A Ring of Colored Pencils

Colored Pencil Ring

[Peter] proved he has equal parts prowess, patience, and perseverance with this colored pencil ring (imgur link). The ring is made from a cross-section of several colored pencils. The idea seems simple. The build process IS simple. As always though, the devil is in the details.

[Peter] started with a cheap pack of colored pencils. They have to be hexagonal pencils, as round ones won’t work well for this build. [Peter] used two nails to align the  pencils, and medium thickness Cyanoacrylate glue to bond them together. Cyanoacrylate (aka super glue) is a very strong but inflexible bond. We’re curious if a different adhesive might have worked better for this task.

Once the block of glued pencils was dry, [Peter] drilled a hole approximately his ring size. He used a band saw to cut a rough ring blank around the hole, then headed to the wood lathe. He mounted the ring with a jam chuck, which is a piece of wood turned to an interference fit with the workpiece. The problem was that the jam chuck cracked the ring as it was being installed. [Peter] was able to glue the ring back together, and turn it down on his lathe.

Click past the break for more on [Peter's] ring.

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Artificial Muscles Use Carbon Nanotube Sheets

carbon nanotube being turned into aerogel sheet

Light as air, stronger than steel and more flexible than rubber. Sound like something from the next installment of the Iron Man series? [Tony Stark] would certainly take notice of this fascinating technology. Fortunately for us, it does not come from the studios of Hollywood, but instead the halls of the NanoTech Institute at the University of Texas.

Professor [Ray Baughman] and his team of scientists at the NanoTech Institute have developed a type of artificial muscle through a process of making aerogel sheets by growing carbon nanotubes in a forest like structure. Think of a vertical bamboo forest, with each bamboo stem representing a single carbon nanotube. Now imagine that the individual bamboo stems were connected together by much smaller horizontal threads. So that if you dislodge the bamboo and began to pull, the threads would pull the others, and you would get this sheet-like structure.

These aerogel sheets of carbon nantubes have some truly science fiction like properties. They can operate from 1,600 degrees centigrade to near absolute zero. If you inject a charge, each nanotube will be repulsed from one another, expanding some 220% of the sheet’s original size. Your muscles do this at roughly 20 – 40%. Stick around after the break for a video demonstration of these carbon nanotube aerogel sheets being made and demonstrated.

Thanks to [Steven] for the tip!

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These Trackpad Winamp Visualizations Really Whip the Llama’s Ass

winamp visualizationAs much as we like a good clean Model M specimen, those curly-corded clicky behemoths are somewhat lacking for certain flavors of gaming. There aren’t any blank keys to override, and there sure isn’t a full-color trackpad that you can write apps for. [Gus] has such a keyboard: the Razer Deathstalker Ultimate which features the SwitchBlade UI. He made himself this sweet audio visualizer for it that extends Winamp visualizations to the Switchblade UI.

[Gus]‘s hack is built on the Tiny3D visualization framework. It does what you might expect—reads the visualization values, sets them up for display on the trackpad, and renders them to said trackpad. [Gus] uses some of the 10 programmable keys to change colors on the fly, and the result is pretty awesome. As [Gus] points out, this is just the beginning of what the plugin can do. You’ll need the Razer SDK to get started, and you can get the other ingredients from [Gus]‘s repo. Once you’re done with this, you could try auto-dimming your keyboard backlight.

Of course there are demo videos after the jump. Come on.

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Johnny Mnemonic, Broken Columns, And Pinball Repair

johnny

[Quinn Dunki] has come to realize the pinball machines of her youth aren’t the lame games she remembered. They’re actually quite marvelous in terms of electronics, mechanics, engineering and the all important hackability. Wanting to pick up a 90s dot matrix display pinball machine and being a [William Gibson] fan, [Quinn] picked up an old Johnny Mnemonic machine. She’s already looked into replacing the incandescent bulbs with LEDs, and has just wrapped up troubleshooting a broken plasma dot matrix display.

dotsThe neon dot matrix displays in pinball machines of this era are finicky devices with a lot of stuff that can go wrong. On powering the display up, [Quinn] noticed a few columns on the left side of the display weren’t working. These machines have great diagnostic menus, so running a test that displays a single column at a time revealed two broken columns. However, when a solid fill test was run, all the columns work, save for a few dots in the upper left corner. This is an odd problem to troubleshoot, but after more tests [Quinn] realized dots in column five and six only work iff both adjacent dots in the same row are lit.

The power supply seemed okay, leaving the problem to either a logic problem, or something wrong in the glass. With a meter, [Quinn] deduced there was a short between the two broken columns, and tracing every thing out revealed a problem in the hermetically sealed display filled with noble gasses. A replacement display was ordered.

While [Quinn] was replacing the display, she decided it would be a good time to rehab the almost-but-not-quite out of spec driver board for the display. The power resistors had scorched the PCB, but didn’t damage any traces. Replacing the parts with modern components with a higher power rating brought the board back to spec with components that should last longer than the 20-year-old parts previously inhabiting the driver board.

It was a lot of effort, but now [Quinn] has a brand new display for her pinball machine and is ready to move on to the next phase of her restoration.

Hacking the D-Link DSP-W215 Smart Plug

DSP-W215

The D-Link DSP-W215 Smart Plug, a wireless home automation device for monitoring and controlling electrical outlets has just been hacked. Even though it isn’t readily available from Amazon or Best Buy yet, the firmware is already up on D-Link’s web site. The very well detailed write-up explains all the steps that led to this exploit creation.

First, the firmware was unpacked to examine the file system contents. It was found that the smart plug doesn’t have a normal web-based interface as users are expected to configure it using D-Link’s Android/iOS app. The apps however, appear to use the Home Network Administration Protocol (HNAP) to talk to the smart plug running a lighthttpd server. A look at the latter’s configuration file revealed the functions that could be called without any authentication. Another revealed that the firmware could accept an unlimited amount of POST request bytes which were copied in a fix length buffer without any performed checks. We’ll let our readers head to the original article to see where the author went from this point.

LED Snowboards Light Up The Night

night time snowboarding

Snowboarding at night is awesome — but unless your riding on a well-lit ski slope you’re not going to have much luck free-styling through the mountains — unless of course you’ve got a board equipped with floodlights!

The folks over at Signal Snowboards do tons of cool snowboard mods, like making a snowboard completely out of paper, making a heated board to melt the snow as you go, making a bullet proof snowboard… the list goes on. Eager to make use of the dwindling 2014 boarding season, they decided to make the Floodlight Snowboard, a board equipped with LED lights on all sides that makes for amazing nighttime riding — and really cool video and photo effects!

A company donated a ton of LED headlights and flashlights to them and they got to work. While it’s technically as simple as strapping a flashlight to the board, since they actually manufacture boards, they’ve gone ahead and fully integrated the lights right into design. It’s quite cool to see the full process in their shop!

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Live from Maker Faire #hadmf

Want to see what kind of shenanigans we’re up to at Maker Faire Bay Area? We’ll be tweeting all weekend. Use #hadmf and follow this list for the Hackaday Crew.