ReSCan — Automated Resistor Identification!

resistor id

Need a quick and easy way to sort through a few hundred random resistors? You could do them one at a time by reading the color codes yourself… or you could get a machine to do it for you!

When [Robert] was faced with a pile of unsorted resistors he quickly decided he did not have the patience to sort them manually. So, he started by writing an Android app using OpenCV to detect and identify resistor color codes. The problem is, most phones have trouble focusing at short distances — and since resistors are so small, holding the phone farther back results in color rings only being a few pixels wide — not the greatest for image recognition!

So, he started again on his computer, using a cheap LED-lit webcam instead. He wrote the app in java so he could re-use parts of the code from the Android app. It seems to work pretty well — check it out in the following video! This would be perfect to pair up with your illuminated storage bin hack.

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Light Your Way to the Correct Resistor

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Who doesn’t have issues with component storage (seriously, tell us your secret in the comments)? IF you can get your spare parts organized, it’s still quite difficult to figure out where you actually squirreled them away. Labeling drawers is one thing, but what if you have hundreds or thousands of drawers (we’re looking at you, every Hackerspace that’s been around for more than a few months). This project adds a digital cue to well-organized parts storage by lighting up the component drawer for stock selected from your computerized inventory (translated).

The idea is that all of your parts are assigned a drawer space on the computer. When you go into the index and select a part, the assigned drawer is illuminated by an LED. The setup here is a breakout board for an I2C LED driver which interfaces with a Raspberry Pi, but the concept should be easy to implement with just about any system.

Need help getting to the point where you’re organized enough to implement this? So do we. Maybe revisiting this storage roundup will help.

Shenzhen Tour and UnHuman Soldering Classes with DP

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If you’re free the first week of April and don’t mind sitting on a plane for a looooong time you should check out the Hacker Camp that Dangerous Prototypes is planning. We’re sure you remember [Ian Lesnet] who is a Hackaday Alum, creator of the Bus Pirate, and geeky world traveler. Now’s your chance to try out what to him is a way of life.

The event is April 3-5 in Shenzhen, China. Although marketed as a “Hacker Camp”, to us it sounds more like training for those interested in running hardware companies that use the Shenzhen manufacturing district as the anchor of their supply chain. Part of the prep-work for the trip includes submitting board files which will be fabbed and ready for you on the first day. [Ian] and his crew will be your guides for the culture of the area; complete with meals and bar time. But there are also soldering workshops as part of the package. Don’t pooh-pooh the idea. This is unhuman soldering… BGA and QFN soldering instruction from the people who repair cellphones and other microelectronics.

This [Rick Steves] style adventure is the first that we remember hearing about that targets the open hardware community. But we must admit, it sounds like a lot more fun than a European river cruise!

[Thanks Akiba]

Pneumatic Powered Flight Simulator

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Remember that feature a few days ago about the Cessna 172 flight simulator? It was pretty awesome. But do you know what it was missing? It was missing this. A fully motion-controlled, pneumatically driven, flight simulator cockpit.

[Dominick Lee] is a high school senior, and he was able to whip together this awesome flight simulator made out of PVC pipe, pneumatic cylinders, an Arduino, a projector, and a gaming PC — in just a few months time! He calls it the LifeBeam Flight Simulator, and he’s released all the information required to make one yourself.

It’s most similar to a Stewart platform simulator, which features 2 degrees of freedom, but instead of 6 actuators, this one runs on only two pneumatic cylinders. It works by exporting the roll and pitch (X and Y) data from the game, and then parsing it to an Arduino which controls the pneumatic valve amplifier, powering the cylinders.

It’s an amazing project, and it sounds like [Dominick] had an awesome physics professor, [Dr. Bert Pinsky], to help mentor him. Don’t forget to check out the demonstration video!

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Plastic Recycling at Home Promises a Revolution In Local Plastic Production

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[Dave Hakkens] graduated from the Design Academy of Eindhoven and decided to try his hand at making affordable plastic recycling machines.

His reasoning?

“We recycle just 10% [of waste plastic],” says Hakkens. “I wondered why we recycle so little so I investigated it. I went to all these companies and I realized that they don’t really want to use recycled plastic. So I wanted to make my own tools so I could use recycled plastic locally.”

Typical plastic production, like injection molding, uses very large and expensive machines — so expensive that most of the time, companies don’t want to risk using inferior recycled plastic, as it might damage the machine, or slow production time. Not convinced that recycled plastic is “inferior”, [Dave] has built his own line of machines capable of making recycled plastic parts.

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Building a Cessna 172 Simulator

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As anyone who has downloaded Microsoft Flight Simulator X or X-Plane knows, piloting an aircraft using a keyboard and mouse just doesn’t work. If you’re going to get in to the world of flight simulators, it’s best to go all-in. [Stevenarango] knows this and built a great Cessna 172 cockpit for his personal use.

All the gauges, instrument panels, and controls are from Saitek, one of the best manufacturers of home/hobbyist flight controls. The instruments were mounted on a 5mm piece of PVC, which is mounted on a C172 cockpit-sized wooden frame. All the instruments, from the throttle, pedals, yoke, trim wheel, individual LCD steam gauges, and multi panel are driven by USB.

As for the actual simulation, [Steven] is using a fairly powerful computer running Flight Simulator X with dual monitors – one for the glass cockpit and another for the windscreen. It’s not quite the same scale as building a 737 in your garage, but it’s more than sufficient for an awesome flight simulator experience at home.

Free Falling Quadcopter Experiments End With Splat

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Don’t get too attached to the great picture up above, as the quad shooting it was in a death plunge when the frame was snapped. There’s just something tempting about free fall. Nearly every tri/quad/hex/multicopter pilot has the impulse to chop the throttle while flying around. Most quadcopters are fixed pitch, which means that as power drops, so does control authority. When power is cut, they fall like stones. A quick throttle chop usually results in a few feet of lost altitude and a quickened pulse for the pilot. Cut power for much longer than that, and things can get really interesting.  [RcTestFlight] decided to study free fall in depth, and modified a test bed quadcopter just for this purpose.

First, a bit of a primer on free-falling quadcopters and their power systems.  Quadcopters always have two motors spinning clockwise, and two spinning counterclockwise. This configuration counters torque and allows for yaw control. Most large quads these days use sensorless brushless motors, which can be finicky about startup conditions. Brushless controllers are generally programmed to kick a motor into spinning in the proper direction. If a motor is spinning in reverse at several hundred RPM, things can get interesting. There will often be several seconds of stuttering before the motor starts up, if it starts at all. The controller MOSFETS can even be destroyed in cases like this.

When a quadcopter loses power, the motors slow down and thrust drops off. The quad begins to drop. As the falling quadcopter picks up speed, the propellers begin to spin (windmill) due to the air rushing up from below. If the quadcopter started its fall in a normal attitude, all four of  the propellers will rotate reverse of its normal direction.  The now spinning props will actually act as something of an air brake, slowing the fall of the quad. This is similar to a falling maple seed, or autorotation in a helicopter.  The spinning blades will also act as gyroscopes, which will add some level of stabilization to the falling quadcopter. Don’t get us wrong – the quadcopter can still be unstable as it falls, generally bobbing and weaving through the air. None of this is a guarantee that the quad won’t tip over onto its back – which will reverse the entire process.  Through all of this bobbing, weaving, and falling the flight controller has been along for the ride. Most flight controllers we’ve worked with have not been programmed with free fall in mind, so there is no guarantee that they will come back on-line when the throttle is rolled on. Thankfully many controllers are open source, so testing and changes are only a matter of risking your quadcopter.

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