls the pin to ground, it closes the switch on the flash controller and the flash is triggered. Both circuits must share a common ground in order for this to work.

All of the code for [Udo's] project is freely available. With such spectacular photographs, it’s only a matter of time before we see more of these floating around.

Filed under: Arduino Hacks

Fail of the Week: Sonar Submersibility Sealing

ศุกร์, 10/03/2014 - 00:00

For the last decade or so, [Jason] has wanted to build an underwater robot. Can you blame him? More recently, he’s been researching sonar sensing and experimenting with the relatively inexpensive HC-SR04 module. Since he had good luck getting it to work with a PC sound card and a Stellaris Launchpad, he figured it was time to try using it underwater.

Hydrophone research led him to the idea of submerging the sensor in mineral water oil to both seal it and couple it with the water. Unfortunately, the HC-SR04 only sends one pulse and waits for echo. Through the air, it reliably and repeatedly returned a small value. Once inside a pill bottle filled with mineral oil, though, it does something pretty strange: it fluctuates between sending back a very small value and an enormous value. This behavior has him stumped, so he’s going to go back to the Launchpad unless you can help him figure out what’s going on. Should he use a different method to seal it?

Fail of the Week is a Hackaday column which runs every Thursday. 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.

Filed under: Fail of the Week, Hackaday Columns

Get Ready for Hackaday Munich by Attending Make Munich

พฤ, 10/02/2014 - 22:30

Need something to get you revved up for the Hackaday get-together in Munich next month? Don’t miss out on this year’s Make Munich.

The two-day festival will be held in Munich on November 1st and 2nd. Last year there were about 2500 in attendance and this year is shaping up to be even bigger! Wander through the exhibits to see what others have been building during their spare time. You’ll see everything from 3D printing, to custom electronics, crafts, art pieces, talks, and more. What a wonderful way to draw inspiration for the projects you want to pull off this winter!

What’s that you say? You have something to show off at Make Munich? You could always just carry it around with you but maybe it’s better to apply for a booth or to give a talk.

Seeing all that Make Munich has to offer should get you excited about doing some hands on hacking and you’ll have the chance just a couple of weeks later. The Hackaday crew is hard at work planning our own afternoon hackathon and evening party. Block out your calendar on Thursday, November 13th. We’re not quite ready to give away free tickets but watch the front page for an announcement soon!

We’re lucky to have a lot of people in the Munich area helping get the word out. A special thanks to [Nils Hitze] who is organizing Make Munich and has already connected us with a lot of interesting parts of the hacker community in the area.

Filed under: cons

THP Hacker Bio: Neil Jansen

พฤ, 10/02/2014 - 21:00

If we were running a contest to give away a trip to space for building the most innovative open hardware project a few years ago, the winner would inevitably be a 3D printer. Times have changed, 3D printing is reaching the limits of what can be done with simple plastic extrusion, and there are new hardware challenges to be conquered. One of the challenges facing hardware designers is the ability to create and assemble electronic circuits quickly. For that, there are a few pick and place machines being developed, the lowest cost being the FirePick Delta. It sells itself as a $300 pick and place machine borrowing heavily from the RepRap project, enabling tinkerers and engineers to assemble PCBs quickly.

[Neil Jansen] is the project lead for the FirePick Delta, and along with team members ranging from software developers in the bay area, to electronics technicians and high school students, they’ve created what will become the lowest cost and most capable pick and place machine available. Already the machine has tape feeders, tray feeders, a vision system, and modules to dispense solder paste. It’s an astonishing accomplishment, and were it not for some damage in shipping, we would have a video of [Neil] demoing the FirePick at Maker Faire NY.

In lieu of that, we do have a bio on [Neil] and what challenges he’s faced in building the FirePick. You can read that below, or check out their second demo video for The Hackaday Prize:

Robotics, and Extreme Circuit Boarding.  The world does not yet recognize Extreme Circuit Boarding as a sport.  But it basically consists of consuming large amounts of Red Bull, listening to loud Dubstep and Electro music, and designing crazy circuits, and then building them as quickly as possible when the boards and parts arrive. It’s extreme because you have to get the designs right on the first rev, with no rework.  Kind of in the spirit of a hackathon or a Tattoo Inkmaster reality show.  Since no one knows about this sport yet, I’m the unofficial world champion for 2014.

Aerospace, GPS / GNSS receivers, radios, autopilots, transponders, and collision avoidance systems, blah blah blah…  My job is the hardware/software testing and verification of these boxes.  These days I mostly write software, but at my last job, on a typical day, I’d be doing CAD in SolidWorks, schematic capture and pcb layout, writing embedded code, wiring test jigs and harnesses, requirements capture, and lots of other stuff.  I only have a high school background, everything else is self-taught.  Even though it’s a big stuffy company, I still get to do lots of different things, which keeps me happy.  Our other team members have day jobs as well. Karl Lew works as a full stack software developer in Bay Area, California. Christian Lerche is an electronics technician in Denmark and works in a lab that works on locomotive electronics. Dayton Pid is our youngest member at 16 and is in high school.  And Thomas Kilbride is in college at Indiana University.

My passion is basically the pursuit of reality through objectivism, critical thinking, and logic, and the propagation of those ideas leading by example, living by principles, appreciating the beauty of life, and taking personal accountability for my actions.

That honor almost went to my 2009 model MacBook Unibody recently.  I have been using it as my main development platform for our Hackaday project, mostly while dual-booted into Windows 7. It’s extremely slow, sometimes requiring a few minutes to switch between different apps.  It was maxed out at 4GB of RAM, and of course, every time I needed to dual-boot back to OSX to do photo editing or whatever, that was time lost.  The battery has been dead for almost two years, so it’s pretty much anchored to the desk.  I was almost about to take it out back and destroy it office-space style, while playing the obligatory “Still” from the Geto Boys from iTunes until it wouldn’t play any more.  But instead, I hobbled together a new PC out of pieces I had lying around, and a new motherboard, CPU, and 16 GB of RAM.  My productivity towards the HaD project since has probably tripled since I’ve gotten that taken care of.

I’m OS agnostic for the most part.  On a typical day, I’m using Windows, OS X, BSD, Linux (both desktop and embedded), and occasionally esoteric RTOS platforms.  I’m forced to run Windows for CAD, but it’s my least favorite to program on, and I agree with it the least philosophically. I use my MacBook for video editing, audio editing, photoshopping, and other graphic or A/V type stuff. Linux is awesome for embedded and server applications, but I can’t run Cubify Design on it, and I feel that the A/V apps on OS X are more matured and polished than anything available on Linux.

Linux would be my absolute favorite, but big corporations that make important pieces of software still won’t write programs for it, for some reason. In my dream universe, Microsoft would do like Apple did, and ditch their underlying operating system and .NET crap, and go with something POSIX (say, BSD) for their backend, thereby making it easier to write multi-platform software applications. They could even keep their crappy desktop look the same. But we all know they’d never, ever do that.

Hakko FX-888 soldering iron.  I do everything from SMT to soldering 4-AWG wire, all with the same tip, out of laziness, and because I can. I couldn’t even imagine having to use a crappy soldering iron.  Yet, I can’t say it makes me a snob, I’d have to have a $500 Metcal to say that.

MOS Technology 6581/8580 SID. I have a small collection hoarded in my closet somewhere. I tend to gravitate towards the C-like languages, because I can pick one that suits any level of application I need.  I routinely code in C/C++ for embedded stuff, but only really use the basic object-oriented things like classes and inheritance. I’m starting to really like Javascript, it’s so ubiquitous and useful for high-level stuff, even if it’s a decidedly evil language.  And I actually really like the concepts and paradigm of Java, even if it never seemed to work well in practice.  I don’t really like Python even though I use it occasionally (the tabs and general treatment of whitespace bugs me).  I also have an aversion to Perl, Lisp, Ruby, Haskell, Clojure, etc.  Not because they’re bad. But because I don’t have the time to understand them, and they make the open source software ecosystem a fragmented mess.

  •  Create an open-source micro-factory, capable of creating amazing things locally and sustainably.. Ideally this is what Karl and I hope FirePick will evolve into.  We see this as the logical progression of 3D fuse-filament printing, 3D metal printing, laser cutting, and SMT component assembly.  If we can make it profitable for companies to at least make prototypes and small runs in America (or pretty much any other country for that matter), rather than everything coming from China, then we can say that we’ve done something truly empowering.
  • “Hard” Artificial Intelligence (as opposed to the status quo “soft” AI).   When I was a kid, I dreamed of pioneering in this field.  Google claims to be working on this sort of stuff.  These days, I’d be happy to be a cog in the wheel of some grand decades-long project to accomplish true AI.
  •  I have to at some point finish a few pointless projects that I put off to work on this project… If I get the pick and place working well, then these will be a slam dunk.  I want to finish my Nixie Tube wrist watch, that uses some Burroughs B-4998 tubes, aka, the smallest Nixie tubes in the world.  Second, I want to make a really tiny robot (40mm x 40mm) with two wheels and a camera, that can sort a pile of M&Ms by color.  Hopefully with a powerful ARM processor and lots of sensors, running SLAM technique, kalman filtering, etc.  Third is a telepresence robot with two robotic arms and gimbal stereo vision on a segway syle inverted pendulum, controlled with a LEAP motion controller and an Oculus Rift.  Then I could just mail my artificial self around the world and see cool places, and get to interact with stuff, while staying on schedule.

I would say that almost all DIY pick and place machines were created by someone who had to manually place lots of SMT components onto circuit boards, all by hand, probably with tweezers and a microscope if they were lucky.  Most people find the process of doing it by hand very tedious.  Many of them, myself included, have decided to engineer their way out of the problem by building some sort of homebrew machine to make the process faster and less error-prone.  I’ve seen countless DIY pick and place machines, both manual and automatic, on the front page of Hackaday over the years.  They all shared a common idea and problem, and most of them shared a similar fate.  The DIY machines were never completed, because the people who built them were smart and busy with whatever project they needed the placement machine for. The problem was that the their DIY machine was just a means to an end, it was never an end goal for them. That’s where our machine differs.  FirePick Delta is our only project, that we plan on working on for many years to come.  We plan on refining it, and adding new SMT component feeders and other modular tools.  And eventually, if everything works out, we’ll probably make the world’s first open-source SMT assembly line, with reflow ovens, conveyor belts, and stencil printers, all released under open source HW and SW licenses. I’ve actually had the idea to use a delta mechanism for pick and place applications since some time around 2003, but didn’t have the manufacturing resources to build it.  Around January 2014, a friend from a DIY forum asked me if I wanted to borrow and put together a kit for a RepRap Huxley 3D printer.  I built it in a weekend, and quickly built five Prusa Mendel i2’s on it. One of those Prusa i2’s printed parts for my FirePick Delta prototype, which will hopefully print other FirePick Deltas one day.  It’s incredibly cool when you think that the little eMaker Huxley was actually printed from other machines, that were printed from machines, that trace their way back to the first Darwin 3D printer, invented by Adrian Bowyer… which was itself printed from a Stratasys in Bath University, UK.  So the hundreds and/or thousands of machines that I’ll be building over the next few years can all trace their heritage back to the original Darwin (the eMaker came with a certificate and everything, so I’ll likely have certificates for mine as well).  The ideas of robots making robots intrigues me.  They sort of have a pedigree, which is really neat. Anyway, I had just assembled the first prototype of the FirePick Delta (back then codenamed Project Bismuth), about a day or two before the Hackaday Prize was announced.  I was probably one of the first people to create a project after the contest was announced, because i remember frantically typing it out that night.  The timing couldn’t have been better.  We had always intended to keep it open source, but entering it for the Hackaday Prize sure has forced us to do the dirty documentation work that no one ever does.  Kudos for having a requirement to do a system-level diagram.  That’s one thing that I’ve rarely seen from an open source hardware project, but is sorely needed. I could use some advice on where to find a good web app developer with node.js, Bootstrap, AngularJS, and Express skills, that would work for free and has lots of time to devote :)  We had originally intended to have our html5 gui for the pick and place machine completed by now, but we didn’t take into account was how hard web app development really is, and how few people out there really have a mastery of it.  We’re stuck with a Java Swing UI instead, for the PnP functionality :(

I was really intrigued by the metal 3D printer that was one of the first projects to be tagged with TheHackadayPrize.  I think it would have required a crazy amount of metallurgy skills to pull off successfully, and I’m not sure they had said skills, but the concept was still really cool.

We actually have an incredibly complicated project, compared to say, OpenMV (which we love by the way).  We’ve had problems with our delta arm linkages, backlash / accuracy problems, Hierarchical BOM generation, and feeder problems.  However, we’ve got some really innovative ways to mitigate them that will hopefully be documented on our site by the Sept 29th milestone.  We’d be a month further along if we didn’t have hundreds/thousands of BOM items to document, so, uh, thanks for making us do all of that :)

Thanks to the FirePick Delta core team, and all the people who skulled our project and believe in our idea.  You guys rock.

Filed under: 3d Printer hacks, The Hackaday Prize

Unjettisoned Inkjet Turned Tumbler

พฤ, 10/02/2014 - 18:00

Don’t throw out that old printer! Not that you would, but even if you’ve already scavenged it for parts, you can use the shell and the rollers to make a rock/coin/what-have-you tumbler. If your printer is part scanner, it might end up looking as cool as [th3_jungle_inv3ntor]‘s. You’ll have to laser-cut your own arachnid to supervise from above, though.

Somewhere between having an irreparable printer, being inspired by another tumbler, and the desire to make a mancala set for his sister-in-law, [th3_jungle_inv3ntor] was sufficiently motivated to get out his hacksaw and gut the printer. He used the main paper roller and its motor to do the tumblin’, and a smaller roller to help accommodate different jar sizes.

Aside from adding those sweet blue LEDs, he wired in a toggle switch, a speed control pot, and an LM317 to govern the tumbling rate. Unfortunately, the rocks in [th3_jungle_inv3ntor]‘s town are too soft and crumbly, so he can’t make that mancala set after all. But hey, (almost) free stuff tumbler.

No dead printers lying around? If you have a drill and a vise, you could always make a tumbler that way, and nothing is compromised but the peaches jar.

Filed under: green hacks, how-to

GCC for the ESP8266 WiFi Module

พฤ, 10/02/2014 - 15:00

When we first heard about it a few weeks ago, we knew the ESP8266 UART to WiFi module was a special beast. It was cheap, gave every microcontroller the ability to connect to a WiFi network, and could – possibly – be programmed itself, turning this little module into a complete Internet of Things solution. The only thing preventing the last feature from being realized was the lack of compiler support. This has now changed. The officially unofficial ESP8266 community forums now has a working GCC for the ESP8266.

The ESP8266 most people are getting from China features a Tensilica Xtensa LX3 32-bit SOC clocked at 80 MHz. There’s an SPI flash on the board, containing a few dozen kilobytes of data. Most of this, of course, is the code to run the TCP/IP stack and manage the radio. There are a few k left over – and a few pins – for anyone to add some code and some extended functionality to this module. With the work on GCC for this module, it’ll be just a few days until someone manages to get the most basic project running on this module. By next week, someone will have a video of this module connected to a battery, with a web-enabled blinking LED.

Of course that’s not the only thing this module can do; at less than $5, it will only be a matter of time until sensors are wired in, code written, and a truly affordable IoT sensor platform is created.

If you have a few of these modules sitting around and you’d like to give the new compiler a go, the git is right here.

Filed under: Microcontrollers, wireless hacks

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