Monitoring your Gas Consumption with a JeeNode and a nRF24L01+

[Sven337] just blogged about a gas consumption monitoring setup he finished not long ago. As his gas meter was located outside his apartment and nowhere near any electrical outlet, a battery-powered platform that could wirelessly send the current consumption data to his Raspberry Pi was required. His final solution therefore consists of a JeeNode coupled with the well known nRF24L01+ wireless transmitter, powered by 3 supposedly dead alkaline batteries.

[Sven337] carefully looked at the different techniques available to read the data from his meter. At first he had thought of using a reflective sensor to detect the number 6 which (in France at least) is designed to reflect light very well. He then finally settled for a magnetic based solution, as the Actaris G4 gas meter has a small depression intended for magnetic sensors. The PCB you see in the picture above therefore has a reed sensor and a debug LED. The four wires go to a plastic enclosure containing the JeeNode, a couple of LEDs and a reset switch. Using another nRF24L01, the Raspberry Pi finally receives the pulse count and reports it to an eeePC which takes care of the storage and graphing.

Humble Beginnings of a Pick and Place Machine

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[Pete's] invented a product called an AIR Patch Cable designed to interface with an airplane’s intercom, and is looking to manufacture and assemble them himself — unfortunately, the circuit boards are tiny, and SMD components aren’t exactly the easiest to install. So he decided to build a pick and place machine to do it for him!

It’s not finished yet, but [Pete] has reached a major milestone — he’s finished the base CNC machine aspect of it. He opted for a kit build for the major mechanical components, the Shapeoko 2 — its a solid design and if you decided to make something from scratch it’d probably cost much more and take a lot longer.

From there he began selecting his electronics individually. He’s chosen the Big Easy Driver by Sparkfun to control his stepper motors, which supports a maximum size of NEMA 17 steppers, so he bought five of those too. To control it all, he’s using LinuxCNC which is an excellent choice — and if you’re not crazy about Linux, you can actually download Ubuntu 10.04 with LinuxCNC pre-installed for you to make it super easy — you’ll just need an old dedicated PC to use.

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Hackaday Links: March 23, 2014

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[Jack] sent us a link to a Metropolitan Museum of Art video showing off a mechanized desk that plays music and has a ton of hidden compartments. Furniture makers of yore built hidden compartments in furniture all the time. After all, there weren’t credit cards back in the day and you had to keep important documents, cash, and everything else on hand. What strikes us is that this mates woodworking of the highest caliber with precision mechanics.

Before you get rid of that old box spring, ask yourself if you need to store dimensional goods. If you rip off the outer fabric, the network of wire inside makes a reasonable lumber rack.

And since we’re talking trash, we enjoyed seeing this water bottle wire spool minder which [Daniel] sent our way.

You know those portable DVD players you can hang from a headrest to entertain the kids on long trips? Well [John's] broke, and like chasing the dragon, once you’re hooked on watching videos during car trips there’s no going back. Luckily he was able to throw a Raspberry Pi at the problem. He now has a portable OpenElec XBMC device controlled via a smartphone.

[Jaromir] posted some breakout board footprints that you can use. It’s not the footprints that impress us, but the idea of using them to fill up board space when spinning a new PCB. [Thanks Sarah]

LEGO Gachapon. Need we say more? Okay, truth be told we had to look it up too; Wikipedia says it’s spelled Gashapon. These are coin-operated machines that dispense toys inside of plastic capsules. This one’s made of LEGO and it’s awesome.

[Mikhail] actually built his own ballast resistors for some HeNe laser tubes. This is a bit easier than it might sound at first, as they are much lower power than the tubes used in cutters. But none-the-less an interesting, and successful, experiment.

This Machine Sucks Balls

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The best career choice anyone could ever make – aside from the richest astronaut to ever win the Super Bowl – is the designer of the kinetic art installations found in science centers that roll billiard balls along tracks, around loops, and through conveyors in a perpetual display of physics and mechanics. [Niklas Roy] isn’t quite at that level yet, but he has come up with a new twist on an old idea: a machine that literally sucks balls from a ball pit into transparent tubes, sending them whizzing around the installation space.

The installation consists of eighty meters of plastic tubing suspended in the staircase of Potocki Palace in Kraków. Electronically, the installation is extremely simple; a PIR sensor turns on a vacuum cleaner whenever someone is in the ball pit. This sucks balls up through a hose, around the space, and into a bin suspended over the pit. Pull a lever, and the balls stored in the bin are dispensed onto the person vacuuming up thousands of balls below.

Image source, with video below.

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Say Watt? A Talking Multimeter?

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After a request from one of his friends, [Mastro Gippo] managed to put together a talking multimeter to be used by blind persons working in electronics. He wanted a feature-rich meter that had serial output, and recalling this Hackaday article from a few years back led him to find a DT-4000ZC on eBay, which has serial output on a 3.5mm jack. (Though, he actually recommends this knockoff version which comes with excellent documentation).

It turns out there aren’t many talking meter options available other than this expensive one and a couple of discontinued alternatives. [Mastro Gippo] needed to start from scratch with the voice synthesizer, which proved to be as easy as recording a bunch of numbers and packing them onto an SD card to be read by an Arduino running the SimpleSDAudio library.

He found a small, battery-powered external speaker used for rocking out with music on cell phones and hooked it up to the build, stuffing all the electronics into an aluminum case. Stick around after the jump for a quick video of the finished product!

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A Hexacopter with FPV

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[Robert's] been hard at work becoming a hexacopter expert over the past two years, and he’s offered up a retrospective of his multi rotor build experience since he first clicked the “buy” button on Hobbyking. He’s come a long way from his first build, which used inexpensive carbon rods and 3D-printed parts for a frame, supported by scrap wood and hot glue. It met its end in his car; exposed to direct sunlight, the 3D-printed components melted.

The latest iteration—seen above on the right—is a complete redesign, with a laser-cut frame that dramatically reduced the overall weight and new “Donkey” motors off Hobbyking. It’s strong enough to lift a 1.6kg (3.5lbs) stuffed animal suspended from a rope! Most recently [Robert] has worked out streaming first-person video after fitting a camera to the hexacopter via a 3D-printed attachment and pairing the experience with Zeiss Cinemizer 3D glasses. He still has some bugs to work out, namely screws loosening from vibrations and adding a HUD to the display so he’ll know when the battery levels are low. You can see the poor teddy bear getting hanged along with some other videos, including the first-person video flight, after the break.

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DIY CNC Dust Collection Really Sucks!

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CNC Routers are great. If you’ve ever used one you know this but you also know that they will cover the machine and everything around it with a layer of dust. It is certainly possible to use a shop vac to suck up the dust coming from the router, however, the only problem with that is the shop vac’s filter will clog with dust and lose suction, defeating the intent of your vac system.

CNCdust-assembled2[Mike Douglas] was ready to step up his CNC game and decided to make his own dust separator. This design is extremely simple and only uses a couple 5 gallon buckets, a few PVC fittings and pieces of wood. To keep the cost down and the style up, the accompanying ‘shop-vac’ is also made from 5 gallon bucket with a vacuum lid. The project is well documented so head over to his site and check out the build process.

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