SOAP Drama: Another Go At Crowdfunding

SOAP

SOAP, the people behind what was initially a sketchy Kickstarter that turned into something reasonable is having another go at crowdfunding their touchscreen router with every radio imaginable. This time, however, they’ve crossed all their ts and dotted all their lowercase js to turn what was a very…. odd Kickstarter into something really cool.

The original specs of the SOAP router were impressive – basically, a touchscreen tablet with an ARM Cortex A9, USB 3.0, 802.11ac, gigabit LAN, and every radio module you could imagine. The goal, of course, being a completely open, hackable home automation system capable of talking to Zigbee and Z Wave, and X10 modules, all while being an easy to configure 802.11ac router with a touchscreen. It’s a great idea, and considering you could spend $200 on an ac router alone, without all the radio modules and touchscreen.

Judging from the updates to the original Kickstarter, the SOAP guys have come a long way in three months. They’ve moved away from a custom-designed iMX6 board to a Congatec System on Module in a move that could be described as the smartest move in the history of Kickstarter-funded consumer electronics. They’ve also fixed the Ethernet bandwidth limitation of the iMX6, although there’s no word on how that works.

To be fair, the SOAP Kickstarter should be studied by business students as the exact opposite of how you should run a Kickstarter. When the project first went up, there were inconsistencies that ranged from not having a functional prototype to lifting images from unrelated open source projects. In the past three months, though, it looks like the team has managed to pull something together. Whether or not the SOAP router will see the light of day remains to be seen, but the team is now in a much better position than they were three months ago.

Better Lasing With Pulses

laser

The folks at the Lansing, Michigan hackerspace built themselves a 40 Watt laser cutter. It’s an awesome machine capable of cutting plywood and acrylic, and is even powered by a RAMPS board, something normally found in 3D printers. They wanted a little more power out of their 40 Watt tube, though, and found pulsing the laser was the best way to do that.

Unlike the fancy Epilog and Full Spectrum Laser machines, the Buildlog.net 2.x laser cutter found in the Lansing Hackerspace didn’t use Pulse-Per-Inch (PPI) control until very recently. When a laser tube is turned on, the output power of the laser is much higher – nearly double the set value – for a few milliseconds. By pulsing the laser in 2-3 ms bursts, it’s possible to have a higher effective output from a laser, and has the nice added benefit of keeping the laser cooler. The only problem, then, is figuring out how to pulse the laser as a function of the distance traveled.

To do this, the laser cutter must accurately know the position of the laser head at all times. This could be done with encoders, which would require a new solution for each controller board. Since laser cutters are usually driven by stepper motors controlled with step and direction signals, a much better solution would be to count these signals coming from the CNC computer before it goes to the RAMPS driver, and turn the laser on and off as it moves around the bed.

A few tests were done using various PPI settings, each one inch long, shown in the pic above. At 200 PPI, the laser creates a continuous line, and at higher PPI settings, the lines are smoother, but get progressively wider. The difference between PPI settings and having the laser constantly on is subtle, but it’s there; it’s not quite the difference between an axe and a scalpel, but it is a bit like the difference between a scalpel and a steak knife.

It’s an impressive build for sure, and something that brings what is essentially a homebrew laser cutter a lot closer to the quality of cutters costing thousands of dollars. Awesome work.

 

DSLR Gives Exposure to 3D Light Traces

light lion

We’ve all twirled sparklers around in the darkness to write fleeting circles and figure eights with the light they give. Some of us have done it with the glowing end of a cigarette, too. Hackaday Projects user [ekaggrat] went a step further, painting with an LED mounted on the print head of his newly built 3DR Delta and capturing the LED’s path with a DSLR camera set for long exposure.

He started by creating a mesh model. From there, he converted it slices and G-code in Grasshopper. The LED is connected to pin D11/servo pin 1 on the RAMPS board. [ekaggrat] used the M42 G-code extension toggle the pin and write the slice lines with light. He has future plans to use an RGB LED, and we hope he shares that on the Projects site as well.

While this isn’t the most advanced light painting setup we’ve seen, it’s still pretty awesome and far more accessible. There is more information on his site, and you can grab the G-code from his repo. Stick around to see a video of the process.

[Read more...]

Wind Powered Strandbeest Could Roam the Land Indefinitely

3d printed strandbeest

We have to admit, Strandbeests are one of our favorite mechanical inventions of recent years — many-legged, life-like mechanisms that walk around? Awesome. [Eric] wanted to design something really cool — so he decided to build a turbine attachment for [Theo Jansen's] Strandbeest — the AG5 & AG7 models specifically.

If you’re not familiar, the Strandbeest is a mechanical contraption that actually walks around. It’s been developed by [Theo Jansen] for years and has been built in many variations by other people over the years. [Theo] even gave a TED talk on it back in 2007.

The very idea of the Strandbeest is to have it move by itself with autonomy — no electronics allowed! [Theo] has designed a propeller attachment for one of his 3D printable Strandbeests to do this, but [Eric] wanted to take it a step further. He’s designed a more functional wind turbine that sits on top of the Strandbeest, allowing wind from any direction to cause it to walk.

[Read more...]

THP Entry: The Improved Open Source Tricorder

tricorder

Since [Gene Roddenberry] traveled back in time from the 23rd century, the idea of a small, portable device has wound its way through the social consciousness, eventually turning into things like smartphones, PDAs, and all the other technological gadgetry of modern life. A few years ago, [Peter Jansen] started The Tricorder Project, the start of the ultimate expression of [Mr. Roddneberry]‘s electronic swiss army knife. Now [Peter] is building a better, smaller version for The Hackaday Prize.

[Peter]‘s first tricorders borrowed their design heavily from The Next Generation props with a fold-out section, two displays, and a bulky front packed to the gills with sensors and detectors. Accurate if you’re cosplaying, but not the most practical in terms of interface and human factors consideration. These constraints led [Peter] to completely redesign his tricorder, disregarding the painted wooden blocks found on Enterprise and putting all the electronics in a more usable form factor.

A muse of sorts was found in the Radiation Watch, a tiny, handheld Geiger counter meant as an add-on to smartphones. [Peter] envisions a small ~1.5″ OLED display on top, a capacitive sensing wheel in the middle, and a swipe bar at the bottom. Basically, it looks like a 1st gen iPod nano, but much, much more useful.

Plans for what to put in this improved tricorder include temperature, humidity, pressure, and gas sensors, a 3-axis magnetometer, x-ray and gamma ray detectors, a polarimeter, colorimeter, spectrometer, 9-axis IMU, a microphone, a lightning sensor, and WiFi courtesy of TI’s CC3000 module. Also included is something akin to a nuclear event detector; if it still exists, there has been no nuclear event.

It’s an astonishing array of technology packed into an extremely small enclosure – impressive for something that is essentially a homebrew device.Even if it doesn’t win the Hackaday Prize, it’s still an ambitious attempt at putting data collection and science in everyone’s pocket – just like in Star Trek.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is an entry in The Hackaday Prize. Build something awesome and win a trip to space or hundreds of other prizes.

Adventures in Hackerspacing: Hackyard Athens, Part I

Hackyard Athens

It’s funny how quickly it can all come together. If there’s a hackerspace or makerspace in your area, I hope you’ve gone by to see what it’s like. If there isn’t, you can always start your own…

That notion seems so simple, doesn’t it? Round up a few like-minded folks, find a space—any space—shove them and some equipment into it. Two years of attempted round-ups and shove-ins, however, is enough to discourage the most passionate of would-be hackerspacers. By all predictions, the effort to start a hackerspace in Athens, GA was a marathon, a gradual advance culminating in a hard-earned workspace. But that’s not what happened. Hackyard Athens erupted into being.

In only one week.

[Read more...]

Open Source Electric Car, CarBEN, Produces No Carbon

CarBEN Open Source Electric Car

Raise your hand if you have designed and built a full size car…. Nobody? Doing so would be a huge task considering car manufactures have thousands of people involved with designing and building a car model. Eager beaver [Neil] has stepped up and taken on that challenge. He’s started an open source project he’s calling the CarBEN.

CarBEN Open Source Electric Car

The plan is for the car to hold 5 people comfortably while being just a tad larger than a Scion xA. The body is made of foam and will be covered with fiberglass. The car is designed in a shape that tapers in towards the rear of the car and has features like a smooth underside and covered wheels to create a low coefficient of drag. The goal is for this beauty to get 300-400 miles per charge with an Miles Per Gallon Equivalent of over 224.

[Read more...]

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