Your Mouse Is A Terrible Webcam

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It should come as no surprise your optical mouse contains a very tiny, very low resolution camera. [Franci] decided to take apart one of his old mice and turn that tiny optical sensor into a webcam.

Inside [Franci]‘s Logitech RX 250 is an ADNS-5020 optical sensor. This three wire SPI device stuffed into an 8-pin package is a 15×15 pixel grayscale image sensor. [Franci] started this project by bringing out the Arduino and Ethernet shield. After soldering a pull-up resistor to the image sensor’s reset pin, connecting the rest of the circuit was as simple as soldering a few wires to the Arduino.

The Arduino sketch sends the image data for each pixel to a computer over a serial connection. A bit of javascript and a touch of HTML takes this pixel data and turns it into a webpage with a live view of whatever is directly under [Franci]‘s mouse.

Video of the mousewebcam in action below.

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Refurbishing a Vibratory Tumbler with a Dryer Motor

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[Jake von Slatt] of the Steampunk Workshop is at again, this time refurbishing a cheap vibratory tumbler that had died after just one project.

The original Eastwood tumbler looked nice, but obviously didn’t go through much life-cycle testing at the company that designed it. Upon taking it apart, [Jake] discovered that the bearings in the motor were shot — after only a few hours of operation! Because of this he decided to start from scratch, keeping only the bowl, lid, and of course, the tumbling media.

[Jake's] redesign makes use of Volkswagen brake drums for a very heavy duty base, a custom machined ball bearing plate made out of scrap aluminum, a flexible motor coupling made by welding a heavy spring onto two shafts, some more springs to balance the bowl, and a reclaimed dryer motor. It might not look pretty, but we think it’ll last a wee bit longer than the original.

He’s calling it his latest feat of post-apocalyptic engineering by using only parts on hand, and while we’d have to agree that his use of scrap material is impressive, we’d like to see him be able to power his rebuilt Bridgeport Mill off the grid when the apocalypse hits!

As always, he’s made an excellent video describing the project — don’t forget to check it out after the break.

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Walkalong Heart Glider

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[Darcy Whyte] is a bit of a paper plane aficionado, so in preparation for this year’s Valentine’s day (that’s one month from today!) he’s created a flying Walkalong heart glider you can make yourself!

First off, what’s a Walkalong glider? Well, it’s a type of toy airplane made out of a light material with geometry that allows for a very slow descent — one that can be extended almost indefinitely if you walk behind it to create a slight draft. [Darcy] has made a whole bunch of these in all different shapes and sizes, and even got to fly them around the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum for a Walkalong Glider Meetup!

He’s since created the do it yourself Walkalong heart glider which can easily fit inside a card for a very unique Valentine’s memento. It does require a foam cutter to make, but [Darcy] also has plans on his site for a DIY hot-wire foam cutter that costs less than $10 to build!

It’s a cute little project — stick around after the break to see how it’s done!

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504 Segment Clock

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Trying to reinvent the clock has been done over and over again, but it’s always fun to see how over-engineered and complex these designs can get. [Bertho’s] last working clock in his house was the built-in clock on the VCR, so he decided it was finally time to build his own 504 Segment clock.

Yep, that’s right, 504 Segments! This clock uses 72 7-Segment displays to tell time. The video after the break shows the clock in action, but time is read by looking at each ring of displays: outer=seconds, middle=minutes, and inner=hour. [Bertho] could’ve just stopped there, but he decided to load the display up with sensors, so hand-waiving can change modes, and brightness can be regulated based on ambient light conditions. And since he has individual control over each segment, he has implemented some pretty cool mind-melting animations. Oh, and did we mention that the display synchronizes with an NTP server?

The display is divided into 4 quadrants, each containing 18 7-Segment displays. The control architecture is interesting because each quadrant is controlled by its own PIC microcontroller, which handles the continuous multiplexing and modulation of the 18 7-Segment displays.  A main control board contains another (more powerful) PIC to update the 4 quadrants via a serial bus. This board also handles the Ethernet connection, sensor interface, and local RTC(real time clock). This isn’t the first time we’ve seen [Bertho’s] amazing work, so make sure you check out his useless machine and executive decision maker.

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Retrotechtacular: The Genesis of the Transistor

Few births are easy. Even fewer result in a Nobel Prize, and hardly any at all are the work of three men. This 1965 film from the AT&T archives is a retrospection on the birth of the transistor nine years after its creators, [Walter Brattain], [John Bardeen], and [William Shockley] received a Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery and implementation of the transistor effect.

The transistor is the result of the study of semiconductors such as germanium. Prior to the research that led directly to the transistor, it was known that the conductivity of semiconductors increases when their temperature is raised. The converse is true for metals such as tungsten. Semiconductor conductivity also increases when they are exposed to light. Another key to their discovery is that when a metal such as copper is in contact with a semiconductor, conductivity is less in one direction than the other. This particular property was exploited in early radio technology as seen in crystal radios, for copper oxide rectifiers used in telephony, and for microwave radar in WWII.

After WWII, AT&T’s Bell Labs put a lot of time and research into the study of semiconductors, as their properties weren’t fully understood. Researchers focused on the simplest semiconductors, silicon and germanium, and did so in two areas: bulk properties and surface properties. During this time, [Shockley] proposed the field effect, supposing that the electrons near the surface of a semiconductor could be controlled under the influence of an external electric field.

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Please Release Your Unused Tickets

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The Gathering is next Tuesday and we are starting to get excited about it! There is a waiting list of people who would like a ticket. If you registered for a ticket that you will not be able to to use, please log in and cancel it.

Cancelling your unused ticket will automatically free up a ticket for someone on the waiting list. Cancellation instructions are below. We want to pack the house and making sure no ticket goes unused is important.

Still want to attend? It’s not too late. Add yourself to the waiting list.

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Creating PCBs with 3D Resin Printers

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The folks over at Full Spectrum Laser are Kickstarting their own 3D printer – a stereolithography machine like the Form 1 and B9 Creator printers. During their testing, they discovered a new application for these SLA printers that should prove to be very useful for the makers and builders using machines – manufacturing PCBs with UV-sensitized copper clad boards.

Full Spectrum Laser’s printer – the Pegasus Touch – uses a near UV laser and a galvo system to build objects in UV-curing resin layer by layer. In retrospect it seems pretty obvious a UV laser would expose UV sensitive boards, but this discovery simply reeks of cleverness and is a nice ‘value added’ feature for the Pegasus printer.

The Pegasus printer has a laser spot size of 0.25mm, meaning the separation between traces on Pegasus-produced PCBs will be just under 10 mils. That’s a bit larger than the limits of laser printer-based PCB fabrication but far, far less complicated. Making a PCB on an SLA printer is as easy as removing the resin tank and putting a sensitized board on the build platform. Draw some traces with the printer, and in a few minutes you have an exposed board.

We’d really like to see if this technique can also be used with other SLA printers. if anyone out there would like to experiment, be sure to send the results into the tip line.

Video from Full Spectrum Laser below.

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