Preparing Images for Laser Etching Isn’t That Hard

Sometimes we forget how awesome laser cutters really are. After all, they’re essentially giant plotters that shoot infrared lasers to cut and engrave almost anything. Most of the time, we’ll use the cutting feature in order to make rapid prototypes for different projects. We might engrave a logo or text on there too — but with a bit of image pre-processing, you can actually etch grey scale images that look really good.

[miststlkr] has been experimenting with different processes to get the best engraving, and he’s decided to share his findings. He’s created a guide on Instructables, and it’s a pretty quick read. You’re going to need some image editing software, for which [miststlkr] recommends Gimp — as do we.

From there it’s just a matter of a few steps to simplify the image. Start by converting the image to indexed colors — this limits the number of colors the image can have, he recommends limiting to about 4 colors for now. From there, convert to grey scale and import into your favorite laser software. Now it’s time to start testing.

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Adding A Fan Where Microsoft Should Have

The Xbox 360 is a great console. But unfortunately, some units are quite susceptible to overheating, resulting in the horrifying red ring of death (or RROD for short!). Sometimes the damage is done, and you’re pretty much out of luck. But if it’s a two light RROD (indicating inadequate cooling), there’s something you can do to save it. It’s simple — just add a fan.

If your unit is showing the two light RROD, open up the Xbox and take a look at the main heat-sink. You’re probably going to have to re-seat it with new thermal paste due to heat overload. That’ll fix your problem for a bit, but it’s more than likely going to happen again.

[Doyle] did this and it solved the RROD — but checking temperatures, he saw that the chip still hit about 80C in less than 30 seconds of being on! So he decided to add an extra fan.

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Coffee Straight From The Tap

Do you love coffee? Of course you do. Do you sometimes wish you could drink coffee instead of water? Do you want to void the warranty on your hot water heater? Yes? Well, then we have the hack for you!

A Norweigan science show called Ikke gjør dette hjemme (Do Not Try This at Home) decided it would be fun to see what would happen if you turned your hot water heater into a giant coffee machine. They didn’t put much effort into the conversion, in fact, they just opened up the tank and poured copious amounts of instant coffee into the tank. But they did it, and that saves us from wondering if it’s possible. Spoiler: It is.

Stick around after the break to see the water run brown — in a good way.

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Diamond Hotend Opens the Color Gamut for 3D Printing

It’s safe to say we’ve hit a bit of a plateau with hobby based 3D printers using FDM technology. Print quality is pretty high, they’re about as fast as they’re going to get, and compared to commercial machines they’re a pretty good bang for your buck. So what’s next? What about printing in color?

diamondhotend-1It is possible to print in color using a regular 3D printer and a bit of patience, but it’s really not economical or efficient. We’ve seen multiple extruder heads for 3D printing as well, but there are many problems with that due to calibration and trailing plastic from one head to another. So what if you could feed multiple color filaments into a single mixing head?

Well, it turns out you can. Earlier this year RepRap ran a Kickstarter for the development of the Diamond Hotend —  a single nozzle multi-color extruder. It’s in production now and appears to work quite well. It’s also compatible with many 3D printers as long as the motherboard has triple extruder support.

However, the big question remains — how do you program a colored print? Using Repetier Host actually. You’ll need to export your 3D model in the .AMF file format, but once you do, you’ll be able to configure it for a color print job inside Repetier Host.

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In Soviet Russia, Drink Serves You

There’s just something about having an automatic bartending machine that screams “we’re in the future now” — and it’s a future we approve of. This project is called the Alkomat (Google Translate), and it’s a handy little machine capable of mixing drinks for five people at a time.

Inspired by the RumBot, [Strn] wanted to practice his hand at hardware integration and product development from idea to creation — and just looking at some of the photos of this, he did a damn good job.

On the inside of Alkomat is a recycled inkjet XY carriage which can index on each of the five drinks. A series of four tubes feed up to peristaltic pumps that provide alcohol from the bar rack. Once he had the hardware sorted out and operational, he set out to make the machine look as presentable as possible. Using a mixture of counter-tops and laminated wood panels from furniture, he’s boxed up the whole thing and made it look like something you might actually be able to buy from a store — maybe IKEA?

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Being Hit in the Virtual World

Virtual reality could be the next big thing in the gaming world. And while VR displays and headsets are getting more and more sophisticated, many are forgetting perhaps the biggest feature VR will need to succeed — haptic feedback. [Pedro Lopes], [Alexandra Ion] and [Prof. Patric Baudisch] from the Hasso Plattner Institute is hoping to change that, with a project called Impacto: Simulating Physical Impact by Combining Tactile with Electrical Muscle Stimulation.

We’ve covered lots of haptic feedback devices over the past few years — some use mini gyros to simulate resistance, others blow air on you, but this is the first time we’ve seen one that combines muscle stimulation to really cause a physical effect.

They’re using an Oculus rift, and a Microsoft Kinect to perform the research. For their demonstration they use a basic boxing game that allows the user to feel the computer’s punches — but don’t worry, it doesn’t hit that hard!

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Optimizing Crop Yield With IoT

For a recent hackathon, a group of strangers (now friends!) created Crop Squares — a system designed to optimize crop yield by better tracking weather and soil conditions.

The event was hosted in Madrid called Future Hacks Internet of Things Edition, with the goal to build disruptive IoT solutions to help change the world. In 54 hours.

The concept behind crop squares is to make a graphical user interface using Dizmo that clearly shows the status of your crops in a grid system. For the prototype they used an Arduino Pro Mini with moisture sensors in potted plants to detect moisture levels, while a Raspberry Pi also collected weather data for the area being watched. The Arduino used an ESP8266 WiFi module to transmit the data remotely. To demonstrate how the system could be used in an automated sense, they hooked up another Arduino (this time a Leonardo), to pour water once the moisture levels dropped below a certain threshold.

Crop Squares won the Best Pitch Award as well as the Best Integration of Dizmo — good job guys!

Speaking of moisture sensors — did you know you can build your own using some plaster of paris and nails?