Magnetic CNC marble maze


[Martin Raynsford] figured out a way to sneak some learning into a fun package. He did such a good job the test subjects didn’t even know they were teaching themselves just a tiny bit of CNC programming.

The apparatus above is a marble maze, but instead of building walls [Martin] simply etched a pattern on the playing field. The marble is a ball bearing which moves through the maze using a magnetic CNC gantry hidden underneath. Where does one get ball bearings of this size? If you’re [Martin] you scavenge them from your laser-cut Donkey Kong game.

He showed off the rig at the Maker Faire.  It takes simple commands as cardinal directions and units of movement. The ‘player’ (remember, they’re secretly learning something, not just playing a game) inputs a series of movements such as “N10,E10″ which are then pushed through a serial connection to the Arduino. It follows these commands, moving the hidden magnet which drags the ball bearing along with it. It’s simple, but watch the clip after the break and we think you’ll agree the sound of the stepper motors and the movement of the ball will be like crack for young minds.

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Timelapse of the 3d printed gun being printed.

Once the DoD requested the 3d printed gun files be removed from the internet, a couple things happened.

  1.   The Streisand Effect went into full force. The file was shared all over and can still be found easily.
  2.   I suddenly realized that I was going to be printing a 3d printed gun and doing another article on it even though I had just written an opinion piece about how I don’t care.

I’m not above admitting that it is childish of me. I was told I couldn’t have this thing and suddenly I knew I had to make it. I see it with my kids all the time. Toys can sit in a corner collecting dust for ages, but the second it is in threat of being removed, they have renewed interest, at least for a few minutes.

I figured, if I’m going to be childish about it and print a gun that a) won’t work because I don’t have the right printer, and b) I won’t use anyway because I don’t generally play with guns, I might as well make a fun timelapse video of the more recognizable parts being made.

It initially seemed like it was going to be quick and easy. However, I quickly found that just printing this thing was going to be a time consuming and frustrating task.

1. the scale on the individual files was way off. 

I suspect this has something to do with the printer it was designed for. It seemed very close to being 1 inch = 1 mm. Not a completely uncommon problem. Manually resizing got some files to look right, but I found many simply wouldn’t resize.

2. Almost every single item had errors.

If you’ve done 3d printing, you’ve found that a model can have all kinds of issues that will stop it from printing correctly. I found every single item for the gun had errors. I actually learned a lot about how to repair non-manifold items from this exercise, so it was good in the end.

Some items, like the hammer and the hammer springs simply would not print. I ran them through systems to repair them and fix errors. It would say that everything was fixed, but when I tried to “slice” them for printing, the software would crash.  This means that my gun is incomplete. It has no hammer. Not really that big of a deal to me.


the whole gun


Note that it is missing the hammer mechanism. More on that later.



Do I care now?

Nope. I climbed to the top of the fridge and got my cookies. I’m a happy child. The reality is that a zip gun is still cheaper, easier, safer, and more reliable.  Here’s an example.

Altering automotive window motors for use in your projects


We agree with [Mário Saleiro] that the motors from a car’s power windows make for a fantastic high-torque solution to your next project. If you have a you-pick junkyard in your town they’ll be dirt cheap after you put in a bit of time to find and removing the parts from the yard. But you’ll probably want to add a few extra steps to get them ready, and he’s done a great job of documenting how he augmented them with wheels and rotary encoders.

One aspect of the project which really struck home with us was his machine-shop-101 style tricks to mate the axle of the motor with the wheel. He has a process which ensures you will find the exact center of a cylinder as you work. This starts by lining up a bench vice on his drill press. He then inserts a drill bit upside down in the drill chuck, lowers it and clamps the vice on the bit. After loosening the chuck he ends up with the bit pointing up at the exact center of the chuck. Next he chucks up a piece of threaded rod, drilling a perfectly centered hole by lowering it into the drill bit while the drill press is rotating. The image above shows him using this machined part as a guide to continue the hole into the motor’s axle. Click through the link above to learn the rest of the tricks he uses.

Rigol DS1022C hack brings it up to 100MHz speed


[Andreas Schuler] has been playing around with his Rigol DS1022C digital storage oscilloscope. It’s an older model which can capture samples at up to 25MHz, but [Andreas] claims to have quadrupled that using a service menu hack. His technique changes the settings to use the DS1022C at 100Mhz.

Usually a hack like this includes some test measurements that confirm the hardware is actually sampling at the higher rate, and is not just claiming that it has the ability to do so. We’d love to hear from you in the comments if you’ve got this piece of bench hardware and decided to try it for yourself. His method enters in a sequence of buttons from the system info menu. If done correctly this will add a service menu option that wasn’t there before. A bit of navigation leads you to the screen seen above, where you can change the model number to DS1102C. This is the more robust 100MHz cousin of the 1022.

If you think you’ve seen this hack before it’s probably because the Rigol 1052E was previously pulled to 100MHz with a firmware hack.