Hacklet 92 – Workbenches and Toolboxes

Everyone needs a place to work. While some of us have well equipped labs with soldering stations, oscilloscopes, and a myriad of other tools, others perform their hacks on the kitchen table. Still, some hackers have to be on the go – taking their tools and work space along with them on the road. This week’s Hacklet is all about the best toolbox and workbench projects on Hackaday.io!

worktableWe start at the top – in this case, a bench top. [KickSucker] created Mondrian Inspired Work Table as a multi-use tabletop for all kinds of projects. Rather than slap down a piece of plywood, [KickSucker] took a more artistic route. Piet Mondrian was a dutch artist known for painting irregular grids of black and white lines. He’d fill a few of the rectangles up with primary colors, but leave most of them white. Between different off-cuts of wood, and colorful bits of skateboard deck [KickSucker] had the makings of an awesome work surface. The frame of the bench is an IKEA expedite shelf unit. The frame is made from MDF, with the offcuts laid on top of it. The fun part was arranging all the pieces to make lines and colors. The result is a great custom work table, and a heck of a lot less wood scraps lying around the shop. That’s a double win in our book!

toolboxNext up is [M.Hehr] with Portable Workbench & mini Lab. [M.Hehr] has wanted a portable electronic workstation for years. We’re betting he’s seen a few of them here on the blog. While cleaning up the lab before Christmas, [M.Hehr] found a couple of wooden IKEA boxes. Each box held some drawers. An idea formed in [M.Hehr’s] head. It was time to put the plan in motion! The boxes were attached and hinged. Custom brackets were cut on a Shapeoko 2 router. Everything – even the screws were recycled. [M.Hehr] created a perfect space for each tool, ensuring that things won’t end up in a tangled mess when the box is carried around. We really love the retractable power point and custom-made power supply!

roadcaseNext we’ve got [Tim Trzepacz] with Musician’s Road Box with 9 space rack. [Tim’s] sister [Tina] was playing a lot of music on the road, and needed a way to organize her gear. There are plenty of commercial solutions for this, but [Tim] decided to roll the perfect solution. He designed a plywood box with a 9U rack. [Tina’s] mixer and backing sound sources were located on the top, while effects and other modules were located in the rack. [Tim] spent a good amount of time designing the box. He was able to get the cut list down to a single piece of plywood, with room to spare. This is perfect for a 4′ x 8′ router like the ShopBot. When it comes time to hit the road, the case seals up to a rugged package. Standard roadcase corners and twist-latches finish this awesome piece.

boxtopFinally we have [Géllo] with protoBox. [Géllo] is into induction heating, which requires a Zero Voltage Switching (ZVS) flyback driver. ProtoBox started life as a place for [Géllo] to store his ZVS. It has evolved to become a small portable electronics lab. [Géllo] powers the box with a set of lithium-ion batteries sourced from old laptops. This particular ZVS design is plenty powerful enough to heat metal red hot, or create some nice arcs. [Géllo] added an Arduino Mega, a Bluetooth radio, and a 2×16 character LCD. The system is controlled with relays. A bluetooth enabled smartphone can be used to enable or disable any feature. [Géllo’s] assembly techniques are a bit scary, especially considering the fact that this is a high power design. However, this is a great proof of concept!

If you want to see more workbench and toolbox projects, check out our new workbench and toolbox list! If I missed your project, don’t be shy! Just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Hacklet 91: Ultrasonic Projects

Ultrasound refers to any audio signal above the range of human hearing. Generally that’s accepted as 20 kHz and up. Unlike electromagnetic signals, ultrasonics are still operating in a medium – generally the air around us. Plenty of animals take advantage of ultrasonics every day. So do hackers, makers, and engineers who have built thousands of projects based upon these high frequency signals. This weeks Hacklet is all about the best ultrasonic projects on Hackaday.io!

spambakeWe start with [spambake] and World’s Smallest Bat Detector. [Spambake] is interested in bats. These amazing creatures have poor eyesight, but that doesn’t slow them down. Bats use echolocation to determine their surroundings. Ultrasonic chirps bounce off obstacles. The bat listens to the echos and changes its flight path accordingly. While we can’t hear most of the sounds bats make, electronics can. [Spambake] cooked this circuit up starting with a MEMs microphone. These microphones pick up human sounds, but unlike our ears, they can hear plenty above the 20 kHz range. The audio signal is passed through an amplifier which boosts the it up around 10,000 times. The signal is filtered and then used to trigger LEDs that indicate a bat is present. The final circuit works quite well! Check out [spambake’s] video to see the bat detector in action!

movvaNext up is [Neil Movva] with Pathfinder – Haptic Navigation. Pathfinder uses ultrasonic transducers to perform echolocation similar to bats. The received data is then passed on to a human wearer. [Neil’s] idea is to use Pathfinder to help the visually disabled and blind navigate the world around them. Pathfinder was a 2015 Hackaday Prize finalist. The ultrasonic portion of Pathfinder uses the ubiquitous HC-SR04 distance sensor, which can be found for as little as $2 USD on eBay and Alibaba. These sensors send out a 60 kHz signal and listen for the echos. A microcontroller can then measure the time delay and determine the distance from the sensor to an obstacle. Finally the data is passed on to the user by a vibrating pager motor. [Neal] was kind enough to give a talk about Pathfinder at the 2015 Hackaday SuperCon.

levitate[HoboMunching] likes his ultrasonic devices ultra powerful, and that’s just what he’s got with Ultrasonic Levitation Rig. Inspired by a similar project from Mike, [HoboMunching] had to build his own levitation setup. Ultrasonic levitation used to be a phenomenon studied only in the laboratory. Cheap transducers designed for the industrial world have made this experiment practical for the home hackers. [HoboMunching] was able to use his rig to levitate up to 8 tiny balls on the nulls between the 28.5 kHz sound waves produced by his transducer. The speed of sound can be verified by measuring the distance between the balls. Purists will be happy to hear that [HoboMunching]’s circuit was all based upon the classic 555 timer.

speaker-arrayFinally we have [Alan Green] with Ultrasonic Directional Speaker V1. Most audio signals are not very directional, due to wavelength and practical limitations on speaker size. Ultrasonics don’t have this limitation. Couple this with the fact that ultrasonic signals can be made to demodulate in air, and you have the basis for a highly directional speaker setup. “Sound lasers” based on this system have been around for years, used in everything from targeted advertising to defensive weapons. [Alan] is just getting started on this project. Much of his research is based upon [Joe Pompei’s] work at the MIT media lab. [Alan] plans to use an array of ultrasonic transducers to produce a directional signal which will then demodulate and be heard by a human. This project has a hard deadline though:  [Alan] plans to help his son [Mitchell] with a musical performance that is scheduled for May, 2016. The pair hope to have a prototype in place by March.

If you want to see more ultrasonic projects, check out our new ultrasonic projects list! If I missed your project, don’t be shy! Just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Decoding data hiding in Star Trek IV

1986: The US and Russia signed arms agreements, Argentina won the world cup, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home hit the theaters. Trekkies and the general public alike enjoyed the film. Some astute hams though, noticed a strange phenomenon about halfway through the film. During a pivotal scene, Scotty attempts to beam Chekov and Uhura off the Enterprise, but has trouble with interference. The interference can be heard over the ubiquitous Star Trek comm link. To many it may sound like random radio noise. To the trained ear of a [Harold Price, NK6K] though, it sounded a heck of a lot like packet radio transmissions.

cray-2By 1989, the film was out on VHS and laser disc. With high quality audio available, [Harold] challenged his friend [Bob McGwier, N4HY] to decode the signal. [Bob] used the best computer he had available: His brain. He also had a bit of help from a Cray 2 supercomputer.

[Bob] didn’t own his own Cray 2 of course, this particular computer was property of the National Security Agency (NSA). He received permission to test Frequency Shift Keyed (FSK) decoder algorithms. Can you guess what his test dataset was?

The signal required a lot of cleanup: The original receiver was tuned 900 Hz below the transmission frequency. There also was a ton of noise. To make matters worse, Scotty kept speaking over the audio. Thankfully, AX.25 is a forgiving protocol. [Bob] persevered and was able to obtain some usable data. The signal turned out to be [Bill Harrigill, WA8ZCN] sending a Receive Ready (RR) packet to N6AEZ on 20 meters. An RR packet indicates that [Bill’s] station had received all previous packets and was ready for more.  [Bob] called to [Bill], who was able to verify that it was probably him transmitting in the 1985 or 1986, around the time the sound editors would have been looking for effects.

That’s a pretty amazing accomplishment, especially considering it was 1989. Today, we carry supercomputers around in our pockets. The Cray 2 is roughly equivalent to an iPhone 4 in processing power. Modern laptop and desktop machines easily out class Seymour Cray’s machine. We also have software like GNU Radio, which is designed to decode data. Our challenge to you, the best readers in the world, is to replicate [Bob McGwier’s] work, and share your results.

Hacklet 90: Schlieren Videos and Jigsaw Puzzle Robots

Happy new year, and welcome to the first Hacklet of 2016! The Hacklet is one of my favorite columns to write, as I get to talk about the great projects people are working on at Hackaday.io. Generally these articles follow a theme, but this being a new year, I’m going to try something new. As Hackaday’s community editor, I keep an eye on the new and updated projects feeds over on Hackaday.io. Every single week I see projects that surprise, impress, and inspire me. This week, I’m going to highlight a couple that I think are just freaking awesome.

torch[Jan–Henrik] created the Schlieren-Videography project. Schlieren photography is used to image changing densities in fluids and this includes capturing density changes in air. Super and Hypersonic wind tunnels often use this technique to show airflow around a test model. Outside of the wind tunnel, Schlieren is great for showing density changes due to heat or different gasses. That’s exactly what [Jan] is doing in his project.

There are several ways to create Schlieren images, everything from lasers, to diffraction gratings, to razor blades can be used. [Jan] is using a simple moiré pattern and a couple of video tricks to capture Schlieren video. A high density moiré pattern will appear to flicker as density changes bend the light from the moiré stripes. [Jan] simply takes a reference image, then subtracts that image from the live video. The result of the subtraction is the Schlieren images you see above. [Jan] did more than explain the technique he’s used to create his videos, he’s also uploaded a processing sketch which performs the video subtraction magic.

jigsolve[Dan Royer] has a more domestic problem – his family loves starting jigsaw puzzles, but never seems to finish them. He’s decided to invite around 3 billion of his closest friends in the form of JigSolve, an internet connected jigsaw puzzle robot. JigSolve’s Cartesian platform  is a CoreXY based design. [Dan] used CoreXY as a guideline, but designed and built the hardware himself. The electronic hardware side borrows from RepRap 3D printers. An Arduino Mega2560 and RAMPS board control two NEMA 17 stepper motors. The Arduino is running firmware from Makelangelo, [Dan’s] own open source art robot.

The internet connected portion of the project comes in the form of a Java based IRC bot and a connection to the Freenode IRC network. The internet connected masses will have to see what they are working on, so a Logitech webcam will stream video to the ‘net.

The hardest part of JigSolve thus far has been the nozzle. Much like an SMT pick and place machine, the nozzle needs to pick up parts with a vacuum, then rotate them to the desired orientation. [Dan] is looking at different kinds of silicon, and he’s asking for suggestions. Stop over on the project page and offer him a hand!

That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Surviving the FAA Regulations: Modelers Move Indoors

New FAA rules are making radio-controlled aircraft a rough hobby to enjoy here in the USA. Not only are the new drone enthusiasts curtailed, but the classic radio-controlled modelers are being affected as well. Everyone has to register, and for those living within 30 miles of Washington DC, flying of any sort has been effectively shut down. All’s not lost though. There is plenty of flying which can be done outside of the watchful eye of the FAA. All it takes is looking indoors.

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The Hovalin: Open Source 3D Printed Violin Sounds Great

[Matt and Kaitlin Hova] have created The Hovalin, an open source 3D-printed violin. Yes, there have been 3D-printed instruments before, but [The Hovas] have created something revolutionary – a 3D printed acoustic instrument that sounds surprisingly good. The Hovalin is a full size violin created to be printed on a desktop-sized 3D printer. The Hovas mention the Ultimaker 2, Makerbot Replicator 2 (or one of the many clones) as examples. The neck is one piece, while the body is printed in 3 sections. The Hovalin is also open source, released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license.

A pure PLA neck would not be stiff enough counter the tension in the strings, so [The Hovas] added two carbon fiber truss rods. A handful of other components such as tuners, and of course strings, also need to be purchased. The total price is slightly higher than a $60 USD starter violin from Amazon, but we’re betting the Hovalin is a better quality instrument than anything that cheap.

The Hovalin was released back in October. There are already some build logs in the wild, such as this one from [Emulsifide]. Like any good engineering project, the Hovalin is a work in progress. [Matt and Kaitlin] have already released version 1.0.1, and version 2.0 is on the horizon. Hearing is believing though, so click past the break to hear [Kaitlin] play her instrument.

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Simone Does Strange Things With Motors and Servos

If DC motors are the “Hello World” of making things move, servo motors are the next logical step. [Simone Giertz] is following this exact path with the Wake-up Machine and her newly released Chopping Machine. [Simone] discovered that the best way to wake up in the morning is to be repeatedly slapped in the face by a robot. The Wake-up Machine was custom designed to do exactly that. Who could sleep through being repeatedly slapped in the face? A beefy gearmotor from ServoCity spins a Halloween prop arm round and round, providing  “refreshing” slaps.

wakeThe system is triggered by an alarm clock. The clock’s alarm output is connected to an Arduino Uno. The Uno then activates a relay, which spins up the motor. [Simone] realizes that she could have skipped the Arduino here, but it was the path of least resistance in for this project. If the slapping hand isn’t enough to get you going, the Wake-up machine does have a secret weapon: It may just grab your hair, turning a video shoot into a painful ordeal.

Simone’s latest project is the Chopping Machine. ServoCity must have liked her first videos, as they’ve sponsored her for this project. The machine consists of two knives that … well, chop. Two high-powered servos are controlled by an Arduino Nano. The servos raise spring-loaded knives, which then drop down, chopping vegetables, fingers, and anything else in their path. The whole machine is built with aluminum channel stock, and a huge wooden cutting board. Of course, just building the machine wasn’t enough. [Simone] filmed a parody infomercial for any perspective Chopping Machine buyers, and to put fear in the heart of anyone named Chad.

Click past the break for a couple of [Simone’s] vlogs describing the machines.

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