Digging deep into the Neato’s LIDAR module

[Hash] is going to great lengths to learn about the parts used in his Neato XV-11 LIDAR. We looked in on his work with the XV-11 platform recently, where he used the dust bin of the vacuum as a modular hardware housing. This hack is a hardware exploration aimed at figuring out how an equivalent open hardware version can be built.

The LIDAR module is made of two big chunks; the laser and optic assembly, and the sensor board seen above. [Hash] put it under the microscope for a better look at the line scan imager. The magnification helped him find the company name on the die, this particular part is manufactured by Panavision. He figured out the actual model by counting the bonding wires and pixels in between them to get a pretty good guess at the resolution. He’s pretty sure it’s a DLIS-2K and links to an app note and the datasheet in his post. The chip to the right of the sensor is a TI digital signal processor.

Putting it back together may prove difficult because it will be impossible to realign the optics exactly as they were–the module will need to be recalibrated. [Hash] plans to investigate how the calibration routines work and he’ll post anything that he finds. Check out his description of the tear down in the video after the break.

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Wall-climbing bot does it with ease

Paraswift is a robot that can climb vertical surfaces with ease. Here you can see the robot motoring up the side of a building with a parachute packed on it’s back for use on the way down. The team that built the robot is calling it a base jumper, but after seeing them catch the falling robot in a net we’d say it’s still a bit too fragile to make that claim.

The parachute isn’t the only way for this guy to get down after a long climb. As you can see in the video after the break, it has no trouble driving in any direction on a wall. Like other wall-climbers the Paraswift is using air to stick to the surface. A vortex of air, similar to a tornado, generates a large amount of negative pressure, sucking the body of the robot to the surface it is climbing. I you’re the one who traded a good portion of your life to spend building the Paraswift we’re guessing you added the parachute to hedge your bets against a power failure.

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Chumby’s new NeTV makes almost ‘any TV’ into an Internet connected device

Check out the new set-top box on the block, the NeTV from Chumby Industries. That link will take you to their video demonstration of the device, which is a humble-looking black box with no apparent user interface. You’ll see a few cool tricks that may impress you, like pairing the device with an Android phone through the use of a QR code. Once the two have mated you can do things like share images on the TV and load webpages from addresses entered into the smart phone. There are options for scrolling alerts when you receive an IM or SMS, and a few other bells and whistles. All of this from a device which connects with two HDMI ports to sit between your TV and whatever feeds it a video signal. Read all about the features here.

But its the hacking potential that really gets our juices flowing. The developer page gives us a look inside at the Spartan-6 FPGA that lives in the little case. We don’t often quote [Dave Jones] but we’re certain he’d call this thing ‘sex on a stick’. They’ve made the schematic and FPGA information available and are just begging for you to do your worst. The power for the device is provided by a USB connection but curiously is just above spec when drawing a max of 700 mA. We have a USB port on the back of our TV and would love to velcro this thing in place and power it from that. What would you plan to do with it?

[via Reddit]

Super Pixel Bros now with manufactured PCB and rewritten software

[Retro Brad] has come a long way with his 8×8 gaming device which he calls Super Pixel Bros. The newest rendition has a fab house PCB and freshly rewritten code. The game is still played on an 8×8 LED matrix, but it looks like he’s sourced a version with square pixels, which is a nice touch since he was inspired by the block-based Super Mario games. Also new in this version is the character LCD screen which displays score, level, and life information. But it’s not just the shiny new hardware that’s different, he’s rewritten the software in Swordfish Basic to run on the PIC 18F4550. The new code allowed him to tweak how levels are loaded and stored. He’s even written a level editor and has finished 20 levels thus far.

The demo after the break does a great job of showing off the hardware and the game play. He’s added a lot, including enemies, the ability to shoot fire, and of course the common moves of jumping and breaking blocks is all there. He mentioned that the fab house he used is selling boards for around $5 and he’s looking into the possibility of getting a kit service up and running.

His progress since we last checked in on the project is quite impressive.

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[Dino's] JFET guitar preamp with piezo pickup

This week, with a little help from a Roomba, [Dino] built a guitar pickup and preamp that sounds marvelous. A pickup takes vibrations from the guitar and turns them into an electrical signal which can then be amplified and broadcast. He grabbed a long-dead Roomba which has slowly but surely been donating its organs for his weekly projects. After plucking out a piezo element he grabbed a bag of Junction gate Field-Effect Transistors (JFET) and built a preamp circuit around one of them.

JFETs operate in much the same way as MOSFETs (which we took a look at last week). [Dino's] design adds a few resistors and capacitors to tune the gain and decouple the circuit from the input and power rails. He epoxied the piezo element inside the guitar and connected leads between it and a jack mounted in the body. As always, he does an excellent job of explaining the concepts behind the design and outlining the build techniques that he used. We’ve embedded his video after the break.

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Inkjet print head driver shield

[Nicolas C Lewis] is churning out inkjet print head shield kits for Arduino. If you’ve always wanted to label or brand objects as part of a project this greatly simplifies the process. Using his all through-hole design, an Arduino can print at 96 dpi. At first we had trouble figuring out what we could use this concept for, but [Nicolas] has the answer. In is FAQ he links to a couple of his own flat-bed inkjet printer builds based on earlier prototypes, but he also links to other projects using the same concepts like the Nickel-O-Matic, or the ping-pong ball printer (we’ve embedded video of that one after the break).

The shield only requires five connections with a microcontroller. We love the jumper-based connection system that [Nicolas] chose which lets you use several print heads at once by selecting different drive pins. The project is still in the funding stage but is already over funded. Schematic and code will be posted as soon as the first production run is complete.

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PCB drill from R/C car parts

[Sid] makes a few PCBs a month and the hardest part of his fabrication process is always drilling the through-holes. He has a PCB hand drill that usually results in a sore index finger. After a few unsuccessful attempts of using a full-size electric drill and not wanting to invest in a commercial solution, [Sid] made a PCB drill from a broken R/C car.

The toy car was donated by [Sid]‘s 4-year-old after a terrible crash. [Sid] took the gearbox from the car and added a small circuit to control the direction of the drill. After attaching the drill chuck to the former R/C car axle and adding the power leads to a 5 Volt adapter, a PCB drill press was born.

Most of the parts for this build were salvaged from the toy car’s radio control circuit. Except for the chuck from [Sid]‘s hand drill and a few switches, everything on this build was pulled from a broken remote control car. While the build is a lot simpler than this semi-automatic PCB drill, [Sid]‘s drill seems to work well. Check out the demo video after the break.

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