Maywa Denki’s Nonsense Machines

We just spent a few hours trying to figure out Japanese techno-performance-art-toy company [Maywa Denki]. As self-described “parallel-world electricians”, the small art collective turns out strange electro-mechanical instruments, creates bellows-powered “singing” sculptures, and puts on concerts/demos/lectures. And if you desperately need an extension cord in the shape of a fish skeleton, [Maywa Denki] has you covered. Writing about art is like dancing about economics, so first we’ll just drop a few of our favorites and let you decide.

On the serious art front are “nonsense machines” like SeaMoonsII and Wahha Go Go. The most iconic performance piece is probably the Pachi-Moku, a set of finger-snap-activated wooden gongs mounted on anime-style wings. And then there are “toys” like Mr. Knocky and the Otamatone, here demonstrated playing some DEVO.

There’s a lot going on here. The blue suits of the assembly-line worker, the back story as a small-electronics “company”, and the whole art-as-commodity routine is a put into contrast with the mad-inventor schtick make sense both as a reaction against conformist, corporatist postwar Japanese culture or as a postmodern hat-tip to the realities of the modern art scene. But mostly, what comes across is the feeling that [Novmichi Tosa], the “president” of [Maywa Denki] just loves to make crazy gizmos.

How else do you explain the gas-powered, chomping mouth-full-of-knives, Poodle’s Head?

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Measuring Air Flow with Ultrasonic Sensors

Measuring air flow in an HVAC duct can be a tricky business. Paddle wheel and turbine flow meters introduce not only resistance but maintenance issue due to accumulated dust and debris. Being able to measure ducted airflow cheaply and non-intrusively, like with this ultrasonic flow meter, could be a big deal for DIY projects and the trades in general.

The principle behind the sensor [ItMightBeWorse] is working on is nothing new. He discovered a paper from 2015 that describes the method that measures the change in time-of-flight of an ultrasonic pulse across a moving stream of air in a duct. It’s another one of those “Why didn’t I think of that?” things that makes perfect sense in theory, but takes some engineering to turn into a functional sensor. [ItMightBeWorse] is using readily available HC-SR04 sensor boards and has already done a proof-of-concept build. He’s getting real numbers back and getting close to a sensor that will go into an HVAC automation project. The video below shows his progress to date and hints at a follow-up video with more results soon.

Here’s wishing [ItMightBeWorse] the best of luck with his build. But if things go sideways, he might look to our post-mortem of a failed magnetic flow meter for inspiration.

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Rapidly Prototyping RF Filters

RF filters are really just a handful of strategically placed inductors and capacitors. Yes, you can make a 1 GHz filter out of through-hole components, but the leads on the parts turn into inductors at those frequencies, completely ruining the expected results in a design.

The solution to this is microstrip antennas, or carefully arranged tracks and pads on a PCB. Anyone can build one of these with Eagle or KiCad, but that means waiting for an order from a board house to verify your design. [VK2SEB] has a better idea for prototyping PCB filters: use copper tape on blank FR4 sheets.

The first, and simplest, filter demonstrated is a simple bandstop filter. This is really just a piece of fiberglass with copper laminated to one side. Two RF connectors are soldered to the edges and a strip of copper tape strung between them. Somewhere around the middle of this copper tape, [VK2SEB] put another strip of copper tape in a ‘T’ configuration. This is the simplest bandstop filter you can make, and the beauty of this construction is that it can be tuned with a razor blade.

Of course, a filter can only be built with copper tape if you can design them, and for that [SEB] is turning to software. The Qucs project is a software tool for designing and simulating these microstrip filters, and after inputting the correct parameters, [SEB] got a nice diagram of what the filter should look like. A bit of taping, razor blading, and soldering and [SEB] had a working filter connected to a spectrum analyzer. Did it work? To a limited extent; the PCB material probably wasn’t right, and board houses are more accurate than a razor blade, but [SEB] did manage to create a 10 GHz filter out of fiberglass and copper tape.

You can check out the video for this experiment below.

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How To Turn An Animation Into A Soap Bubble Machine

Post an animation on Reddit of a workable machine that looks neat and does something cool and the next day someone will have built it. That’s what happened when [The-Big-Ship] uploaded an animation of a clever bubble making machine — though we had to look twice to convince ourselves that it wasn’t real. The next day [Over_Engineered_2] posted a video of his working one.

We often hear that you need precision CAD software such as Solidworks and AutoCAD to design a functional machine but the animation was done using Cinema 4D, used for films such as Iron Man 3 and Tron: Legacy. This shows that you can at least get a reassurance that the basic mechanics will fit and move together without having to design precision parts.

That’s not to say that reality didn’t interfere with implementing it though. In [Over_Engineered_2]’s video below he points out that the bigger ring of the original animation didn’t work with his small motor and propeller, and had to switch to the smaller ring. Also, note that the ring needed guide rails on the sides to keep it from twisting, something a real world ignoring animation can get away without. Check out the videos below to see the two in action.

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The Tuna Fish Sandwich Foundry

Can you build a foundry out of a loaf of bread and a can of tuna fish? As it turns out, yes you can. And not only can you melt aluminum in said foundry but you can also make a mold from plain beach sand and cast a usable part.

Through the magic of backwoods engineering and that can-do Canadian attitude, [AvE] demonstrates in his inimitable style how a pyrolized loaf of sourdough bread can serve as a perfectly acceptable foundry, using a tuna can as a crucible. We covered [AvE]’s carbon foam creation process before and showed some of its amazing properties, including the refractory characteristics requisite for foundry service. Once reduced to carbon foam, the bread can easily handle the flame of a propane torch and contain the heat long enough to melt aluminum. And using nothing more than beach sand, [AvE] was able to lost-foam cast a knob-like part. Pretty impressive results for such a low-end, field expedient setup.

Normally we warn our more tender-eared readers about [AvE]’s colorful language, lest they succumb to the vapors when he lets the salt out. But he showed remarkable restraint with this one, even with his cutting mat aflame. Pretty SFW, so enjoy seeing what you can do with nothing.

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World’s Largest Super Soaker is Dangerously Good Clean Fun

Running around while dousing each other with Super Soakers and screaming in delight is de rigueur on suburban lawns on hot summer days, but if you build this giant replica of a Super Soaker that can double as a pressure washer, you might have the upper edge on the neighborhood gang.

You may remember [Mark Rober] from such projects as his bullseye-catching dart board and his previous entry in the awesome uncle of the year awards, the fully automatic snowball gun. We’re not entirely sure that this seven-foot long replica of the original Super Soaker will win him any uncle or neighbor plaudits, given that it the stream it produces is not far off of what a pressure washer can manage and can literally slice a watermelon in half. Fortunately, [Mark] included swappable nozzles to reduce the pressure enough that relatively safe dousing is still on the table. The housing is a pretty accurate plywood and foam replica of the original toy, but the mechanism is beefed up considerably — a pair of nitrogen tanks, some regulators, and a solenoid valve. See the gun in all its window-smashing, kid-soaking glory in the video after the break.

We realize [Mark]’s build is just a fun way to beat the heat, but it gives us a few ideas for more practical uses. Maybe a DIY water-jet cutter that’s not built around a pressure washer?

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Push Button, Receive Beverage!

Here’s a rec-room ready hack: an automatic drink dispenser.

[truebassB]’s dispenser operates around a 555 timer, adjusted by a potentiometer. Push a button and a cup pours in a few seconds, or hold the other button to dispense as much as you want.

The dispenser is made from MDF and particle board glued together, with some LEDs and paper prints to spruce it up. Just don’t forget a small spill sink for any miscalculated pours. You needn’t fret over the internals either, as the parts are easily acquired: a pair of momentary switches, a 12V micro air pump, a brass nozzle, food-safe pvc tube,  a custom 555 timing circuit — otherwise readily available online — a toggle switch, a power supply plug plus adapter and a 12V battery.

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