Spot Welder; Don’t Buy It, Build It

Spot Welder

Spot welders are super handy for making sheet metal enclosures for your projects. The problem is, commercial ones are rather expensive… The good news is, they’re actually really easy to make! This is [Caio Paulucci's] first submission to Hack a Day, and it was a weekend project him and his father just finished.

A spot welder works by dissipating large amounts of heat in between two electrodes in the material you are bonding. It makes use of a transformer that converts mains voltage to a very low voltage, but high current energy source. The cool thing with this type of welder is it’s perfectly safe to hold onto the electrodes as the voltage is so low, you won’t get electrocuted. By running a super high current (generally >1000A @ ~1-2V) through a small surface area, you can super heat most materials hot enough to weld them together.

They can be made using the transformer from a microwave, some heavy duty welding wire (generally 2/0 or thicker), and a few other odds and ends such as wood, electrodes, and maybe a few nuts and bolts. At the most basic level, you are basically re-wrapping the transformer’s secondary coils to change the ratio to produce a low voltage, high current transformer.

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CERN Shows Off New KiCad Module Editor

Photo from video demo of new KiCad module editor

CERN, the people that run a rather large particle collider, have just announced their most recent contributions to the KiCad project. This work focused on adding new features to the module editor, which is used to create footprints for parts.

The update includes support for DXF files, which will make it easy to import part drawings, or use external tools for more complex designs. New distribute tools make it easy to space out pads evenly. The copy and paste function now allows you to set a reference point, making it easy to align blocks. Finally, the pad enumeration tool lets you quickly set pin numbers.

CERN has already implemented a new graphics engine for KiCad, and demonstrated a new push and shove routing tool. The work plan for CERN’s KiCad contributions shows their long term goals. If you’re interested in what CERN is doing with KiCad, you can check out the CERN KiCad Developers Team on Launchpad.

After the break, watch a quick run through of the new features.

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Proper Debugging for Energia Sketches

Moving a sketch from Energia to Code Composer Studio

Energia is a tool that brings the Arduino and Wiring framework to Texas Instruments’ MSP430 microcontrollers and the MSP430 Launchpad development board. This allows for easy development in an Arduino-like environment while targeting a different microcontroller family.

One problem with Energia and Arduino is the difficulty of debugging. Usually, we’re stuck putting a Serial.println(); and watching the serial port to trace what our program is doing. Other options include blinking LEDs, or using external displays.

Code Composer Studio, TI’s official development tool, allows for line-by-line debugging of applications. You can set breakpoints, watch the value of variables, and step through an application one instruction at a time.

The good news is that the latest version of Code Composer Studio supports importing Energia sketches. Once imported, you can step through the code and easily debug your application. This is a huge help to people developing more complex software using Energia, such as libraries.

TI gives us an overview of the new feature in a video after the break.

[Thanks to Adrian for the tip!]

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Piles Of Foam With A Hot Wire Slicer


There are a million things you can do with foam, from some very impressive RC airplanes, all the way up to full-scale planes you can fly off into the wild blue yonder. Cutting foam, though, that’s a problem, and your best option is usually a hot wire foam cutter. [Darcy] put up some plans for a very nice bow cutter, but there’s also some experimentation for a foam slicer – a hot wire machine that takes a foam part and slices it like a smokehouse ham.

The bow-style cutter features laser cut parts, a pair of 1/4-20 bolts, a power supply, and about a foot of nichrome wire. It’s the bare minimum for cutting foam, but it seems to work really, really well.

The hot wire foam slicer is a much more interesting contraption, capable of making multiple thin sheets out of foam. Basically, it’s a laser cut tray with a bolt hole pattern running along the sides. Put two bolts along the side, loop some nichrome wire around the screw flights, and you have a way to cut foam in thicknesses of about 1/20th of an inch. Great if you’re trying to skin a model in very thin depron, or you just can’t find the right thickness of foam for your project.

Solderdoodle is an Open Source, USB Rechargable Soldering Iron


Battery powered soldering irons are nothing new, but what about a soldering iron that can recharge via USB? [Solarcycle] realized that it might be handy to be able to recharge a portable soldering iron using such a ubiquitous connector and power source, so he developed the Solderdoodle.

The core component of the Solderdoodle is a Weller BP645 Soldering Iron. The heating element is removed from the Weller and placed into a custom case. The case is designed to be 3d printed. The STL files for the case are available if you want to make your own.

The Solderdoodle does away with large, disposable batteries and replaces them with a lithium ion battery pack. The battery contains no built-in protection circuitry in order to save space. Instead, this circuit is added later. [Solarcycle] appears to be using a circuit of his own design. The schematic and Gerber’s are available on his website.

The Instructable walks through all of the steps to build one of these yourself if you are so inclined. If you don’t have the spare time, you can fund the project’s Kickstarter and pre-order a production model. It’s always great to see a new commercial product with an open design.

[via Reddit]

Extending EagleCAD With Python

eagleAlthough it’s derided for not being open source, EagleCAD is an extremely popular piece of schematic and PCB layout software. Most of the popularity is probably due to the incredible amount of part libraries – it’s certainly not the features Eagle has to offer or its horrible scripting capabilities. [Rob] had enough of the lack of good scripting support in Eagle, so he’s been spending his time making Eagle’s ULP work with Python. He’s only been at it a short time, but already it’s much more usable than the usual Eagle scripts.

Below you can check out a pair of videos of [Rob]‘s Python tools for Eagle in action. The first video goes through aligning a few symbols and creating a board outline (with proper curves!) from a DXF file. The second video shows exactly how valuable these tools are when laying out a board: imagine hundreds of LEDs and resistors automatically aligned to each other with a single click of a mouse. Beautiful.

All the PyEagle stuff is available on [Rob]‘s github, with a DXF importer, group manager, and alignment tool included. Now that everything’s Python, it’s easy to build your own tools without relying on Eagle’s odd ULP language.

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Pimp My Cutting Fluid Pot

oil pot

Think about the simple tools you use every day. From writing implements to wire spoolers, there is arguably nothing that deserves to be hot rodded more than the things you depend on and might even take for granted.

For mad machinist [Chris], one of those everyday tools is his cutting fluid pot. Of course he already had one. A heavy one. A manly one. But it wasn’t completely ideal, and it wasn’t plated with gold that he prospected, refined, and processed himself. More on that in a minute.

[Chris] had obtained some neodymium ring magnets a while back. He was playing around with them in his shop when he noticed that his cutting fluid applicator brush fit nicely through the center and, being metal, was contained nicely through the wonders of magnetism. It was then that he decided to build a cutting fluid pot that would keep his brush in place and remain upright. Better living through magnetism.

He drilled and chamfered the brush hole out of a #20 JIC hydraulic cap and used the matching plug for the base. In case your catalog is out of reach, those are a 1¼” pair. [Chris] bored tiny pockets in the base for tiny magnets. After bathing both parts in delicious brake cleaner, he adhered all the magnets with LOCTITE®.

Okay, so, he’s done, right? No. Of course not. It did not surprise us to learn that [Chris] is also a miner, and not the 8-bit kind that hates creepers. Over the last two years, he prospected, refined, and other gold-related verbs using equipment he made himself. Just make the jump and watch the video before we give it all away. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be compelled to watch his other videos.

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