A Different Kind of CNC Workpiece Clamp

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[Mike Douglas] joined the world DIY CNC machining recently with a FireBall X90 CNC router. Instead of buying an expensive aluminum T-slot bed, he decided to try something we haven’t seen before…

His local hardware store sells aluminum bar clamps designed for clamping wood together — the best part? Only $10 each. What he’s done is added the bar clamps along the two sides of his bed, by adding plywood braces attached to the outside frame of the machine. He is losing a few inches of his usable bed area, but the added convenience of a quick clamping system is well worth it.

With the clamps in place, all he has to do is add two wooden braces (the black bars in the image above) to hold his work piece in place. This wouldn’t work very well for cutting metal, but this CNC router isn’t designed for that anyway.

Too bad he didn’t finish it sooner — it would have been a great entry for our recent Hackaday Hackerspace Henchmen CNC contest!

Easily Silkscreen All the Things

Silkscreening isn’t as hard as it might seem. For instance, it’s easier than block printing because you don’t have to reverse the image. [Jimmy DiResta] shows how easy it is to put a silkscreening setup together and print on wood, metal, and, of course, t-shirts.

Once you decide on a design, print it out on an acetate sheet which can be run through a regular household printer. You can buy ready-made meshed frames or even entire kits, but [Jimmy] shows you how to build a simple frame and staple screen mesh to it. After sealing up the edges, mix up some photo emulsion, cover the mesh, and let it dry in a dark room.

When it’s dry, place your acetate on the screen and expose the emulsion using whatever light is available. [Jimmy] built a milk crate tower up to his fluorescent work light and exposed it for about four minutes. Now you’re almost ready to make your mark. Peel off the acetate and remove excess emulsion with a squirt bottle and compressed air. Dry the whole thing with a hair dryer and you’re done. Load up a squeegee with silkscreen ink and draw it from top to bottom with nice, even pressure, and you’ve got yourself a silkscreened thing.

[Read more...]

Temperature Controller Gets Open Source Firmware Upgrade

stc1000

Beer lovers rejoice! [Mats] has reverse engineered a temperature controller and written new open source firmware for it. This effectively gives all us homebrewers a low cost, open source software driven controller. The STC-1000 is a cheap (under $20 USD) temperature controller mass-produced in the far east. The controllers do work, but have several limitations. The programming options are somewhat limited to basic set points for heat and cool. The controller also is only programmed for temperature display in Celsius, which is a bit of an annoyance for those of us who think in Fahrenheit. Under the hood, the STC-1000 utilizes a Microchip PIC16F1828 microcontroller. Unfortunately the PIC’s protection bits were set, so the original code would have been extremely difficult to extract. Not a problem, as [Mats] reverse engineered the hardware and wrote his own firmware. A 10k NTC thermister acts as the temperature probe. The probe is read by the PIC’s ADC. These probes are not very linear, so a look up table is used to convert from volts to degrees Celsius or Fahrenheit.

[Mats] new firmware allows for up to 6 profiles. Each profile has up to 10 set points and a time duration to hold each of the set points. Hysteresis and temperature offset values are also programmable via the front panel. PIC software is often written in C using Microchip’s MPLAB tool chain, and programmed with the PICkit 3 In Circuit Serial Programming (ICSP) tool. [Mats] decided to buck the system and wrote his C code using Small Device C Compiler. To keep things simple for homebrewers who may not have Microchip tools, [Mats] used an Arduino Uno for flashing duties. Thankfully the unholy matrimony of a PIC and an AVR has not yet caused a rift in time and space. The firmware is still very much in the beta stage, so if you want to help out, join the discussion on the homebrew talk forum. If you see [Mats] tell him we owe him a Haduino which he can use to almost open his beer.

[Thanks for the tip Parker!]

MRRF: CoreXZ

CoreXZ

It is mid-day Saturday and the Midwest RepRap Festival is in full swing. Saying that there is a lot of 3D printers here is an extreme understatement. There must be at least 100. Out of all these, there are a couple that stand out from the rest due to their non-standard geometry. These are both creations of [Nicholas Seward], called the Wally and Simpson.

Both of these printers were designed to not use linear rails or bearings and be as reprap-able as possible. For example, the Simpson’s only non-printed custom parts are the two wooden base plates and the print bed. The rest of the parts are general hardware and standard 3D printer electronics.

Simpson3

[Nicholas] is showing off something new this weekend (less than 2 weeks new, actually). It is a new printer, currently code named CoreXZ. Unlike his previous designs, the CoreXZ does use linear rails and bearings. The frame is laser cut and is held together with zip ties. This new design uses an h-bot style setup for movements in the X and Z axes. The Y axis is a standard moving bed design with linear rails and bearings.

[Read more...]

Remembering the Future – SciFi Novel Tech Seen at SXSW

Remember the days when the future was console cowboys running around cyberspace trying to fry each other’s brains out? MIT Media Lab remembers too. They have a class called MAS S65: Science Fiction to Science Fabrication in which students are trying to create hardware inspired by technology imagined in the works of legendary Speculative Fiction writers such as William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and many others. They happened to be at SXSW this year showing off some of the projects their students have been working on. Since we were around, we thought we should pay them a little visit. Fifteen minutes later it was clear why working at Media Lab is a dream for so many hackers/makers out there.

case+molly1

Jon Ferguson from Media Lab showed us a prototype of a game called Case and Molly, inspired by scenes in Neuromancer in which Case helps Molly navigate, by observing the world through vision-enhancing lenses sealed in her eye sockets. OK, they haven’t really build surgically-attached internet-connected lenses (yet.. we’re certain[Ben Krasnow] is working on it), but they have built a very cool snap-on 3D vision mechanism that attaches to the built-in iPhone camera. Add a little bit of live video streaming, a person with Oculus Rift and a game controller and you can party like it’s 1984.

mandala1Another interesting project is called “Mandala : I am building E14″ and it uses data collected from a sensor network in MIT E14 in order to provide a view of the universe from the standpoint of a single building. It tries to address the old “what if buildings could talk?” question by visualizing the paths of people walking around the building and providing an overall sense of activity in different areas. It is also a pretty good demonstration of all the creepy things that are yet to be built using all the ‘connected devices’ coming our way.

sensory fiction1It gets better. The Sensory Fiction project is a special book that comes with a vest which enhances the reader’s experience by providing stimulation that causes the reader to experience the same kind of physiological emotions as the characters in the book. The wearable that you have to put on supports a whole bunch of outputs: light, sound, temperature, pressure and vibration that can influence your heart rate. It is very easy to imagine so many potential ‘creative’ abuses of such a device.

limbo1Another Neuromancer-inspired piece, called LIMBO (Limbs In Motion By Others) allows synchronization of hand gestures between multiple ‘users’ over a network using a special electric muscle stimulation rig. The result is a sort of ‘meat puppet’ – one person’s hand being forced to match movement of the other. Devious ideas aside, it has great potential in helping paraplegic control their muscle movement using eye tracking.

bubblesynth5Finally, a more cheerful project called BubbleSynth demonstrates an open computer vision/sound synthesis platform using physical processes as input to granular synthesis. The current installation is based on a bubble generating machine and motion tracking as a trigger for a modular synthesizer resulting in beautiful ambient sounds. The audio part of the platform is based on SuperCollider and is completely customizable. The next iteration of the project will be using movement of a species of bacteria in order to generate the music. Why struggle learning how to play an instrument?  We’ll get bacteria do all the work.

Feel like building something similar? Hackaday’s current Sci-Fi contest is a perfect excuse. Need inspiration? Check out the syllabus for the MIT SciFi2SciFab class!

E-Nable(ing) Shea to Build a Prosthetic Hand for Herself!

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Here’s a heartwarming story for the day. Introducing [Shea], a little 9-year-old girl with a prosthetic hand made possible from a community of internet strangers!

She was born with only the palm of her right hand and a two-digit thumb — no fingers. Despite this day and age, prosthetics aren’t generally that good, or affordable — especially for a quickly growing young girl. So when [Shea] asked for a new hand from Santa before Christmas, her mom, [Ranee], started doing some research online. She had seen 3D printed prosthetics through Facebook posts and managed to track down the E-Nable group, which is a community of maker’s dedicated to lending a hand — quite literally.

The group got her in touch with [Nick Parker], a high school student and robotics enthusiast from California eager to help, who then introduced her (online) to his local Makerspace — from there they connected with the Milwaukee Makerspace (closer to home), and [Frankie Flood], an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

[Read more...]

The Beginnings of an LCR Meter

LCR Meter

The inductor is an often forgotten passive electrical elements used to design analog circuitry. [Charles's] latest proof of concept demonstrates how to measure inductance with an oscilloscope, with the hopes of making a PIC based LCR meter.

It is not that often one needs to measure inductance, but inductors are used in switching regulators, motor circuits, wireless designs, analog audio circuitry, and many other types of projects. The principles of measuring inductance can be used to test inductors that you have made yourself, and you can even use this knowledge to measure capacitance.

[Charles] originally saw a great guide on how to measure impedance by [Alan], and decided to run with the idea. Why spend over $200 on an LCR meter when you can just build one? That’s the spirit! Be sure to watch [Alan's] and [Charles's] videos after the break. What kind of test equipment have you built in order to save money?

[Read more...]

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