TherMOFOrmer

Mofo

3D printers are the tool of choice for all the hackerspaces we’ve been to, and laser cutters take a close second. There’s another class of plastic manipulating machines that doesn’t get enough credit with the hackerspace crowd – the vacuum thermoformer. Surprisingly, there haven’t been many – if any – vacuum formers on Kickstarter. Until now, that is.

[Ben] and [Calvin] are the guys behind the MOFO, and built their machine around ease of use and reliability. After a few prototypes, they settled on their design of aluminum extrusion for the frame, a ceramic heating element for the heater, and an off-the-shelf PID controller for the electronics.

The MOFO has so far been tested with polycarbonate, acrylic, PETG and styrene with good results. The Kickstarter has reward levels of $500 for a 12″x12″ work area, and $1000 for a 24″x24″ work area. That’s not too bad, and building your own similar thermoformer would probably cost just as much. Just the thing if you need to print out a few dozen sets of storm trooper armor.

 

Rebuilding a Custom IC Saves HP Pulse Generator

 

Rebuilding an HP Custom IC[Matthew] got himself into a real pickle.  It all started when he was troubleshooting a broken Hewlett Packard 8007A pulse generator. While trying to desolder one of the integrated circuits, [Matthew] accidentally cracked it. Unfortunately, the chip was a custom HP Pulse shaper IC – not an easy part to source by any means. That broken chip began a 5 year mission: to explore strange new repair methods. To seek out new life for that HP 8007A. To boldy fix what no one had fixed before.

[Matthew's] first repair attempt was to build a drop in replacement for the HP chip. He took a look at the block diagram, and realized the chip was just some simple logic gates. He built his version with a small PCB and Fairchild TinyLogic gates. Unfortunately, the TinyLogic series is fast CMOS, while HP’s original chip used Emitter-coupled Logic (ECL). Thanks to the wildly different voltage levels of the two logic families, this design had no chance of working.

Five years later, [Matthew] was going to school at MIT, and had access to a wire bonding machine. He rebuilt the package using some epoxy, and managed to re-run the various bond wires. While everything looked promising, this attempt was also a failure. After all that work, the chip was blown.

[Read more...]

Prototyping Brief Case Would Be Fun To Take Through Customs

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[Baldor] prototypes electronic circuits all the time, but unfortunately he doesn’t really have a dedicated work space to do this! Annoyed at having to get all his tools ready and then put them away again after every project, he’s come up with his very own electronics prototyping briefcase.

He started with a very old hand-made wooden tool briefcase and added some fun stuff. His case features four breadboards, all with individual positives, and each pair with common grounds. Banana clips allow for various setups with different wiring. He has 5 integrated volt meters, along with 5 buck-boost DC-DC voltage regulators, each set for 3V, 5V, 9V, 12V, and 18V. It’s an ingenuous setup and would make prototyping a breeze compared to most work benches!

In addition to the basic prototyping tools, he’s also got a development board and a place for his Pickit2. Underneath the main prototyping area he stores the power supply, and a veritable army of jumpers. We’re impressed.

Now all he needs is a portable electronics lab in a box once his prototypes are proven!

[Thanks Xavier!]

Auto Roll-up Tool Storage

Auto Roll-up Tool Storage

[Anred's] got the right idea. Everybody and their mother has a toolbox: rectangular, wooden, crowded. You’re not impressing anyone with that old thing. Instead, why not spice it up by rolling it up, with a tool case that spins to store in style?

This storage hack seems to draw its inspiration from field medic roll-up bags, where everything’s laid out for easy access with a quick toss. [Anred] started by taking inventory of all the items he wanted to use on a regular basis, organizing them across a sturdy fabric. Next, he marked all the mounting spots and affixed some elastic material with needle and thread to hold each tool in place. The tools then roll up around a center rod, like an upside-down pull curtain.

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Re:load Pro, an Open Source Active Load

reload-pro

Open source test equipment has to be one of the best gifts open source hardware has given back to the community. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of  [Nick's] Re:Load Pro over on Kickstarter. Unlike resistors or similar dummy loads, an active load will always draw the set amount of current regardless of voltage. Active loads are often used to test power supplies and batteries. Is that 2500 mAh LiPo battery overstating it’s capacity? Can the power supply you just designed handle 2.5A at 12V? Both of these are jobs where active loads would come in handy.

The Re:Load Pro is actually the third version of the Re:Load. [Nick] designed the original Re:Load after becoming frustrated at the lack of a cheap active load for testing a power supply. Plenty of people showed interest in the Re:Load, but they wanted more features. That’s where the Re:Load Pro comes in. More than a straight analog design, the Pro has a Cypress PSOC 4 Arm Cortex M0 processor running the system.

[Nick] and his company, Arachnid Labs, are no strangers to us here at Hackaday. When we last covered [Nick], he was asking the USB Implementers Forum about a low cost Vendor ID option for open source hardware projects. Fittingly, the Re:Load Pro is an open source project. The schematics and source code are available on Github.

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Air-Tensioned Bandsaw Simplifies Woodworking Life

bandsaw

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of owning a band-saw you’ll know exactly how much fun it is to try to replace the blade, or properly tension it even. [Richard T] got tired of it and decided to upgrade his band saw with a bit of pneumatic power.

To remove the band saw blade or tension it you have to turn an adjustment knob on the top of the band saw — it’s kind of awkward and really annoying. [Richard] has taken the lead screw out and replaced it with a pneumatic cylinder. He’s added a little control panel with a main valve, and pressure regulator. To remove the band saw blade, he bleeds the system with the valve, and to tension it, he turns up the regulator! It’s simple and super effective.

This is especially convenient for tensioning because you can watch the blade during the “Flutter Test” while gently turning up the regulator.

If you look in the right places you could probably build a system like this for less than $50. For a complete explanation stick around to hear it from [Richard] himself!

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The Ultimate Workstation That Folds Up

ultimate maker station

Looking for an easy way to keep on making stuff even though you’re living in a tiny dorm room? [Matt Silver] was tired of not having a dedicated work-space, so he spent some serious time designing this modular, re-configurable and collapsible portable workstation ready for almost anything.

He started out by sketching ideas, playing around with 3D models in SketchUp, and eventually building a few prototypes using trial and error — and what he’s come up with is pretty darn impressive. It folds down to just under a foot by three feet squared and has casters to roll it around. Once unfolded, you stabilize it by placing your chair on one of the walls that folds down, and the desk itself is also re-configurable for different work surfaces. He’s included a power bar, an LED work-light, and it even has storage racks for tools on the side.

It’s a very thorough Instructable, and definitely worth a look through — especially to see how it magically unfolds! And if you’re wondering about how much it would cost to build, you’re probably looking at around $200 depending on what you already have on hand. What we really like is how it’s almost entirely made out of a single 4′x8′ panel of plywood — it’s like this guy works for IKEA or something!