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2018-04-26T07:45:45.889Z
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They say necessity is the mother of invention. But if the thing you need has already been invented but is extremely expensive, another mother of invention might be budget overruns. That was the case when [klinstifen]’s local government decided to put in countdown clocks at bus stops, at a whopping $25,000 per clock. Thinking that was a little extreme, he decided to build his own with a much smaller price tag.

The project uses a Raspberry Pi Zero W as its core, and a 16×32 RGB LED matrix for a display. Some of the work is done already, since the bus system has an API that is readily available for use. The Pi receives the information about bus schedules through this API and, based on its location, is able to determine the next bus arrival time and display it on the LED matrix. With the custom 3D printed enclosure and all of the other material, the cost of each clock is only $100, more than two orders of magnitude less expensive.

Hopefully the local government takes a hint from [klinstifen] and decides to use a more sane solution. In the meantime, you might be able to build your own mass transit clock that you can use inside your own house, rather than at the train station, if you’re someone who has a hard time getting to the bus stop on time.

The old maxim is that if you pay peanuts, you get a monkey. That’s no longer true, though: devices like the Raspberry Pi W have shown that a $10 device can be remarkably powerful if it is well designed. You might not appreciate how clever this design is sometimes, but this great analysis of the antenna of the Pi W by [Carl Turner, Senior RF Engineer at Laird Technology] might help remind you.

[Carl] used some fancy toys in his analysis, such as the awesome-looking antenna test chamber that his employer uses to test designs. He used this to measure two very interesting things; the radiation pattern of the antenna, and the efficiency. Simply put, the efficiency is a measure of how much of the energy you push into an antenna is emitted as RF radiation. There is always a little loss, but he found that the Pi W antenna has decent efficiency, with -3.5 dB losses at WiFi frequencies. That’s nowhere near as good as the stand-up antennas on your wireless router, but remember that the WiFi antenna on the Pi W is tiny compared to them: it is a small spot on the PCB made by removing several layers of copper, creating what engineers call a resonant chamber. That makes it a remarkable bit of engineering, keeping the cost down and using the copper layers that are already on the board to create the antenna rather than adding a new component.

If you want to explore machine learning, you can now write applications that train and deploy TensorFlow in your browser using JavaScript. We know what you are thinking. That has to be slow. Surprisingly, it isn’t, since the libraries use Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) acceleration. Of course, that assumes your browser can use your GPU. There are several demos available, include one where you train a Pac Man game to respond to gestures in your webcam to control the game. If you try it and then disable accelerated graphics in your browser options, you’ll see just what a speed up you can gain from the GPU.

Getting Started

The documentation and tutorials can help you get started. In its simplest form, though, it is pretty easy to do simple things. Just to get you started, we put together something very simple: a network that learns how to estimate what ten times some number equals. It isn’t the most amazing demo, but if you learn by reading code, it is somewhere to start.

The flow is pretty simple. First, we load the library from a content delivery server:

<script src="https://cdn.jsdelivr.net/npm/@tensorflow/tfjs@0.6.1">

As you might guess from the name, everything in TensorFlow is a tensor. We create some training data in two tensors, each with five elements and only one dimension:

// learn 10x table
 const xs = tf.tensor2d([1,2,3,4,5], [5,1]);
 const ys = tf.tensor2d([10,20,30,40,50], [5,1]);

You can probably guess the xs tensor is the inputs and the ys tensor is the expected outputs.

There are several models and...

Beware, arachnophobes, the robots are coming for you!

What else would you be expected to think if you watched a hexapod robot display its best Transformers impression by turning into a wheel and pushing itself in your direction? The BionicWheelBot — developed by [Festo] — should rightly remind you of the cartwheeling Flic-Flac spider, the main inspiration for the robot. Of course, Star Wars fans might justifiably see a Droideka.

The BionicWheelBot can — almost — seamlessly transition between crawling around on six legs, to literally rolling away. To do so, its three pairs of legs sequentially fold up into a shape befitting its namesake and then pauses for a moment — almost for dramatic effect — before the real fun begins.

Once it’s balled up, it deploys two hitherto vestigial legs which push the BionicWheelBot on its merry way every rotation, steering all the while. These dual forms grant it the adaptive capacity to traverse multiple terrain types in a single outing. While not the first transforming robotor rover, earthbound though some may be — we’ve seen, we certainly hope it isn’t the last!

[Thanks for the tip, Itay!]

If you’ve ever disturbed your partner by getting up during the night and flicking on the bathroom light — or tripping over something and startling them awake completely in the ensuing catastrophe — [Kristjan Berce]’s idea to install motion-activated ground-effect lighting on his girlfriend’s bed might hold your attention.

[Berce] is using an Arduino Nano for the project’s brain, a PIR sensor from Adafruit, and an L7805 voltage regulator to handle load spikes.  He doesn’t specify the type of LED strip he’s using, but Neopixels might be a safe bet here. Soldering issues over with, he mounted his protoboard in a 3D printed project box. Instead of reinventing the LED, [Berce] copied the code from Adafruit’s PIR tutorial before sticking the project to the side of the bed with adhesive strips so the on/off switch within handy reach to flick before meeting Mr. Sandman. Check out the build video after the break!

Once back in bed, a Fall Asleep Device should help you make the most of your remaining sleep hours.

Flip calendars are a neat little piece of history. Sold as tourist trinkets, they sit on your desk and show the current day of the month and, depending on the particular calendar, month and year. Each day, you rotate it and it shows you the current date. At the end of February, you rotate it a bunch of times to get from February 28th (or 29th) to March 1st. [measuredworkshop] always had fun flipping the dates on his parents’ flip calendar, so decided to build his own wooden one.

The calendars consist of a series of tiles with the dates on them inside an enclosure. Rotating the enclosure allows a new tile to slide down in front of the old one. Once you know how many tiles you are going to use, you put a different date on the back side of each tile. In [measuredworkshop]’s case, there were 15 tiles to hold 30 dates (he created one with 30/31 on it for the end of the month) so the 1 has a 16 on the back, the 2 a 17, and so on. Tiles of different colored wood were cut and sanded and then the numbers drawn on by hand.

The enclosure was cut using a Morso Guillotine, a machine which uses sharp blades to do precise mitre cuts in wood. One side of the enclosure was covered by wood, the other by clear acrylic, so that you can see how the mechanism works as it is rotated....

The invention of the relatively affordable 3D printer for home use has helped bring methods used to produce parts for prototypes, samples, and even manufacturing, closer to designers. This tutorial on how to cast metal parts from 3D printed silicone molds is a perfect example of how useful a 3D printer can be when you are looking to make a custom and durable metal part at home.

After 3D printing a mold design using an Ultimaker 2 [M. Borgatti] casts the mold using Smooth-On Mold Star 15 that can withstand heat up to 450 °F (232 °C), which he points out is ideal for the low-temp metal casting alloy tin-bismuth comprised of 58% Bismuth and 42% Tin with a melting point of 281 °F.

You may have heard of molds created from 3D printed parts before, but what makes this tutorial great is that the author, [M. Borgatti], really sets you up to be successful. He offers up plenty of insights including mold-making techniques and terminology like why you would need a well and runners designed as part of your mold when casting with metal.

You can either reproduce his designs or use the tutorial to create your own which makes it a good start for beginners as well as another method to file away for people...

If you are an American Electronics Enthusiast of a Certain Age, you will have misty-eyed reminiscences of the days when every shopping mall had a Radio Shack store. If you are a Brit, the name that will bring similar reminiscences to those Radio Shack ones from your American friends is Maplin. They may be less important to our community than they once would have been so this is a story from the financial pages; it has been announced that the Maplin chain is for sale.

Maplin started life as a small mail-order company supplying electronic parts, grew to become a large mail order company selling electronic parts, and them proceeded to a nationwide chain of stores occupying a similar niche to the one Radio Shack fitted into prior to their demise. They still sell electronic components, multimeters, and tools, but the bulk of their floor space is devoted to the more techy and hobbyist end of mass-market consumer electronics. As the competition from online retailers has intensified  it is reported that the sale may be an attempt to avoid the company going into administration.

It’s fair to say that in our community they have something of a reputation of late for being not the cheapest source of parts, somewhere you go because you need something in a hurry rather than for a bargain. A friend of Hackaday remarked flippantly that the asking price for the company would be eleventy zillion pounds, which may provide some clues as to why...

After you’ve taken a moment to ponder the turn of phrase used in the title, take a look at this scratch-built robotic vacuum created by [theking3737]. The entire body of the vacuum was 3D printed, and all of the internal electronics are off-the-shelf modular components. We can’t say how well it stacks up against the commercial equivalents from iRobot and the like, but it doesn’t look like it would be too hard to build one yourself to find out.

The body of this rather concerned-looking robot was printed on a DMS DP5 printer, which is a neat trick as it only has a build platform of 200 mm x 200 mm. Once all the pieces were printed, a 3D pen was used to “weld” the sections together. The final result looks a bit rough, but should give a bond that’s just as strong as the printed parts themselves.

The robot has four sets of ultrasonic range finders to detect walls and obstacles, though probably not in the positions you would expect. The right side of the robot has two sets of sensors, while the left side only gets one. We aren’t sure the reasoning behind the asymmetrical layout, but presumably the machine prefers making right turns.

Control is provided by an Arduino Mega and the ever-reliable...

Inspired by some impressive work on textile flip-bit displays, and with creative steampunk outfits to create for Christmas, [Richard Sewell] had the idea for a flippable magnetic eye in the manner of a flip-dot display. These devices are bistable mechanical displays in which a magnet is suspended above a coil of wire, and “flipped” in orientation under the influence of a magnetic field from the coil.

In [Richard]’s case the eyeball was provided by a magnetic bead with a suitable paint job, and the coil was a hand-wound affair with some extremely neat lacing to keep it all in place. The coil requires about 200 mA to ensure the eye flips, and the job of driving it is performed by a Digispark ATTiny85 board with an LM293 dual H-bridge driver upon which the two bridges are wired in parallel. The whole is mounted in the centre of a charity shop brooch that has been heat-treated to give a suitable aesthetic.

You can see the eyeball in all its glory in the two videos below the break, and should you be curious you can also read our write-up of the original pieces from [Irene Posch] that inspired it.

And here they eye is in close-up.

If you buy a computer today, you’re probably going to end up with a laptop. Corporate drones have towers stuffed under their desks. The cool creative types have iMacs littering their open-plan offices. Look around on the online catalogs of any computer manufacturer, and you’ll see there are exactly three styles of computer: laptops, towers, and all-in-ones. A quick perusal of Newegg reveals an immense variety of towers; you can buy an ATX full tower, an ATX mid-tower, micro-ATX towers, and even Mini-ITX towers.

It wasn’t always this way. Nerds of a sufficient vintage will remember the desktop computer. This was, effectively, a tower tilted on its side. You could put your monitor on top, negating the need for a stack of textbooks bringing your desktop up to eye level. The ports, your CD drive, and even your fancy Zip drive were right there in front of you. Now, those days of desktop computers are long gone, and the desktop computer is relegated to history. What happened to the desktop computer, and why is a case specifically designed for a horizontal orientation so hard to find?

Dawn of Home Computers

From the beginning of the IBM PC era, the desktop computer was the default. The IBM model number...

Until a flood claimed its life, the 386 tower [Tylinol] found on the side of the road served him well as a DOS gaming rig. In the aftermath of the flood, the machine was left with ruined internals and a rusted case; it ended up being tossed in storage where it was slowly rotting away. But a recent idea got him to drag this old dinosaur back out into the light of day and give it a new lease on life with some modern gear.

For our viewing pleasure [Tylinol] documented the restoration of the computer, dubbed SErEndIPITy, from start to finish. The rebuild starts with tearing the machine down to the steel frame and sanding all the rust off. Luckily it looks like no structural damage was done, and a coat of engine enamel got the frame looking more or less like new. The original motherboard mounting solution wouldn’t work for his modern board, so he ended up riveting a piece of sheet metal in and drilling new holes for standoffs to thread into.

A nice element of this rebuild is that [Tylinol] didn’t want to drastically change the outward appearance of the machine. The customary yellowed plastic was left alone, and wherever possible the original hardware was reused. Rather than blow a hole in the case,...

We’ve all been there — a steamy night in the rainforest of Papua New Guinea, sweaty slumber disturbed by the unmistakable sounds of gnawing. In the morning we discover that a rodent of unusual tastes has chewed the microphone cable of our transceiver right half in two, leaving us out of touch with base camp. If we had a nickel for every time that’s happened.

It may sound improbable, but that’s the backstory behind [Marius Taciuc]’s 3D-printed mic cord repair. Even with more mundane failure modes, the retractile cords on microphones are notoriously difficult to fix. Pretty much any of the usual suspects, like heat-shrink tubing or electrical tape, are going to do very little to restore the mechanical stability lost once that tough outer jacket is breached. [Marius]’s solution was to print as small an enclosure as possible to mechanically support the splice. The fit is tight, but there was just enough room to solder the wires and stuff everything back in place. Cable ties provide strain relief where the cord exits the splice, and a liberal squirt of hot glue pots the joint. It’s not perfect — we’ll bet the splice acts as a catch point and gets a little annoying after a while — but if it gets you back on the air fast and cheap, it probably makes sense.

[Marius] entered this rat-race beating hack into the Repairs You Can Print contest. Do you have an epic repair that was made possible by a 3D printer?...

Model railways are a deep and rewarding hobby, and the mechanisms involved can be both surprisingly intricate and delightful. A great example that may surprise the unfamiliar is that of model train carriages, such as coal cars, that are capable of both receiving and dumping a load at various points on a model layout. This adds realism and, if we’re honest, just plain old fun.

When [Phil]’s father received his Lincoln coal car from eBay, it was unfortunately damaged, and incapable of dumping properly. Instead of throwing it away, a replacement part was developed and 3D printed. The part was iterated on until the coal hopper could dump and retract smoothly.

This is the perfect example of a tidy repair executed through 3D printing. The broken part was extremely detailed and would be difficult and expensive to repair or fabricate through other measures. However, through the power of 3D printing, all that’s required is a 3D modelling job and a few hours to print it.

It’s a great entry into our Repairs You Can Print challenge, and covers the fundamentals of modelling and iterative design well. Got a neat repair you’ve done yourself? Document it on Hackaday.io and enter yourself!

The Casio SK-1 keyboard is fairly well-known in the “circuit bending” scene, where its simple internals lend themselves to modifications and tweaks to adjust the device’s output in all sorts of interesting ways. But creating music via circuit bending the SK-1 can be tedious, as it boils down to fiddling with the internals blindly until it sounds cool. [Nick Price] wanted to do something a bit more scientific, and decided to try replacing his SK-1’s ROM with an Arduino so he could take complete control it.

That’s the idea, anyway. Right now he’s gotten as far as dumping the ROM and getting the Arduino hooked up in place of it. Unfortunately the resulting sound conjures up mental images of a 56K modem being cooked in a microwave. Clearly [Nick] still has some work ahead of him.

For now though, the progress is fascinating enough. He was able to pull the original NEC 23C256 chip out of the keyboard and read its contents using an Arduino and some code he cooked up, and he’s even put the dump online for any other SK-1 hackers out there. He then wrote some new code for the Arduino to spit data from the ROM dump back to the keyboard when requested....

A few years ago, [Brieuc]’s car blew a fuse. He went to replace it, which unfortunately means removing the entire glove box. In his haste to get his baby back on the road, he accidentally broke one of the clips that holds the glove box on the dashboard.

[Brieuc] tried to just glue the thing back together, but it didn’t hold because the part has to flex a little bit for people who need to get into the fuse box. No one seems to offer a replacement for this small but vital hunk of plastic, though he did find someone offering total glove box replacements at highway robbery prices. Since there was still one good clip, he used it to design and print a strong ABS replacement.

This is a great example of the one-off utility of 3D printers. [Brieuc] didn’t need an exact copy, and since he was replacing an injection-molded part with additive manufacturing, he had the freedom to start with a bare-bones design, make adjustments as needed, and iterate until he got it right. It didn’t take long. The layer orientation of the first print made the legs too weak, but that’s a simple fix. The second version has lasted for three years and counting.

We get it. You don’t have the same car as [Brieuc], so...

When is a hot glue stick not a hot glue stick? When it’s PLA, of course! A glue gun that dispenses molten PLA instead of hot glue turned out to be a handy tool for joining 3D-printed objects together, once I had figured out how to print my own “glue” sticks out of PLA. The result is a bit like a plus-sized 3D-printing pen, but much simpler and capable of much heavier extrusion. But it wasn’t quite as simple as shoving scrap PLA into a hot glue gun and mashing the trigger; a few glitches needed to be ironed out.

Why Use a Glue Gun for PLA?

Some solutions come from no more than looking at two dissimilar things while in the right mindset, and realizing they can be mashed together. In this case I had recently segmented a large, hollow, 3D model into smaller 3D-printer-sized pieces and printed them all out, but found myself with a problem. I now had a large number of curved, thin-walled pieces that needed to be connected flush with one another. These were essentially butt joints on all sides — the weakest kind of joint — offering very little surface for gluing. On top of it all, the curved surfaces meant clamping was impractical, and any movement of the pieces while gluing would result in other pieces not lining up.

An advantage...

Smoke is a useful thing, whether you want to hide from enemy combatants or just make a big scene at a local sporting match. Smoke devices have lots of applications, many of which will likely cause a nuisance to somebody, somewhere. With that said, they can also be really cool, and [Tech Ingredients] is here to tell you how to make them.

Far from a simple tutorial, the video guide is loaded with detail. It begins with an explanation of the basic chemistry involved, using potassium nitrate and sugar. This is the basis of rocket candy, a popular method for making solid rocket motors at home. However, it’s then explained how the formula is altered to suit a smoke-making, rather than a thrust-making device. The trick is the addition of paraffin to moderate the reaction.

The tips don’t stop there. The guide explains how to use a coffee grinder to make the coarse ingredients finer, which increases the surface area and allows the powder constituents to blend with the wax more easily. Enclosures are also discussed, with a cardboard tube and bentonite clay favored for its heat resistance and stability.

Overall, it’s an excellent guide which takes the time to explain the rationale behind each step in the process. It’s great to see the underlying concepts explained with the practical execution, giving a strong understanding of not just how to do it, but why. Video after the break.

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” This famous quote by Isaac Newton points to an axiom that lies at the heart of The Sciences — knowledge precedes knowledge.

What we know today is entirely based upon what we learned in the past. This general pattern is echoed throughout recorded history by the revelation of one scientific mystery leading to other mysteries… other more compounding questions. In the vast majority of cases these mysteries and other questions are sprung from the source of an experiment with an unexpected outcome sparking the question: “why the hell did it do that?” This leads to more experiments which creates even more questions and next thing you know we go from moving around on horse-drawn carriages to landing drones on Mars in a few generations.

The observant of you will have noticed that I preceded a statement above with “the vast majority of cases.” Apart from particle physics, almost all scientific discovery throughout recorded history has been made via experiment and observation. There are a few, however, that have been discovered hidden within the confines of an equation, only later to be confirmed with observation. One such discovery is the Black Hole, and how it was stumbled upon on a dusty chalkboard in the early 1900s will be the focal point of today’s article.

Only A Mathematical Hypothesis

This was what Einstein had to say on the subject of Black Holes:

The essential results of this investigation is...

Here’s something remarkably displeasant. Can you cook a steak with glue? [Dom] and [Chris] from ExplosiveDischarge have cooked a steak using a huge, huge amount of two-part epoxy. The chemistry behind this is just the exothermic reaction when two-part epoxy kicks off, and yes, the steak (a very thin cut) was sufficiently wrapped and protected from the hot sticky goo. What were the results? An overcooked steak, actually. This isn’t a sous vide setup where the temperature ramps up to 50°C and stays there — the temperature actually hit 80°C at its peak. There are a few ways to fix this, either by getting a thicker cut of steak, adding some bizarre water cooling setup to keep the temperature plateaued at a reasonable temperature.

This is your weekly reminder for the Repairs You Can Print contest.

We’ve got a twofer for awesome remote-controlled hovering stuff. The first is a 1:8 scale Harrier. This plane designed and built by [Joel Vlashof] will be a reasonably accurate model of a Harrier, capable of VTOL. It’s built around a huge 130mm EDF, powered by 2x6s lipos, and stabilized with a kk2.1 flight controller with VTOL software. This is as accurate a Harrier that you’re going to get in such a small format, and has the cool little spinny vanes that allow the beast to transition from vertical to horizontal flight.

Want some more cool hovering things? [Tom Stanton] is building a remote controlled Chinook. Yes, that helicopter with two...