DIY Rotary Tool

[Shashank] has a modest tool collection but is missing a rotary tool. He needed one for a project he was working on but didn’t think that it would get much use after the current project was completed. So instead of buying a rotary tool, he decided to make one to get the job done.

The project started out with a 40mm PVC pipe that would serve a the main body of the tool. Two MDF disks were cut to fit inside the pipe. One was used for mounting an RC vehicle brushless motor and the other was bored out to accept a pair of bearings. The bearings supported a modified pin vise that acts as the chuck for securing rotary tool bits. A 20-amp ESC and a servo tester control the motor’s speed and can get the motor up to 18,000 rpm.

Although this worked for a while, [Shashank] admits it did fall apart after about 20 hours of use. The MDF bearing mounts crumbled, thought to be a result of vibration due to mis-assignment between the motor and pin vise. He suggests using aluminum for the bearing mounts and a flexible coupling to connect the motor to the pin vise. If you’re interested in making your own rotary tool but don’t have any spare motors kicking around,  this 3D printed vacuum-powered rotary tool may be for you.

Hand Drill To Band Saw Conversion

Need a band saw but only have a drill kicking around? That may not be a common problem but if you ever run into it, [Izzy] has got you covered. He’s on a mission to make a drill-powered workshop and in his YouTube video, he shows a small bench top band saw he made that is powered by a corded hand drill.

The main frame is made from doubled up 3/4″ plywood. The saw blade is strung between two wooden wheels. Those wheels have tape applied to their outer diameter to create a crowned roller. That crown keeps the saw blade tracking in the middle of the wheel. The bottom wheel is mounted to an axle that is supported by bearings in the main frame. That axle pokes out the back and is connected to the drill. The top wheel has integrated bearings and ride on a stud mounted to the frame. The blade seems to be pretty tight although there is no noticeable tensioning system.

The video shows that this DIY band saw can cut through 1.5 inch wood fairly easily. Even so, there are clearly some needed features, like guide bearings for the blade and an overall cover to prevent accidental lacerations. But we suppose, even professional saws can be dangerous if not treated with respect.

Altium Gives Away The Farm With New Circuit Maker Software

Things are about to get interesting in the world of PCB design software for the open source hardware community. This week, Altium launched the open public beta for its new Circuit Maker software, and it’s a major change from what we looked at previously. Everything is free.

You heard that right, free. Unlimited board size, and unlimited layers – all free. And this isn’t some stripped-down, bare-bones software here. They’ve thrown in almost everything under the sun; a 3D viewer, team project collaboration, EagleCAD and DFX import, integrated Octopart supplier and pricing information, no commercial usage limits, and project sharing. And if that isn’t enough, the “engine” seems to be the exact same back-end that is used in the full $10,000 Altium Designer as well(with a bit easier to use user interface on top). This is a major departure from the pre-beta we covered back in September. Altium was going have board size and layer limits, with the ability to “upgrade” at a cost. So by now you’re thinking to yourself “OK, what’s the catch?” Well there are a few gotchas – but only a few.

The software uses cloud based storage for your project files, and is community based. It won’t work without an Internet connection, there is no local storage, and it forces you to share your projects with the world. You do get two “Sandbox” designs that you can hide from the world before you generate your gerber files, but after that, your project is online for the whole world to see. Will that be a deal killer for the OSHW community? We’ll find out soon enough.

One thing is for sure, anyone with a doggy Internet connection is not going to enjoy using Circuit Maker (we’re hoping they remove that limitation in the final product). And as with any cloud based service, we wonder how many people will be willing to trust their designs to a free service that could be turned off on a whim? Or will the unlimited board size and layers, combined with Altium’s name and robust software win people over in the end?

If you want to see in-depth review of Circuit Maker, we highly recommend you watch the video after the break.  [Dave Jones] of the eevblog, gives you a full rundown on the beta version. Dave’s in a unique place to review this software, not only has he been using Altium since the mid-80’s as a professional engineer, he’s also a former Altium employee.

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Mini Arc Furnace Melts Its Way Into Our Hearts

[Grant Thompson], aka “The King of Random,” threw caution to the wind when it came to his latest awesome project – a mini electric arc furnace (EAF) (YouTube link). [Grant] uses a refractory brick as a furnace and crucible for the molten metal.  He wears eye protection and a respiratory mask as he cuts up the brick – a good idea, since you don’t want to inhale any of that dust. The electrode grips are made with things you can find at a hardware store, including copper wire and coupling, and 2 pairs of vice-grip style pliers. The copper wire is stripped and attached to the metal handle of the pliers using hose clamps. The pliers are now functional electrode grips- just put a carbon rod in each grip and hold them close to each other…but not without protection! [Grant] harvested the carbon rods  from the cells of 6V lantern batteries – dead batteries work just as well for this. It’s also a better bet to do this outdoors with decent ventilation and away from anything flammable. [Grant] realized that the rods from the batteries have a wax-like coating on them that takes about 30 seconds to burn off in spectacular flames the first time they make electrical contact. However, you can purchase carbon rods by themselves if you want to avoid ripping open batteries and possibly setting yourself on fire. The mini EAF runs on a welding power supply [Grant] made from microwave oven transformers  (YouTube link).

When it’s time to melt some metal, the scrap metal is placed into a bowl drilled into the brick. Using the electrode grips, the carbon rods are placed into the brick’s pre-drilled holes. It only takes ten seconds to melt pure zinc – do NOT do this with galvanized steel or brass castings, as zinc oxide is very hazardous to your health.

In the videos featured below, [Grant] shows a variety of metals are no match for his mini EAF. He even manages to melt rocks from his backyard! It goes without saying that an EAF (video link) can be very dangerous. When you’re dealing with high voltage, plasma, white-hot molten metal, and toxic fumes, you better know what you’re doing (or have a great life insurance policy). [Grant] has a penchant for showcasing projects that can make an OSHA inspector cringe,  but you have to admire his gumption!

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An Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillator Replacement

The HP 5328 Universal Counter is all the counter you’ll ever need. It’s rugged, does its job well, and like all old HP gear, keeps on going. When it breaks, though, that’s a problem.

[Tom] had an 5328 Universal Counter with a broken Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillator. This is the HP 10544 OCXO and replacements are pretty spendy. Instead of buying a vintage unit, [Tom] decided to make a replacement.

The OXCO in the HP 5328 is just an option. If the frequency counter has this option installed, a 30-pin edge connector in the counter is stuffed with a little PCB. Like all HP gear, the schematics are readily available, and the original OXCO can be quickly reverse engineered.

The design of the replacement is fairly straightforward. A 10MHz OXCO from Oscilloquartz is used, powered from the 28V rail in the 5328 with a simple switching regulator. Apart from that, it’s just an inverter to get the logic levels correct, and a small, multi-turn pot to calibrate the new OXCO. The completed unit is much smaller than the original OXCO option, so it can be plugged directly into the 30-pin card edge slot, leaving the gigantic standoff inside the frequency counter as a reminder of days gone by.

Review: Stickvise Needs a Place on Your Bench

Stickvise is a simple device for a simple problem. It holds a work piece while you work on it. Most obviously this means a PCB for soldering, but there’s a twist of versatility that will make it work for a wide range of needs. Being someone who has often used the roll-of-solder-to-hold-a-circuit-board-down trick, only to upset the apple cart when I run out solder, this is a great little tool to have within arm’s reach. For those that already have a PCB vise, how often do you need more than one? How rarely do you need something that large? And if you’re lucky enough to have a microscope for soldering this is a perfect fixture for moving a board to and from without adjusting the focus.

Details of the Design

Simplicity. This is three pieces of aluminum bar-stock, some steel rod, nylon jaws, two springs, and some fasteners. It all works extremely well. To load up a new circuit board I loosen the wing nut and squeeze the clamp shut. Hand tightening the nut doesn’t take much force and it hasn’t slipped for me at all despite moving it around the bench for several days. Once set, the board can be taken out and flipped over easily thanks to the springs.

The extensibility here is key. As it stands, the nylon jaws have a V-groove to hold a board. If you need to support much taller boards you can always put some standoffs between the aluminum and the nylon jaws.

stickvise-custom-jawsBetter yet is the ability to design jaws for your own needs. [Alex Rich], Stickvise’s creator, already has a number of STL files available so that you may print out your own. The “fingers” on the custom jaw shown here interlock with the ones on the opposite side. But my favorite is an articulated set of “third-hand” style jaws based off of the PCB probe jig [Anool] covered back in May. There are even plans to make a parametric STL file so that printing larger or taller jaws doesn’t require a CAD modeling session.

If the range of the vise is too narrow you can simply replace the center bar with a longer one (source yourself or purchase from [Alex]) — the fixed aluminum end is secured with a set screw. This can even be used as a type of stretcher by reversing the spring jaw. I couldn’t think of an application in my own shop for this but you never know.

Stickvise Roots

stickvise-hackaday-approvedIf you have an eagle eye you’ll have noticed the Jolly Wrencher with “Hackaday Approved” next to it on the Stickvise. When [Alex Rich] started refining his original design he posted about it as a project on Hackaday.io. It didn’t take long to grab our attention and, after tossing around the idea a bit we approached [Alex] about his plans for manufacturing and how Hackaday might figure into that. I love seeing hardware come to life like this; it puts an artisanal spin on the things I choose to have in my lab.

Conclusion

stickvise-angled

It’s so simple you could build it, but for me the production quality is well worth buying it instead. It’s simple and durable, with the ability to be specialized for a number of different purposes. I wish I had had it when populating the board I’ve been showing off in these pictures (the LayerOne Badge from this year). If you do any work with circuit boards at the bench the stickvise is a solid entry on your must-have-tools list.

The Stickvise is available in the Hackaday Store.

World’s First Internet Connected Lawnmower

Okay so this IOT is getting a bit out of hand. Introducing the world’s first(?) tweeting, internet connected, lawnmower.

[Michel] recently bought one of those new-fangled cordless lawn mowers by EGO. It runs off a 56V lithium ion battery pack, and apparently, works pretty well. Since it has plenty of on-board power, he decided to strap a 64MHz PIC18F25K22 to a ESP8266 and connect it to the internet. That part number has been taking the world by storm and it’s totally freaking awesome. The ESP8266 is a tiny WiFi module that is controllable over a serial port — and it only costs $5. Hello IOT-everything.

Anyway, to avoid voiding his warranty, [Michel] using non-invasive sensors to collect data — A series of hall effect sensors and magnets to be exact. One detects when the cutting system is engaged, and another magnet and sensor pair counts wheel revolutions. In the end, this gives you data on how far you pushed the mower, how long you spent cutting, and how long you were out there. When the job is done, you have the option to push a tweet with your stats. Woo!

He does admit, the tweeting feature is more there just to annoy his friends.