Scanning Electron Microscope Adds to Already Impressive Garage Lab

When you’re a high schooler who built a semiconductor fab in your garage, what’s next on your agenda? Why, adding a scanning electron microscope to your lab, naturally. How silly of you to ask.

When last we stumbled across the goings on in the most interesting garage in New Jersey, [Sam Zeloof] was giving a tour of his DIY semiconductor fabrication lab and showing off some of the devices he’s made there, including diodes and MOSFETs. As impressive as those components are, it’s the equipment he’s accumulated that really takes our breath away. So adding an eBay SEM to the mix only seems a natural progression, and a good reason to use some of the high vacuum gear he has. The video below shows [Sam] giving a tour of the 1990s-vintage instrument and shows images of various copper-sputtered samples, including a tick, which is apparently the state bird of New Jersey.

SEM hacks are by no means common around here, but they’re not unheard of. [Ben Krasnow] has used his to image cutting tools and phonograph records in action, and there are a few homebrew SEMs kicking around too. But our hats are off to [Sam] for yet another acquisition and a great tutorial to boot.

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Detect Lightning Strikes With Audio Equipment

One of the driving principles of a lot of the projects we see is simplicity. Whether that’s a specific design goal or a result of having limited parts to work with, it often results in projects that are innovative solutions to problems. As far as simplicity goes, however, the latest project from [153armstrong] takes the cake. The build is able to detect lightning using a single piece of equipment that is almost guaranteed to be within a few feet of anyone reading this article.

The part in question is a simple, unmodified headphone jack. Since lightning is so powerful and produces radio waves in many detectable ranges, it doesn’t take much to detecting a strike within a few kilometers. Besides the headphone jack, a computer with an audio recording program is also required to gather data. (Audio is often used as a stand-in for storing other types of data; in this case, RF information.) [153armstrong] uses a gas torch igniter as a stand-in for a lightning strike, but the RF generated is similar enough to test this proof-of-concept. The video of their tests is after the break.

Audacity is a great tool for processing audio, or for that matter any other data that you happen to be gathering using a sound card. It’s open source and fairly powerful. As far as lightning goes, however, it’s possible to dive far down the rabbit hole. Detecting lightning is one thing, but locating it requires a larger number of weather stations.

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You Won’t Believe That Fidget Spinners Are Obvious Clickbait!

I don’t know why fidget spinners are only getting popular now. They’ve been selling like hotcakes on Tindie for a year now, and I’ve been seeing 3D printed versions around the Internet for almost as long. Nevertheless, fidget spinners — otherwise known as a device to turn a skateboard bearing into a toy — have become unbelievably popular in the last month or so. Whatever; I’m sure someone thinks my complete collection of Apollo 13 Pogs from Carl’s Jr. with modular Saturn V Pog carry case and aluminum slammer embossed with the real Apollo 13 mission patch is stupid as well.

However, a new fad is a great reason to drag out an oscilloscope, measure the rotation of a fidget spinner, take a video of the whole endeavor, and monetize it on YouTube. That’s just what [Frank Buss] did. It’s like he’s printing money at this point.

The measurement setup for this test is simple enough. [Frank] connected a small solar cell to the leads of his $2k oscilloscope, and placed the cell down on his workbench. This generated a voltage of about 28mV. Spinning the fidget spinner cast a shadow over the cell that was measured as a change in voltage. Oscilloscopes measure frequency, and by dividing that frequency by three, [Frank] calculated his fidget spinner was spinning at the remarkable rate of 2200 RPM.

Is this a stupid use of expensive equipment? Surprisingly no. The forty thousand videos on YouTube demonstrating a “99999+ RPM Fidget Spinner” all use cheap digital laser tachometers available for $20 on eBay. These tachometers top out at — you guessed it — 99999 RPM. Using only an oscilloscope and a solar cell [Frank] found in his parts drawer, he found an even better way to push the envelope of fidget spinner test and measurement.

Using this method, even an inexpensive 40MHz scope can reliably measure three-bladed fidget spinners up to 800,000,000 RPM. Of course, this calculation doesn’t take into account capacitance in the cell, you’ll need a margin for Nyquist, and everything within 20 meters will be destroyed, but there you go. A better way to measure the rotation speed of fidget spinners. It’s technically a hack.

You can check out [Frank]’s video of this experiment below. If you liked this post, don’t forget to like, rate, comment and subscribe for even more of the best Fidget Spinner news.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Safety Glasses Are Also Hands-Free Multimeter

It seems like the multimeter is never easy to see during a project. Whether it’s troubleshooting a vehicle’s electrical system and awkwardly balancing the meter on some vacuum lines and the intake manifold, or installing a new solar panel and hoping the meter doesn’t fall on the ground while the leads are in both hands, it seems like there’s never a good way to see the meter while actually using it. Some meters have a small magnet and strap that can be used to hang them temporarily, but this will only get you so far.

[Alain Mauer]’s entry into the Hackaday Prize looks to solve this glaring problem. Using a heads-up Bluetooth display mounted to a pair of safety glasses, a multimeter can be connected to the device in order to display its information directly to its user. Based on his original idea which used a normal pair of prescription glasses as its foundation, [Alain]’s goal is to reduce safety hazards that might arise when using a multimeter in an awkward or dangerous manner that might not otherwise be possible.

The device uses an Arduino Pro Micro to connect to the multimeter and drive the display. [Alain] notes that the real challenge is with the optical system, however. Either way though, this would be a welcome addition to any lab, workspace, or electrician’s toolbox. Be sure to check out the video of it in action after the break.

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Arduino and Encoder form Precision Jig for Cutting and Drilling

“Measure twice, cut once” is great advice in every aspect of fabrication, but perhaps nowhere is it more important than when building a CNC machine. When precision is the name of the game, you need measuring tools that will give you repeatable results and preferably won’t cost a fortune. That’s the idea behind this Arduino-based measuring jig for fabricating parts for a CNC build.

When it comes to building on the cheap, nobody holds a candle to [HomoFaciens]. We’ve seen his garbage can CNC build and encoders from e-waste and tin cans, all of which gave surprisingly good results despite incorporating such compliant materials as particle board and scraps of plumber’s strapping. Looking to build a more robust machine, he finds himself in need of parts of consistent and accurate lengths, so he built this jig. A sled of particle board and a fence of angle aluminum position the square tube stock, and a roller with a paper encoder wheel bears on the tube under spring pressure. By counting pulses from the optical sensors, he’s able to precisely position the tube in the jig for cutting and drilling operations. See it in action in the video after the break.

If you’ve been following [HomoFaciens], you’ll no doubt see where he’s been going — build a low-end tool, use that to build a better one, and so on. We’re excited to see him moving into more robust materials, but we’ll miss the cardboard and paperclip builds.

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Restoring a Strange Milling Machine from Craigslist

[diyVT] found a real white elephant in this milling machine from Craigslist. It cost him only $200, cheap for a small mill, so it was worth the gamble. We’re not sure what to call this — it’s not exactly a gantry mill, not a horizontal mill, and definitely not a knee mill. The tag says V-Mill, made by either Pierce West or Tree Tool and Die Works, depending on which ID plate you read. The Tree has a three-phase motor, but it came with a phase converter, so it should be good to run on single phase 220 volt household power.

The machine was in good physical shape, at least until the previous owner attempted to move it out of the garage. During the move one of the cast iron chain drive handwheel brackets broke into three pieces. Cast iron is no fun to weld. It has to be pre-heated, welded with nickel rod, and slowly cooled. Some hackers would have given up or built a new part, but [diyVT] accepted the challenge. He put the puzzle pieces back together, grooved them out with an angle grinder, and welded everything. The result wasn’t pretty, but it only has to take the force of the handwheel and the 200 lb gorilla spinning it.

After a bit of work on the motor and head, including a new belt, this tree was ready to cut. [diyVT] snuck out of a family bar-b-que to cut his first chips on the new (to him) machine.

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DIY Induction Soldering Iron

[Kasyan TV] shows us how to make a really simple DIY induction soldering iron complete with DIY soldering tips.

This is a pretty cool project. Most of us are used to temperature controlled ceramic heating elements, but there are other ways to get those irons up to temperature. Using scraps from older, presumably broken, soldering irons and some pieces of copper and iron along with a thermocouple for temperature management, [Kasyan TV] manages to throw together an Inductively heated soldering iron. To insulate the coil from the iron they use Kapton tape. The video goes on to show how to make your own induction iron, although missing is a power supply. We are sure a quick eBay search for an induction heater module should bring up something suitable to power the iron, or you could just wait and watch the their next video that will go over power supplies. The soldering tips are simply made from thick copper wire sculpted into the correct shape.

There are advantages to using a soldering iron like this, for example they are pretty durable and will take a knock or two, Our concern is that magnetically sensitive parts may not be happy, and the iron might destroy what you are trying to build. Either way we’ve put the video below the break, so take a look.

Hackaday has featured a few different DIY soldering irons and some pretty cool DIY Soldering Stations over the years. What is your soldering iron of choice and why?

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