Hackaday UK Unconference Needs You

Hackaday’s first ever conference in the United Kingdom will take place on September 16th. Get your free ticket right now for the Hackaday UK Unconference!

An Unconference is the best way to put your finger on the pulse of what is happening in the hardware world right now. Everyone who attends should be ready to stand and deliver a seven-minute talk on something that excites them right now — this mean you. The easiest thing to do is grab your latest hack off the shelf and talk about that.

Talks may be about a prototype, project, or product currently in progress at your home, work, or university. It could also be an idea, concept, or skill that you’re now exploring. The point is to channel your excitement and pass it on to others in a friendly presentation environment where everyone will cheer as your story unfolds.

Hackaday doesn’t often have the opportunity to organize live events in Europe which is why we’re so happy to partner with DesignSpark, the exclusive sponsor of the Hackaday UK Unconference. DesignSpark is the innovation arm of RS Components and will have some staff on hand at the Unconference. They share our excitement in bringing together the Hackaday community throughout the UK. It is with their support that we are able to book an incredible venue and offer admission at no cost to all attendees. Hackaday events fill to capacity quickly, so get your ticket now before they are gone.

We have already asked a few of our friends in the area if they will be there. Seb Lee-Delisle who wowed us in Belgrade with his laser projection wizardry plans to be there. James Larsson is part of the crew that started the Flashing Light Prize and will be on hand. Phoenix Perry is always on the cutting edge of where people and technology meet and we can’t wait to hear her talk. Mike Harrison of Mike’s Electric Stuff will be around and likely teasing some secret Hackaday hardware he’s spearheading. James Bruton of XRobots (and a Hackaday Prize Judge) is coming, as is Saar Drimer who you may know as the person behind the beautiful hardware art of Boldport. Several Hackaday editors will be there; Elliot Williams, Jenny List, and I will all be on hand. All that’s missing is you.

We’ll flood into the Culture Space at Canada Water on the east side of London starting at 13:00. Tea, coffee, and snacks will be served throughout the afternoon and we’ll provide dinner as well. Anyone who is still standing when we close the doors at 21:00 is invited to join us at the pub afterward (we’ll get the first round).

As always, Hackaday’s success is based on the community of hackers, designers, and engineers that make it up. Please share the link to tickets on your social media and pester your friends to attend. Most importantly, don’t shy away from this speaking opportunity. We want to hear your story and this is the place to tell it. See you in London in just a few short weeks!

UPDATE: Wow, that didn’t take long. The tickets are claimed, but make sure you get on the waitlist. A lot can change in the next five week’s and we’ll be pestering all ticket holders to be there or give their seat up for someone on the waitlist.

Make a Tesla Coil Winding Rig with K’Nex

Instructables user [birdycrazy] built a winding rig from a PVC pipe and a bunch of K’Nex. He had recently started a Tesla coil project and needed an efficient way to wind the secondary coil. All of the designs for DIY winding rigs he found on the Internet required parts he didn’t have or simply cost a bunch of money. Then he realized he’d been building with K’nex a lot, and why not build a tool to help him?

He ended up investing only his K’nex elements and a length of 4” PVC pipe for the project. He used a K’nex 12V motor because it plugs in rather than requiring batteries. After the coil had been completely wound he set it to rotate the assembly over a period of several days while the varnish coating dried.

[birdycrazy] has several cool K’nex projects including a couple of automatic transmissions and a differential, all made with the toy. Also be sure to check out the K’nex whiteboard plotter, the Citadel monster K’nex castle, and the K’nex skeeball table we published in the past.

Full Color PCB Business Card

[Sjaak], in electronic hobbyist tradition, started to design a PCB business card. However, he quickly became disillusioned with the coloring options made available by the standard PCB manufacturing process. While most learn to work with a limited color palette, [Sjaak] had another idea. PCB decals for full-color control.

As [Sjaak] realized early in his PCB journey, the downside of all PCB business cards (and PCBs in general) is the limited number of colors you can use which are dictated by the layers you have to work with: FR4, soldermask, silkscreen and bare copper. Some people get crafty, creating new color combinations by stacking layers for hues, but even that technique doesn’t come close to a full palette.

The commercial off-the-shelf out of the box solution [Sjaak] found was decal slide paper. For those of you not prone to candle making or car decorating, decals are printable plastic film that can be used to decorate ceramics, glass or other smooth surfaces. Both clear and white versions can be found in most hobby stores. Once obtained, an inkjet or laser printer can print directly onto the photo paper-like material, lending the decals an infinite range of colors.

[Sjaak] bought clear film and designed his PCB with black soldermask and white silkscreen. Once the PCBs had come in, [Sjaak] got to work applying the decals with a transfer method by placing one into water, waiting a bit until the decal lets loose and then are carefully applied to a PCB. [Sjaak] reports that the process is a bit trickery because the film is very thin and is easily crinkled. But, difficulties overcome, the PCB then needs to dry for twenty-four hours. From there, it’s into the oven for 10 minutes at 248 degrees Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius) followed by an optional clear coating. Although the process is a bit involved, judging from his pictures we think the results are worth it, producing something that would stand out; which, in the end, is the goal of a PCB business card.

With all this in mind, we think that the logical progression is to incorporate digital logic or go full DIY and CNC or laser engrave your own business card.

Hackaday Links: August 6th, 2017

We get a lot of Kickstarter pitches in our email, but this one is different. First of all, it’s over. No biggie there. Secondly, it’s a laser-cut hurdy gurdy. What’s a hurdy gurdy? It’s a musical instrument that uses a wheel to vibrate strings. It has drone strings and a rudimentary keyboard for the melody. Think of it as ‘string bagpipes’ and you’re not that far off. This means you can laser cut (or 3D print, someone get on it) a hurdy gurdy, and that’s just awesome.

I wrote the previous paragraph without referencing Donovan. You’re welcome, Internet.

[Spencer] found a few very small seven-segment flip display units. This, of course, meant he had to build a clock. Right now [Spencer] is in the PCB design stage of the project, with the hope of finishing it before school starts. There is still an open question here: where do you get really tiny flip segment displays?

Perhaps we’ve said too much about the number one badge at this year’s DEF CON, but this is really the project that just keeps giving. [Hyr0n] thought it would be a great idea to have a shirt printed with the design of this year’s official Hackaday DEF CON badge. This seemed simple enough — all he needed to do was send the design off to a custom printed t-shirt place on the Internet and wait a week or two. This is where things got a little nuts. [Hyr0n] stole my intellectual property. My very intellectual property. Here’s a great tip for when a t-shirt place puts your order on hold because of a copyright: just say it’s creative commons, they’ll send it right on through.

The DIY-VT100 is a miniature VT100 (and VT102) terminal, because sometimes you need a standalone serial terminal. Soon, it’s going to be a Crowd Supply campaign. Who’s going to be the first to 3D print a look-alike VT100 enclosure for this little thing? Where can you get pre-bromiated filament?

We all know what the Atari 2600 is, but what is the Atari 2700? It’s an exceptionally rare prototype that used wireless controllers. One was found in a thrift store recently. [L064N] bought it for $30, and sold it on eBay for $3000.

Here’s a weird thing [Yann] sent in. The Rise mP6 was a non-Intel, non-AMD, non-Cyrix, non-VIA, x86 compatible CPU sold in the late 90s.  What’s cool about it? Three parallel MMX instructions, and an easter egg hidden in the microcode. The principal engineer on the project, [Chris Norrie], decided he wanted to hide his name in the CPU, and managed to do it without anyone else catching on. If you put ‘NZ’ into eAX and execute CPUID, it returns “* Chris Norrie *”. That’s a hack, and it’s amazing.

InstantCAD Promises Faster Iterative Design

The design process for any product is necessarily an iterative one. Often, a prototype is modelled or built, and changes are made to overcome problems and improve the design. This can be a tedious process, and it’s one that MIT’s CSAIL has sought to speed up with InstantCAD.

The basic idea is integrating analysis tools as a plugin within already existing CAD software. A design can be created, and then parametrically modified, while the analysis updates on screen in a near-live fashion. Imagine modelling a spanner, and then dragging sliders to change things like length and width while watching the stress concentrations change in real time. The tool appears to primarily be using some sort of finite element analysis, though the paper also shows examples of analyzing fluid flows as well.

The software is impressive, however there are caveats. Like any computer analysis, serious verification work must be undertaken to ensure its validity. We suspect that there may be issues with more complex geometries that lead to inaccurate simulation. It’s not the sort of tool you’d use for anything that puts life and limb at risk, but we can see it having great uses for designing basic objects when you want to quickly gain an idea of what sort of effect certain parameter changes will have.

The other main disappointment is that while this tool looks great, it doesn’t appear to be publicly available in any form. Whether this is due to universities and complicated IP requirements or the potential for future commercialization is anyone’s guess. Regardless, you can read the conference paper here or check out the video below. Or you could read up on the applications of finite element analysis to 3D printer slicers, too.

Continue reading “InstantCAD Promises Faster Iterative Design”

Hackaday Prize Best Product Finalist: PewPew

This year for the Hackaday Prize, we’re doing something very, very cool. We’re encouraging hardware entrepreneurs to come up with the next big electronic thing. We’re giving the Best Product in the Hackaday Prize $30,000, and an opportunity to work in a lab filled with tools to turn that prototype into a marketable reality.

Last week, we announced the twenty finalists of the Hackaday Prize Best Product competition. There’s still a lot of work these hackers and tinkerers need to do before the final judging round, but until then we can start taking a look at what are already some of the finest products in this year’s Hackaday Prize.

For his entry into the Best Product finals, [Radomir] is working on a game machine. Consider this an educational toy. Game programming is hard, and some talent is required to go from the main loop to handling buttons to pushing pixels. This project is the minimal game machine. It’s a FeatherWing for Adafruit’s family of micro dev boards meant to teach PyGame programming.

On this board is an 8×8 matrix of bi-color LEDs, a few switches, resistors, and a chip that turns those LEDs into something that can be memory mapped. It’s simple, but that’s the point: it’s a minimum viable product to teach game programming.

Right now, the business plan is to develop games and examples for this add-on board, build a community, write a few tutorials, and sell a few of these boards on Tindie. From there, it’s just a matter of growing, and there are already plans for a PewPew wing with a TFT screen, an STM32 processor, and a tile and sprite engine built in. This could very well be the beginnings of a very cool educational toy, and we’re happy to have it as a finalist in the Best Product competition of the Hackaday Prize.

Condom and Catheter Team up to Save New Mothers’ Lives

The title is sure to draw a snicker from some readers, but the purpose of this field-expedient treatment for postpartum hemorrhage is deadly serious, and a true medical hack that has the potential to save the lives of new mothers.

Postpartum hemorrhage is the leading cause of death during pregnancy, claiming about 86,000 women every year. While it can occur up to six weeks after giving birth, PPH is most serious immediately after delivery and can require aggressive treatment to prevent hypovolemic shock and eventual death. A fully equipped obstetrical suite will have access to an array of medications and devices to staunch the flow, including a uterine balloon tamponade (UBT) kit. But at $400 a kit, these devices are hard to come by in the developing world.

Not to be dissuaded, midwife [Anne Mulinge] from Nairobi, Kenya created a simple, cheap substitute using common items. A common urinary catheter is covered with an ordinary condom, the end of which is secured around the catheter with twine. Once inserted into the woman’s uterus, the condom is filled with saline solution through the catheter, expanding the condom and applying direct pressure to the bleeding uterine walls. The pressure allows the mother’s clotting mechanism to catch up with the decreased blood flow.

So far, [Anne] claims the device has saved three new mothers, and other midwives are being trained in the technique. Here’s hoping that more lives are saved with this simple hack, and perhaps with this more complex one designed to get blood to remote clinics as fast as possible.

Thanks to [LP Bing] for the tip.