Easy Multi-Touch Table

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[2bigbros] put up an Instructable on his multi-touch table build. It’s a nice setup, using the typical frustrated total internal reflection method for touch sensing. Tinkerman’s Method was used for the screen itself, which involves rolling silicon onto vellum with a paint roller to improve the bond. [2bigbros] then built a nice aluminum and wooden frame for the whole thing. He’s light on some details, but most people with a basic understanding and Google will be able to figure it out.

This is a very accessible project for most builders. If you’re interested in getting into it, there are plenty of projects to reference. We previously covered the basics, as well as a more involved build. We’ve even seen an interactive tower defense game using multi-touch. If you decide to build one of your own, don’t forget the excellent resource at TUIO for finding frameworks and example implementations.

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Elinchrom EL-Skyport Triggered by Arduino

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[Toby] has an Elinchrom EL-Skyport, which is a wireless flash trigger. He decided to see if he could trigger it using an Arduino, and came up with a nice proof of concept. This little device was not meant to be user serviceable, as can be seen in what [Toby] uncovered while taking it apart. But once he had it disassembled, he cataloged everything inside, and then he awesomely went to the trouble of drawing up a schematic. With that knowledge, he began reverse engineering the SPI protocol used, which almost deserves an article by itself.

It was a long road to get there, but in the end [Toby] built a prototype Arduino shield that houses an nRF24L01+ module. These are very cheap to pick up on eBay. He gives us the details on hooking up the module, though he had to go through extra hoops since he was using the Arduino Leonardo. Still, once you’re up and running, you can make use of one of the existing libraries specifically for this module.

Thanks to his effort, the rest of us have one more device to hack on. Thanks [Toby]!

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Re-purposing an Old Laptop Display

InitsEnvironment[Tim] found himself with a laptop that had a good 18.4″ screen, but otherwise didn’t run properly. It would be a shame to throw that away, so he decided to salvage the screen by turning it into a standalone monitor. This isn’t exactly new, as he did what many people have done and looked to eBay for an after-market LCD controller board. The real beauty is in the enclosure he built. [Tim] had some scrap wood available from a previous project, so he set about designing a new frame for the monitor, and a very nice adjustable stand, as can be seen in the photo above.

One nice detail is in the control panel buttons. The LCD controller comes with a separate board housing the controls, and while he made a mistake mounting it initially, he ended up with a nice set of oak buttons that match the frame perfectly. He then built a nice backing out of styrene that holds the screen in place as well as housing the electronics.

Overall, it’s a nice looking project, and it is always nice to see electronics re-purposed rather than ending up in a landfill. We can’t help but think this would be a great frame for building a picture frame or a wall-mounted PC as well.

The World’s First Autonomous Flapping MAV

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[Ferdinand] sent in a tip about the very cool DelFly Explorer, built by researchers at Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology, which is claimed to be the world’s first autonomous, flapping micro air vehicle. While it doesn’t fly like a typical ornithopter, the specs will convince you not to care. It has an 28 cm wingspan and weighs 20 grams, which includes motors, a battery, two cameras, and an autopilot. The autopilot uses accelerometers and a gyroscope, plus a barometer for altitude measurement. You can see the on-board video at the 35-second mark on the video (after the break). They are incredibly noisy images, but apparently the researchers have come up with some algorithms that can make sense of it.

Put it all together, and you have a machine that can take off, maintain altitude, avoid obstacles, and fly for nine minutes. We’ve seen a cool ornithopter design before, and even a thrust vectoring plane, but this surpasses both projects. It’s pretty incredible what they have been able to fit into such a small design.

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Repairing a Non-Serviceable Welding Hood

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[Unixgeek] owns an Optrel welding hood, which contains a lens that auto-adjusts for various welding tasks. It stopped working properly, and this hood is “Non-Serviceable”, so he had to either throw it away or hack it. The problem was that he knew it contained batteries, but they weren’t accessible. Using his milling machine, he was able to fix it himself. After removing the outer layer of plastic [Unixgeek] found that it was filled with foam. With continued milling he finally uncovered the batteries. They are standard CR2330 cells, so he could easily replace them, or set up a separate battery holder.

We like seeing this sort of hack, as simple as it is, because of how much we truly hate devices with planned obsolescence built in. This is a >$300 safety device that gets broken when some coin cells finally die. Any sort of hack to keep people from having to throw away their devices is a good thing.

Do you have a favorite planned obsolescence hack? Share it in the comments!

Quick Candy Sorting Machine


OCD. Sometimes things just get to you, like those pesky bags of randomly assorted candies. [Torsten] decided to build a sorting machine capable of sorting Skittles or M&Ms into separate cups by color at around 80 pieces per minute. It’s a great implementation, using an Arduino Duo. He based the code on the principles of a finite-state machine, in order to make it as quick as possible.

It works as you would expect: When a candy piece is loaded, the color is determined using an RGB sensor. A 360-degree servo is used to move the chute to the proper position, and interestingly, the system preemptively releases the candy before the chute is in position in order to maximize the speed. If you watch closely, you can see this behavior in the video (embedded after the break).

[Torsten] includes a complete bill of materials, if you’d like to try it for yourself. He also included a list of possible improvements.

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3D Scanner Using a Sharp Infrared Sensor

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[Fernando] sent in a tip about a pet project he’s been working on. It’s an interesting take on a 3D scanner. He used a stepper motor to rotate the object being scanned, and an Arduino for control, but the real novelty is the way he used the sensor. [Fernando] mounted a Sharp GP2D120X on vertical surface, and used a second stepper motor to raise the sensor during the scan. As you can see in the videos (embedded after the break), this results in the scan being put together in an ascending spiral.

The Sharp sensor is cheap and decent, but you’re obviously not going to get amazing accuracy. Still, using the average of several measurements, he ends up with a decent result. Happily, [Fernando] has released the code, and it should be easy enough to repurpose it with a more accurate sensor. It would be interesting to see a laser-based sensor paired with this code.

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