Fixing the Future

[iFixit] (who we’ve posted about many times before) has launched a passionate manifesto promoting the skills and knowledge of repair as a solution to technological consumerism and waste. They use powerful footage of electronic waste dumps in Ghana to make the point that we must collectively change the way we use and relate to our high technology–take a look after the break.

The manifesto rallies against the practice of withholding repair knowledge such as manuals, error codes and schematics–putting responsibility in the hands of manufacturers–but also makes it clear that it is up to every one of us to inform ourselves and to value functionality over novelty.

Considering the many-faceted resource crisis that we are headed towards, any efforts to push our behavior towards a sustainable and considerate way of life should be considered. As hackers we repair, reuse and rethink technology as part of our craft–but we are also privileged by our enthusiasm for technical challenges. The real battle is to disseminate the kind of knowledge and skills we possess into the general population. This is where the heart of [ifixit]’s message comes into play: the creation of an open, editable online repair manual for every electronic device. If you have something to teach, why not pop over and help expand their database?

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Carbon fiber part fabrication guide

If you’re thinking of working with carbon fiber this guide should be a big help. The example is aimed at the automotive crowd but the principles transfer quite easily. Carbon fiber parts are constructed in a similar manner as fiberglass parts. A mold is covered in a release agent, the fibers are put in place and covered in epoxy. With fiberglass the fibers are often sprayed on but carbon fiber components use woven mats of the material to build up multiple layers. Vacuum bags are used to hold the layers together, removing air and impregnating the fibers with the epoxy. This guide even outlines the construction of a vacuum pump needed for that step.

The benefits of carbon fiber are many, including strength and weight reduction. This makes it a great material for adding parts to weight-sensitive hacks such as quadcopters. But the mesh also has an interesting look which is why it shows up in custom electronics cases. The one real drawback is that when this material fails it is a catastrophic failure, tending to crumble across the entire structure rather than limiting damage to a small area. That means that a rough landing might be the end of your new parts.

[ThanksĀ MS3FGX]

Diving deep into the Game Boy LCD protocol

[Craig] wanted to make the original Game Boy LCD screen do his bidding so he sniffed out the data protocol that it uses. We were amused when he mentions that there’s an army of people out there looking to build pointless crap as part of a hobby. Guilty. And he goes on to outline why this LCD screen is a great resource for hobbiests.

As you can see in the pinout above, it uses 5V logic, with a 4 MHz data clock. These traits are both very friendly to a wide range if inexpensive microcontrollers. If you know how to address the display it should be very easy to use. Furthermore, the low pin count is thanks the to a 4-shade grayscale screen, limiting the data pins to just two. [Craig] hooked up his Saleae Logic probe to capture communications and walks us through what he discovered. During this process he proved to himself that he had figured out the protocol by exporting captured data from the logic probe and reassembling it into an image on his computer.

Single-motor walker for Santa-Pede Challenge inspiration

This LEGO hexapod uses just one motor for motion. In the video after the break you can see that what [Valetnin Bauer] accomplished is almost magical, using just 210 parts. A central drive shaft uses worm gears to transfer motion to each of the legs. The limb mounting technique results in a sort of rowing motion that closely mimics what you’d expect to see from a biological hexapod.

We thought this might provide some inspiration for the Buy Break Build: Santa-pede challenge. Sure, using LEGO is a lot easier than reusing Santa parts. But a lot can be accomplished with a little creativity. Another point of inspiration might be this one-motor walker that should be a snap to adapt to the challenge. Better get going, just twenty days let until the project deadline!

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Wireless doorbell rings a real bell

Tired of hearing that flat sounding wireless doorbell when visitors happen to come by? Don’t get rid of it, improve it by adding a real bell. This hack rigs up a small hand bell to the wireless doorbell receiver. It was prototyped using LEGO pieces to shake the sound out of the bell, but the finished version uses a servo motor on a wooden frame. An Arduino monitors the wireless receiver, driving the servo when a transmission from the front door button is received.

Traditionally door bells have actually been chimes that are struck with solenoids. We appreciate this rendition because it adds an element of kinetic art to the home, laying bare the functional hardware instead of hiding it in a box. Don’t miss the demonstration after the break.

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Robotic mobility for the little ones

Researchers at the University of Delaware are helping disabled kids by designing robot transportation for them. Exploring one’s environment is an important part of early development. Disabilities that limit mobility can prevent young children from experiencing this. Typically children are not offered a powered wheelchair until they are five or six years old, but adding intelligent technologies, like those found in the UD1, makes this possible at a much younger age. Proximity sensors all around the drive unit of the robot add obstacle avoidance and ensure safety when used around other children. When confronted with an obstacle the UD1 will stop, or navigate around it. The unit is controlled by a joystick in front of the rider but it can also be overridden remotely by a teacher, parent, or caregiver.

[via Robot Gossip]

Monotron Openly Monophonic

Famous synth manufacturer Korg has released the schematics (get them here if you don’t like to fill out forms) for their wee little Monotron for all to see and use! This is great news for anyone looking to build up a synth from scratch or to circuit bend their existing monotron. The filter circuits alone would be fun to add to an existing electronics setup.

Granted there are already many examples of monotron mods out there, but that shouldn’t stop you from experimenting with your own variations. Now with the schematics you can make fundamental changes to the architecture of the synth all from the comfort of your own CAD software. Want more oscillators? Distortion? It’s all out there for you to explore. We’re very interested to see how far people will run with this. And big ups to Korg for recognizing the value of hacking!

[via Retrothing]

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