Through-hole electroplating in your home lab

For the few double-sided PCBs we’ve actually etched at home we simply soldered a piece of wire to either side of a via and clipped off the excess. But if you want to go the extra mile you can’t beat electroplated through holes. The setup seen above is an electroplating tank build from simple materials which [Bearmos] has been working on.

The two sets of copper structures are both used as anodes. Some copper water pipe (like you’d use for a refrigerator ice maker) was cut into short rods and soldered onto pieces of bus wire. The portion of the metal which will stick above the chemical bath was coated with a generous layer of hot glue. This will protect it from corrosion cause by the off-gassing during the plating process. The traces of the etched PCB act as the anodes, but the holes themselves must be conductive in order for the plating process to work. A water proof glue with powdered graphite mixed in is applied to all of the holes in the substrate. This technique is based on the huge electroplating guide published by Think & Tinker.

Intelligent autonomous vehicle makes it to Maker Faire

A few guys from Rutgers showed up at Maker Faire with Navi, their vehicle for the 2012 Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition. Powered by two huge lead acid batteries, Navi features enough high-end hardware to hopefully make it through or around just about any terrain.

Loaded up with a laser range finder, a stereo camera setup, compass, GPS receiver, and a pair of motors capable of pulling 40A, Navi has the all the hardware sensors required to make it around a track with no human intervention. Everything is controlled by a small netbook underneath the control panel, itself loaded up with enough switches and an 8×32 LED matrix to be utterly incomprehensible.

In the videos after the break, the guys from Rutgers show off the systems that went into Navi. There’s also a video showing off Navi’s suspension, an impressive custom-built wishbone setup that will hopefully keep Navi on an even keel throughout the competition.

Also of note: A PDF design report for Navi and Navi’s own blog.

[Read more...]

Checking in with [Ian] from Dangerous Prototypes

Former Hackaday writer and electronic wizard [Ian] from Dangerous Prototypes made his way to the Maker Faire last weekend. He had a ton of cool stuff to show off, and luckily we were able to grab a few videos.

First up is a chainable Nixie module. [Ian], like all gurus of his caliber, had a box full of Nixie tubes waiting to be used in a project. These tubes never quite made it into their planned projects, mostly due to the difficulty of getting these old Nixies working. To remedy this problem, [Ian] created a chainable Nixie tube module – just hook up a high voltage supply to the board, connect it to the microcontroller of your choice, and you’ve got 2 Nixie tubes for your project.

[Ian] also showed off an ingenious solution to one of every maker’s problems. After designing a few cool boards like the Bus Pirate, Flash Destroyer, and Logic Sniffer, he realized he never made two boards that were the same size. This meant it was nigh impossible to have a standardized set of cases for his (and other maker’s) projects. The result is the Sick of Beige standard for electronics projects.

This standard provides PCB layouts in both square and golden rectangle formats complete with mounting holes, radiused corners, keepout areas, and suggested placement locations for USB ports and SD cards. The idea behind Sick of Beige is to get makers and fabbers using the same board dimensions so a set of standardized cases can be constructed. It’s an awesome idea and something we highly recommend for your next project.

Videos after the break.   [Read more...]

LEGO Record Player

Some people claim that the sound of vinyl is superior to digital playback. While this hack wont win any awards for audio quality, [Ryan]‘s LEGO Record Player is a unique use of one of our favorite toys. Most of the components including the tone arm, counterweight, and base, are built entirely of LEGO. A large gear from an educational construction set is used for the platter. Unfortunately, the rotation isn’t terribly smooth, and the playback is rather distorted.

The turntable uses a standard cartridge and stylus, which should allow it to be connected to any receiver with a phono preamplifier. Using these off the shelf parts, it’s possible to build the mechanical components a turntable out of a variety of things. As the video demonstrates, getting the platter to turn correctly is a bit of a challenge.

Check out a video of the wobbly playback featuring Cindy and Bert after the break.

Via Make

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Controlling your webcam with an old Guitar Hero pedal

Hackaday reader [Tom Price] often uses Skype to communicate with family near and far, but he was getting tired of adjusting his webcam each time his kids moved out of frame. While the solution he came up with isn’t fully automated, it is hands-free, which is good enough for his purposes.

[Tom] was looking around for an electronic foot pedal of some sort when he came across a wireless 3rd party Guitar Hero peripheral that happened to fit the bill. Using an Arduino library created by [Bill Porter], he was quickly able to get the toy to communicate with an Arduino-flashed Atmega8, but things kind of fell flat when it came time to relay signals back to his computer. Using another Atmega8 along with the PS2X library, he was able to emulate the Guitar Hero controller that his foot pedal was looking for.

With the pedal portion of his project wrapped up, he focused on his webcam. [Tom] mounted the camera on a small servo, which he then wired up to the receiving end of his foot pedal rig. As you can see in the video below, he can now pan his camera across the room with a tap of his foot, rather than leaning in and manually adjusting it.

[Read more...]

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