Open Rail, or, why didn’t we think of this?

Hackaday readers familiar with the with the CNC and automated machinery scene will be familiar with MakerSlide, the open-source linear bearing system. This linear movement system composed of special aluminum extrusions and mounting plates riding on v-wheels has been used in a lot of awesome builds including the Quantum ORD Bot 3D printer and the Shapeoko CNC router. If there’s one downside to the MakerSlide, it’s the hard-to-source aluminum extrusion with the requisite v-wheel guides. [Mark] and [Trish] of Phlatboyz have an ingenious solution to this problem: just have bolt-on v-wheel guides. It’s an idea so simple we’re kicking ourselves for not thinking of it first.

Open Rail is completely compatible with the MakerSlide linear bearing system. Instead of requiring a special aluminum extrusion, the Open rail system uses regular, plain-jane aluminum extrusions available at any reputable hardware store. Just pop a few t-nut into the Open Rail and attach it to your extrusion. Couldn’t be easier.

Considering how easy it is to find surplus aluminum extrusion, we’ll expect a few gigantic MakerSlide and Open Rail derived CNC projects in the very near future.

Adding the Apple ‘breathing LED’ to a motorcycle

[spiralbrain] has a beautiful KTM Duke 200 motorcycle, but he’s found the factory configuration is a little bit plain. Wanting to add his own unique touch to his bike, he decided to add a ‘breathing LED’ to the parking light that slowly changes its brightness much like the LED on recent Macs.

From the factory, [spiralbrain]‘s bike uses extremely inefficient (and somewhat ugly) T10 lamps for the parking light. This was changed over to a 12 Volt white SMD light bulb, but what really makes this build special is the way [spiralbrain] is controlling this lamp.

[spiralbrain] added a very tiny circuit consisting of an 8-pin microcontroller (a PIC12F683) that slowly dims the new SMD light bulb using the built-in PWM module. When the bike is taken out of neutral, the microcontroller stops at the highest PWM setting so the ‘breathing’ LED function is only engaged when not moving.

It’s an interesting mod that’s sure to draw some attention when [spiralbrain] is showing off his bike. As a bonus, the mod is completely reversible, so the bike’s warranty is still good.

Hackaday Links: June 12, 2012

Amazing 3D rendering in real-time

Ah, the 90s. A much simpler time when the presenters on Bad Influence! were amazed by the 3D rendering capabilities of the SGI Onyx RealityEngine2. This giant machine cost £250,000 back in the day, an amazing sum but then again we’re getting nostalgic for old SGI hardware.

Well, Mega is taken… let’s call it Grande

[John Park] needed to put something together for last month’s Maker Faire. A comically large, fully functional Arduino was the obvious choice. If you didn’t catch the demo last month, you can grab all the files over on Thingiverse.

Is that an atomic clock in your pocket or… oh, I see.

Here’s the world’s smallest atomic clock. It’s made for military hardware, so don’t expect this thing to show up at Sparkfun anytime soon; we can’t even fathom how much this thing actually costs. Still, it’ll be awesome when this technology trickles down to consumers in 10 or 20 years.

Converting a TRS-80 keyboard to USB

[Karl] is working on an awesome project – putting a Raspberry Pi inside an old TRS-80. The first part of the project – converting a TRS-80 keyboard to USB – is already complete. We can’t wait to see this build finished.

 A DIY Propeller dev board

Last week we complained about the dearth of builds using the Parallax Propeller. A few noble tinkerers answered our call and sent in a few awesome builds using this really unique micro. [Stefan]‘s Propeller One is the latest, and looking at the schematics it should be possible to etch a single-sided board for this project. Awesome work and thanks for giving us a weekend project, [Stefan].

Nah, you don’t need an Ethernet module for your Arduino

[Andy] needed a cheap Internet connection between a data-gathering Arduino and his home server. An Ethernet shield would suffice, but he couldn’t run CAT5 to the Arduino’s location. Wireless shields are hideously expensive, and after looking over the popular Zigbee modules, [Andy] had a few concerns about range and build complexity.

The obvious solution to this problem was getting a cheap WiFi router, flashing OpenWRT firmware on the device, and piping sensor data through the Arduino’s USB port, through the router, and over a WiFi connection to the server.

[Andy] used a TP-Link TL-WR703N wireless ‘travel router’ available on eBay £15 (~$30 USD when we checked). After flashing the router with OpenWRT, [Andy] had a wireless connection from a remote data-collecting Arduino directly to his server.

Attentive Hack a Day readers will note this is the third ‘wireless router + OpenWRT as a dev board’ build this week (first one, second one) . No, we don’t know what’s going on, or why the collective unconscious of makers around the globe decided to latch onto this type of build so suddenly. OpenWRT is available for hundreds of different routers, and anything that keeps disused routers out of the landfill (with the bonus of doing something useful) is alright in our book, so if you have another similar build, send it in and we’ll get around to it sometime.

Introducing Hack a Day: the retro edition

Hack a Day hasn’t change its format since 2004. Even though MAKE has gone Web 2.0 with buttons using mouseover, and Instructables has fancy drop-down menus, Hack a Day has been a constant black background, green text child of the web circa 2004. A while ago, we decided it was time for an update to our layout. Today we’re pleased to announce an open beta test for our upcoming update - Hack a Day: the retro edition.

In case you’re wondering, yes, this is a joke, and no, we’re not going all Web 0.1a on you.

The retro edition is a little side project to our upcoming update where we’ll be rolling out a new template for Hack a Day. We’re going to fix a lot of the problems with the current template – searching, and an admittedly terrible commenting system design – and generally ‘cleaning up’ the design. We already have the store up and running, so progress on the update is slowly being made.

As far as the retro edition goes, we’re keeping that. We’ve had a few nerd-offs trying to load Hack a Day on the oldest computer possible, so a version of Hack a Day built for computers from 1983 seemed like a worthwhile goal. Think of it as a challenge: if you can send in a picture of your Commodore PET loading up the retro edition, we’ll add you to the retro successes page.

There’s a bit more we’d like to do with the retro edition, namely guides to getting your old computers up on the Internet. As a little bonus (and in keeping with the retro theme), we’re putting up a few classic Hack a Day posts from the days of yore.

So, there you go. We’ve tested the retro edition on a Mac PowerBook 170 and a Quadra 700, but feel free to dig out your old hardware and give this a spin.

EDIT: As far as the ‘retro competition’ goes, [Jaromir] wrote in and brought up an interesting point: Loading that .GIF logo would be really hard on computers with kilobytes of ram, so I’m changing that to a .BMP. Just so we’re all clear, there are no official rules, you’re competing against yourself, and if you can get a picture of an old computer loading this site, you’re going to be listed on the ‘successes’ page.

Bending laser cut wood without steam or forms

If you want to pretty up your project boxes, we can’t imagine anything better than [Shaun]‘s walnut plywood, laser-cut, kerf bent Arduino case. Instead of the slot-and-tab construction of traditional laser-cut enclosures, [Shaun] used a technique to bend plywood without steaming, heating, and eventually scorching his somewhat expensive plywood.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this accordian style laser-cut kerf bend. By alternating laser cuts along the desired radius, the plywood can be bent by hand. The technique is called kerf bending and is perfect for putting an organic touch on the usual 90° angle project boxes we see.

[Shaun] has an Instructable for the smaller boxes that are part of his Arduino powered wireless sensor network. This Instructable goes over the pattern of laser cuts required to get a nice, smooth kerf bend, and also shows off how beautiful a laser-cut project box can be when cut out of aromatic cedar.

Building a foundry in your backyard

[th3BadWolf] has been wanting to build a foundry for some time now. Done right, it’s a very neat tool; it’s fairly easy to do aluminum castings, and if you’re clever enough a foundry can lead to building large machine tools such as a lathe or a mill. Anything worth doing is worth overdoing, so [BadWolf] is designing his foundry to melt 150 pounds of aluminum every 45 minutes.

The build began with a humble oil barrel. [th3BadWolf] cut the top off of the barrel and began lining the inside of the barrel with a ceramic blanket and refractory bricks. To hold this somewhat precarious assemblage of blanket and brick together, [BadWolf] is holding everything together with 3000° F cement.

The body of the furnace is nearly complete, but [BadWolf] still has to drill a few holes for the burner system. He’s going to start each burn with Propane, then move over to engine oil when the furnace gets hot enough. Truly an awesome project, and we can’t wait to see the results.