THP Semifinalist: Retro Populator, A Pick And Place Retrofit For A 3D Printer

retro

A huge theme of The Hackaday Prize entries is making assembly of electronics projects easier. This has come in the form of soldering robots, and of course pick and place machines. One of the best we’ve seen is the Retro Populator, a project by [Eric], [Charles], [Adam], and [Rob], members of the Toronto Hacklab. It’s a machine that places electronic components on a PCB with the help of a 3D printer

The Retro Populator consists of two major parts: the toolhead consists of a needle and vacuum pump for picking up those tiny surface mount parts. This is attaches to a quick mount bolted right to the extruder of a 3D printer. The fixture board attaches to the bed of a 3D printer and includes tape rails, cam locks, and locking arms for holding parts and boards down firmly.

The current version of the Retro Populator, with its acrylic base and vacuum pen, is starting to work well. The future plans include tape feeders, a ‘position confirm’ ability, and eventually part rotation. It’s a very cool device, and the ability to produce a few dozen prototypes in an hour would be a boon for hackerspaces the world over.

You can check out a few videos of the Retro Populator below.


SpaceWrencherThe project featured in this post is a semifinalist in The Hackaday Prize. 

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Homemade Superhero: [James'] DIY Exoskeleton

 

Exoskeleton Lift

We’re not just a bunch of monkeys with typewriters here at Hackaday; we don our hacker hat whenever our schedules allow. Or, in the case of Hackaday’s own [James Hobson]—aka [The Hacksmith]—he dons this slick exoskeleton prototype instead,turning himself into a superhero. Inspired by the exoskeleton from the film Elysium, this project puts [James] one step closer to the greater goal of creating an Iron Man-style suit.

For now, though, the exoskeleton is impressive enough on its own. The build is a combination of custom-cut perforated steel tubing and pneumatic cylinders, attached to a back braces of sorts. In the demonstration video, [James] stares down 170 pounds of cinder block affixed to a barbell, and although he’s no lightweight, you can tell immediately from his reaction how much assistance the exoskeleton provides as [James] curls the makeshift weights over and over. And that’s only at half pressure. [James] thinks he could break the 300 pound mark of lifting if he didn’t break his legs first.

There’s plenty of behind-the-scenes footage of the build process to be had, so make sure you stick around after the jump for a sizable helping of videos, and check out [The Hacksmith's] website for more of his projects.

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Why Are We Limited to Just C-Clamps?

Alphabet Clamps

For decades, nay, centuries, we have been limited to the C-clamp, one of the most versatile, useful and perhaps most recognized tool. But why does C get all the glory? What of the other 25 letters?

People of my generation, my father’s generation, and my grandfather’s generations have clamped with one letter, and one letter only. But why C? And why now?

Here at Clamp-Co we thought we needed a change. So we set out to develop an entire line of Alphabet Clamps.

[Robb Godshaw] is the mastermind behind this revolution in clamping technology. Designed to German standards (DIN 1451), and made in America, the Alphabet Clamp set provides unrivaled clamping functionality for work in the industry, at the shop, or even at home. Perhaps the most functional previously unheard-of clamp is the U-Clamp, providing a deep throat for those extra hard to reach parts.

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PID Controlled Glue Gun

Internals of a glue gun controlled with a PID controller

Hot glue falls into the same category of duct tape and zip ties as a versatile material for fixing anything that needs to be stuck together. [Ed]‘s Bosch glue gun served him well, but after a couple of years the temperature regulation stopped working. Rather than buying a new one, he decided to rip it apart.

With the old temperature regulation circuit cooked, [Ed] looked around for something better on eBay. He came across a cheap PID temperature controller, and the Frankengluegun was born.

A thermocouple, affixed with some kapton tape and thermal paste, was used to measure the temperature of the barrel. Power for the glue gun was routed through the PID controller, which uses PWM to accurately controller the temperature. All the wiring could even be routed through the original cord grips for a clean build.

Quality glue guns with accurate temperature control are quite pricey. This solution can be added on to a glue gun for less than $30, and the final product looks just as good.

Circuit Printer Doubles as a Pick and Place

Squink PCB printer and Pick and Place

Prototyping circuits is still a pain. The typical process is to order your PCBs, await their arrival, hand assemble a board, and start testing. It’s time consuming, and typically takes at least a week to go from design to prototype.

The folks at BotFactory are working on fixing that with the Squink (Kickstarter warning). This device not only prints PCBs, but also functions as a pick and place. Rather than using solder, the device uses conductive glue to affix components to the substrate.

This process also allows for a wide range of substrates. Traditional FR4 works, but glass and flexible substrates can work too. They’re also working on using an insulating ink for multilayer boards.

While there are PCB printers out there, and the home etching process always works, building the board is only half the battle. Hand assembly using smaller components is slow, and is prone to mistakes. If this device is sufficiently accurate, it could let us easily prototype complex packages such as BGAs, which are usually a pain.

Of course it has its limitations. The minimum trace width is 10 mils, which is a bit large. Also at $2600, this is an expensive device to buy sight unseen. While it is a Kickstarter, it’d be nice to see an all in one device that can prototype circuits quickly and cheaply.

Hydroforming in the Garage with a Pressure Washer

metal pillow

Ever heard of hydroforming? It’s a manufacturing process used to form sheet metal into shapes using water at extremely high pressures. Not something you can do at home… unless of course you’re [Colin Furze].

Hydroforming works by evenly distributing pressure via water (conveniently, in-compressible) against sheet metal inside of a mold. Many automotive parts are created in this fashion. Typical systems run at around 15,000 PSI.

After building a giant pulse jet engine (complete with butt) to fart on France, [Colin] got the idea from a YouTube comment to try to do hydroforming at home — bending the sheet metal for the giant derriere wasn’t that easy. Hydroforming on the other hand is a surprisingly simple process. Weld some sheet metal together, add a pipe fitting to connect your cheap pressure washer and boom — hydoformed metal parts.

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And So Castings Made of (Kinetic) Sand . . . Turn Out Pretty Well, Actually

sand castingThat kinetic sand stuff is pretty cool. It’s soft, it builds motor skills, and outside of sprinkling it on carpet, it’s not messy. If you don’t know, it’s 98% sand and 2% polydimethylsiloxane, which is a major component of Silly Putty, and according to a certain yellow and red clown, it’s safe enough to put in chicken nuggets. [Chris]‘s wife bought him some, probably because she wanted to see him play around with something that isn’t potentially deadly for a change. In the course of researching its magical properties, he found out that it doesn’t really have a thermal breakdown point, per se. At high enough temperatures, It vitrifies like a sand castle in a mushroom cloud. Between this property and its malleability, [Chris] thought he’d have a reasonable substitute for founding sand. As you can see in his latest experiment, he was right. As a bonus, he managed to turn the benign into the dangerous.

[Chris] had never cast aluminium before, so he decided to start small by making an offset cam for a rotary broach. He packed some magic sand in a wax paper cup and shoved the cam in to make the negative. Then he cut down some aluminium rod and put it in a graphite crucible. He stuck his DC arc welder’s electrode down into the crucible and cranked it up to 50A. That wasn’t enough, so he went to 110. The crucible was soon glowing orange. He carefully poured the molten aluminium into the mold. Make the jump to see how it panned out.

Spoiler alert: there’s no cussin’ this time!

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