An Expanding Wooden Table

A few years ago, the world of fine woodworking was presented with the Fletcher Capstan table. It’s a round table, able to expand its diameter merely by rotating the top. A gloriously engineered bit of mechanics move the leaves of the tables out while simultaneously raising the inner part of the table. It’s a seriously cool table, very expensive, and something that will probably be found in museums 100 years from now.

[Scott Rumschlag] thought his woodworking skills were up to the task of creating one of these expanding tables and managed to build one in his workshop. Like the Fletcher Capstan table, it’s a table that increases its diameter simply by rotating the table top. Unlike the commercial offering, this one doesn’t cost as much as a car, and you can actually see the internal mechanism inside this table.

The top of [Scott]’s table is made of three pieces. The quarter-circle pieces are the only thing showing when the table is in its minimum position, and are arranged on the top of the ‘leaf stack’. When the table expands, four additional leaves move up from beneath with the help of a linear bearing made of wood and a roller that slides along the base of this mechanical contraption.

The center of the table – the star – is a bit more difficult to design. While the leaves move up the stack of table tops with the help of a ramp, this is an impractical solution for something so close to the center of the table. Instead of a ramp, [Scott] is using a lifting lever and metal hinge that brings the star of the table up to the right level. Even though it’s a crazy amount of woodworking and fine tuning to get everything right, it’s not too terribly difficult to get your head around.

Videos, including one of the assembly of the table, below.

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Scanning On The Cheap

[Will] recently stumbled across the MakerBot Digitizer, a device that’s basically a webcam and a turntable that will turn a small object into a point cloud that can then be printed off on a MakerBotⓇ 3D printer. Or any other 3D printer, for that matter. The MakerBot Digitizer costs $800, and [Will] wondered if he could construct a cheaper 3D scanner with stuff sitting around his house. It turns out, he can get pretty close using only a computer, a webcam, and a Black and Decker line laser/level.

The build started off with a webcam mounted right next to the laser line level. Software consisted of Python using OpenCV, numpy, and matplotlib to grab images from the webcam. The software looks at each frame of video for the path of the laser shining against the object to be scanned. This line is then extracted into a 3D point cloud and reconstructed in MeshLab to produce a 3D object that might or might not be 3D printable.

This is only [Will]’s first attempt at creating a scanner. He’s not even using a turntable with this project – merely manually rotating the object one degree for 360 individual frames. It’s extremely tedious, and he’ll be working on incorporating a stepper motor in a future version.

This is only attempt number 1, but already [Will] has a passable scanned object created from a real-world thing.

Chaos Computer Club (and Hackaday) Blocked By British Porn Filters

The Chaos Computer Club, Europe’s largest association of hackers and hackerspaces, has been blocked by several UK ISPs as part of a government filter to block adult content.

Since July, 2013, large UK ISPs have been tasked with implementing what has been dubbed the Great Firewall of Britain, a filter that blocks adult content, content related to alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and opinions deemed ‘extremist’ by the government. This is an opt-out filter; while it does filter out content deemed ‘unacceptable’, Internet subscribers are able to opt out of the filter by contacting their ISP.

Originally envisioned as a porn filter, and recently updated with list of banned sexual acts including spanking, aggressive whipping, role-playing as non-adults, and humiliation, the British Internet filter has seen more esoteric content blocked from British shores. Objectionable material such as, “anorexia and eating disorder websites,” “web forums,” “web blocking circumvention tools”, and the oddly categorized, “esoteric material” are also included in the filter.

A site built by the Open Rights Group is currently tracking which ISPs blocking which domains. http://ccc.de is currently blocked by ISPs Three and Vodafone. Interestingly, this site – Hackaday – is blocked by the ‘Moderate’ British Telecom filter. The ‘Light’ BT filter – and all other British ISPs – still somehow let Hackaday through, despite posts about building shotguns cropping up from time to time.

UPDATE: Upon reflection, it comes to my attention that Brits have a choice of ISP.

HackRF Blue

For anyone getting into the world of Software Defined Radio, the first purchase should be an RTL-SDR TV tuner. With a cheap, $20 USB TV tuner, you can listen to just about anything between 50 and 1750 MHz. You can’t send, the sample rate isn’t that great, but this USB dongle gives you everything you need to begin your explorations of the radio spectrum.

Your second Software Defined Radio purchase is a matter of contention. There are a lot of options out there for expanding a rig, and the HackRF is a serious contender to expand an SDR rig. You get 10 MHz to 6 Gigahertz operating frequency, 20 million samples per second, and the ability to transmit. You have your license, right?

Unfortunately the HackRF is a little expensive and is unavailable everywhere. [Gareth] is leading the charge and producing the HackRF Blue, a cost-reduced version of the HackRF designed by [Michael Ossmann].

The HackRF Blue’s feature set is virtually identical, and the RF performance is basically the same: both the Blue and the HackRF One can get data from 125kHz RFID cards. All software and firmware is interchangeable. If you were waiting on another run of the HackRF, here ‘ya go.

[Gareth] and the HackRF Blue team are doing something rather interesting with their crowdfunding campaign: they’re giving away Blues to underprivileged hackerspaces, with hackerspaces from Togo, Bosnia, Iran, India, and Detroit slated to get a HackRF Blue if the campaign succeeds.

Thanks [Praetorian] and [Brendan] for sending this in.

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Fixing A Multimeter’s Serial Interface

[Shane] bought a multimeter with the idea of using its serial output as a source for data logging. A multimeter with a serial port is a blessing, but it’s still RS-232 with bipolar voltage levels. Some modifications to the meter were required to get it working with a microcontroller, and a few bits of Python needed to be written, but [Shane] is getting useful data out of his meter.

The meter in question is a Tenma 72-7735, a lower end model that still somehow has an opto-isolated serial output. Converting the bipolar logic to TTL logic was as easy as desoldering the photodiode from the circuit and tapping the serial data out from that.

With normal logic levels, the only thing left to do was to figure out how to read the data the meter was sending. It’s a poorly documented system, but [Shane] was able to find some documentation for this meter. Having a meter output something sane, like the freaking numbers displayed on the meter would be far too simple for the designers of this tool. Instead, the serial port outputs the segments of the LCD displayed. It’s all described in a hard to read table, but [Shane] was able to whip up a little bit of Python to parse the serial stream.

It’s only a work in progress – [Shane] plans to do data logging with a microcontroller some time in the future, but at least now he has a complete understanding on how this meter works. He can read the data straight off the screen, and all the code to have a tiny micro parse this data.

MicroDMA and LEDs

[Jordan] has been playing around with WS2812b RGB LED strips with TI’s Tiva and Stellaris Launchpads. He’s been using the SPI lines to drive data to the LED strip, but this method means the processor is spending a lot of time grabbing data from a memory location and shuffling it out the SPI output register. It’s a great opportunity to learn about the μDMA available on these chips, and to write a library that uses DMA to control larger numbers of LEDs than a SPI peripheral could handle with a naive bit of code.

DMA is a powerful tool – instead of wasting processor cycles on moving bits back and forth between memory and a peripheral, the DMA controller does the same thing all by its lonesome, freeing up the CPU to do real work. TI’s Tiva C series and Stellaris LaunchPads have a μDMA controller with 32 channels, each of which has four unique hardware peripherals it can interact with or used for DMA transfer.

[Jordan] wrote a simple library that can be used to control a chain of WS2812b LEDs using the SPI peripheral. It’s much faster than transferring bits to the SPI peripheral with the CPU, and updating the frames for the LED strip are easier; new frames of a LED animation can be called from the main loop, or the DMA can just start again, without wasting precious CPU cycles updating some LEDs.

Generating Laser Cut Boxes in C

[Mike] is a laser cutting newbie and has never had the opportunity to create a file and send it off to a laser for cutting. He knew he didn’t want to squint at a CAD package, nudging lines by tenths of a millimeter, only to screw something up and have to do it all over again. His solution, like so many other automation tasks, was to create a program that would generate a box of any size in .SVG format.

[Mike]’s program runs in C, and only requires a few variables set in the program to create a box of any size. There’s no argc or argv for the program – the one thing that would turn this into a command line utility that simply creates SVG boxes. Perhaps another time.

The rest of [Mike]’s hackerspace, Fab Lab xChc, was impressed the program worked the first time. With this small bit of C code, [Mike] has an easy, simple tool to generate laser cut boxes. The only remotely complicated bit of C this program uses is printf(), so even an Arduino can spit out the SVG for a laser cut box.