Creating A PCB In Everything: KiCad, Part 2

This is the continuation of a series where I create a PCB in every software suite imaginable. Last week, I took a look at KiCad, made the schematic representation for a component, and made a schematic for the standard reference PCB I’ve been using for these tutorials. Now it’s time to take that schematic, assign footprints to parts, and design a circuit board.

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Hacking Your Way Through NASA

The 2016 Hackaday SuperConference took place last month in sunny Pasadena, California. Also calling Pasadena home is the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the place where Mars rovers are built, where probes are guided around the solar system, and where awesome space stuff happens.

JPL had a large contingent at the SuperCon and two of them teamed up to present their talk: Charles Dandino and Lucy Du. Lucy is a mechatronics engineer at JPL and already has a little bit of fame from fielding a Battlebot in the last two seasons of ABC’s series. Charles is also in mechatronics, with experience with Curiosity, the Mars 2020 rover, and the (hopefully) upcoming asteroid redirect mission.

In their talk, Charles and Lucy uncovered some of the hacks happening in the background at JPL. There’s a lot of them, and their impact goes much further than you would expect. Everything from remote control cars to keeping spacecraft alive on the other side of the solar system.

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Don’t Leave 3D Printers Unattended – They Can Catch Fire

The holidays are almost here, and with that comes the traditional Mass Consumption of Consumer Goods and Gift Exchange. 3D printers are getting really good and really cheap, and it’s inevitable that a lot of 3D printers will be given as gifts this year. Be careful if you’re giving or receiving one of these printers: they can cause fires as [Ben Hencke] found out when diagnosing a problem with a printer he bought this year.

The printer in question is the Monoprice Maker Select V2, a Prusa i3 clone with impressive specs for a $300 printer. This printer is a rebranded Wanhao Duplicator i3, and we’ve reviewed it favorably. It’s a capable printer that beats the pants off of any Kickstarter printer in quality (and for the fact that you can buy it right now). We’re pretty sure there are going to be more than a few of these printers under the Saturnalia tree this year.

After a few weeks, [Ben] noticed a bit of smoke coming from the printer while the bed was preheating. This wasn’t blue pixie smoke, like you’d find from an exploded capacitor. There was a lot of smoke.

After a closer inspection and help from [Elecia White] from embedded.fm, the problem was traced to the power connector for the heated bed. The green, bromine-infused plastic for this connector was charred and there’s little doubt this could have caused a fire.

3D printing is a fantastic tool, and has enabled more hacks and builds over the last few years than we could have ever imagined. 3D printers are getting very good, and very cheap, and of course this will eventually mean someone losing their workshop to a printer fire. Until someone figures out how to build a ‘thermal fuse’ or something of that nature, 3D printers — from the high-end ones to the still very good Monoprice and Wanhao units — have the potential to start a fire.

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The Internet of Tampons

At the 2016 Hackaday Superconference, Amanda Brief and Jacob McEntire gave a talk on what they’ve been working on for the past few years. It’s My.Flow, the world’s first tampon monitor capable of tracking saturation, and eliminating anxiety, leakage, and infection. It’s better than a traditional tampon, and it’s one of the rare Internet of Things things that actually makes sense.

There’s a long history of technological innovation to deal with menstruation. What began with simply sending women out of the village for a week turned into a ‘sanitary belt’ after a few thousand years. This astonishing technological advance of treating women as people led to the pad, the cup, and eventually, the disposable tampon. Now My.Flow is applying modern electrochemical technology to move the state of the art forward.

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Hackaday Links: December 4, 2016

The Chaos Communication Congress is growing! Actually, it’s not, but there may be an ‘overflow venue’ for everyone who didn’t get a ticket. There’s a slack up for people who didn’t get a ticket to 33C3 but would still like to rent a venue, set up some tables, stream some videos, and generally have a good time.

Need to test a lot of batteries? Have one of those magnetic parts tray/dish things sitting around? This is freakin’ brilliant. Put your batteries vertically in a metal dish, clip one lead of a meter to the dish and probe each battery with the other lead of your meter.

Pravda reports the USS Zumwalt and HMS Duncan – the most technologically advanced ships in the US and Royal Navies – have turned into, ‘useless tin cans due to China’, with ‘Microchips made in China putting the vessels out of action’. Again, Pravda reports this, so don’t worry. In other news, someone found a few USB drives in a parking lot in Norfolk, Virginia.

Here’s how discourse goes on the Internet. Someone does something. Everyone says it’s stupid. We wait a few days or weeks. Someone posts something on Medium telling everyone it’s actually okay. Public opinion is muddled until the actual issue being discussed is rendered technologically irrelevant. For the newest MacBook Pro, we’re currently at stage 3 and ‘it’s kind of great for hackers’. Now if only we knew how to make USB-C ports work with microcontrollers…

If you have a Prusa i3, here’s a free gift: a Spitfire. The files to print a remote control, 973mm Spitfire Mk XVI are now free for Prusa i3 and i3 Mk 2 owners. Why? Because it’s cool, duh, and [Stephan Dokupil] and [Patrik Svida], the guys behind the Spitfire and other 3D printed RC planes, are also in Czech. Now all we need are Czech roundel stickers.

Biologically Inspired Sensors Turned Into Silicon

For the last three and a half Billion years, evolution has built sensors. The nerves on your fingertips are just as good as any electronic touch sensor, a retina is able to detect a single photon, and the human ear is more finely tuned than the best microphones.

At the 2016 Hackaday SuperConference, Dr. Christal Gordon, educator and engineer, talked about the hardware behind our wetware. While AI researchers are still wondering if they have to define consciousness, there’s still a lot that medicine, psychology, and neuroscience can teach us about building better hardware with simple tools, just like nature has been doing for Billions of years.

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Quickly Prototyping X-ray Backscatter Machines

Ben Krasnow is one of those people no one has a bad opinion of. He’s part of the team at Verily (Google’s Life Science Alphabit), where he’s busy curing cancer. He co-founded Valve’s hardware division and his YouTube channel, Applied Science, is an exploration of building very high-tech tools very quickly and on a very low budget. Ben has built everything from an electron microscope to a liquid nitrogen generator to a robot that makes individual chocolate chip cookies with ingredients in different proportions. He’s curing cancer and finding the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe.

The focus of Ben’s talk at this year’s Hackaday SuperConference is building low-cost scientific apparatus quickly. From Applied Science, Ben has cemented his position as a wizard who can find anything either on eBay or at a surplus store. The real trick, Ben tells us, is getting his boss and accounting to understand this rapid prototyping mindset.

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