DIY USB Spectrometer Actually Works

image of diy spectrometer

When we hear spectrometer, we usually think of some piece of high-end test equipment sitting in a CSI lab. Sure, a hacker could make one if he or she put their mind to it. But make one out of a webcam, some cheap diffraction grating purchased off ebay and some scrap? Surely not.

[Renaud] pulls off this MacGyver like build with a detailed knowledge of how spectrometers work. A diffraction grating is used to split the incoming light into its component wavelengths. Much like a prism would. The wavelengths then make their way through a slit, which [Renaud] made from two pieces of highly polished brass, so the webcam sensor can see a specific wavelength. While the spectrometer-from-webcam concept isn’t new,  the build is still impressive.

Once the build was complete, [Renaud] put together some software to make sense of the data. Though a bit short on details, we hope this build will inspire you to make your own spectrometer, and document it on hackaday.io of course.

Custom handmade boxes, made with steam

box factoryFrom tea sets to CD box sets, you’ll see the work of the Phillips Brothers mill on shelves all across the country. They make wooden boxes for just about any product imaginable. Interestingly, they do it the old-school way, with the entire factory powered by steam.

The wood for the boxes comes from the on-site mill, resawn and planed to the proper dimensions. These thin boards are then cut to size for each of the sides.

Most of the clients like to put their logo on their boxes, and the Phillips Brothers mill is more than happy to oblige. They brand one side of the box with a custom-made iron, permanently marking the box for the client.

The boxes are assembled with either staples or nails, enough to last for many, many years. No, there aren’t finger joints on these boxes, but with generations worth of experience in this factory, we’ll assume they know what they’re doing.

Making a bow from scratch

bow

With Hackaday’s new handmade category we have the option of covering a wide range of builds – everything from jet engines designed on paper and built on manual machines, to old-world crafts made with the most primitive tools. This time, we’ll be looking at making a longbow from scratch, the work of [Billy Berger], a project that covers everything from selecting a tree to tillering a bow to make the best possible weapon.

European-inspired longbows are usually constructed out of yew, but in [Billy]‘s native east Texas yew is a little hard to come by. He eventually selected a small Osage orange tree for his bow, stripped the bark, split the log, and started crafting his handmade bow.

The most important part of making a bow is ensuring the back of the bow consists of only one growth ring. With a drawknife, [Billy] carefully planed down the back of the bow so only one of the tree’s growth rings was visible, then began shaping the belly and sides of the bow.

Wood is a natural material, and when freshly cut contains a lot of moisture. As [Billy] was working on his bow, some of the moisture left his piece of Osage, leading to some twists and turns in the lumber. There’s a solution to this that mankind has been doing for millennia – fire bending the wood. By covering the wood in some sort of animal fat ([Billy] used olive oil), you can hold a piece of wood over a small frame without scorching. Using the crook of a tree as a vice, [Billy] twisted the wood, giving him a perfectly straight bow.

There’s an amazing amount of work that went into this bow, not surprising given that [Billy] is only using hand tools and primitive woodworking methods. Still, the completed bow is a work of art and a masterpiece of craftsmanship. You can check out all four parts of [Billy]‘s demo below.

[Read more...]

[Bill Porter] repairs a science museum exhibit

For those who are unfamiliar, “Freeze Frame” is the name of a common display in science museums. It is a small dark room with a single wall covered in phosphorescent material. Opposite of this wall is a flash on a timer. You enter the room, strike a pose and wait for the flash, then view your shadow preserved on the wall behind you.

[Bill] was saddened to see the display at his local science museum had been decommissioned long ago. All that was left was a dark room with a phosphorescent coated wall. Some industrious employees had rigged up some LED pens for people to “draw with light”, but in [Bill's] opinion this wasn’t as impressive.  He promptly volunteered to rebuild the display himself and we commend him, both on the fantastic job he did as well as his service to his local community. Great job [Bill], keep up the good work.

Electric longboard uses DIY hub motors

As a student of MIT, [Jed Storey] has access to a ton of machine tools, so he decided to build an electric longboard with hub motors by hand.  He wound up re-doing a lot of his project, so we can commiserate with him on the trials of R&D.

Inspired by the BWD scooter, [Jed]‘s longboard uses hub motors – the wheel is the motor. The rotors were fabricated in-house, and off-the-shelf stators were wound by [Jed] by hand. There’s a lot of work that went into this build, and the build log is really fascinating in this regard.

The board is controlled by a pistol-grip R/C controller that had been modified to include a dev board and an XBee. For power, an aluminum enclosure was fabricated, strapped underneath the deck, and filled with LiPo batteries. While the build is mostly done, [Jeb] is thinking about scrapping it and moving onto version 2, the HeavyBoard. Check out the video of the board in action.

1wire attic cooling

blower

[RagingComputer] built this 1-wire attic cooling fan. He’s using an Ubuntu server loaded with OWFS to control everything. The 1-wire temperature sensor is interfaced using USB while a serial x10 module sends out commands to be received by another x10 module near the fan. Back in the day we had covered a linux home automation project. We also covered HVAC hacks such as the smart attic fan and a 1-Wire HVAC monitoring system.

Clever stair climbing robot

Stairs are one of the most commonly faced mobility challenges for a robot. This robot’s design eliminates the need for a complex drive train or computer, and instead uses a clever mechanical design to climb stairs. Version three of the robot uses five servos modified for continuous rotation, a Picaxe28, sharp IR sensors, and bump sensors.

[via BotJunkie]

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