One piece, 3D printed crossbow

bow

Centuries ago, craftsmen and smiths of all sort spent hundreds of hours crafting a crossbow. From the fine craftsmanship that went into making the bow to the impeccable smithing a windlass requires, a lot of effort went into building a machine of war. Since [Chris] has a 3D printer, he figured he could do just as well as these long-dead craftsmen and fabricate a crossbow in under a day.

What’s really interesting about [Chris]‘ crossbow is that it is only a single piece of plastic. The bow is integrated into the stock, and the trigger works by some creative CAD design that takes advantage of the bendability of plastic. The only thing required to shoot a bolt from this crossbow is a piece of string. That, and a few chopsticks.

He won’t be taking part in any sieges, but [Chris]‘ weapon is more than capable of shooting a bolt across a room or launching a balsa wood airplane. You can see an example of this after the break.

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Hackerspace intro: HeatSync Labs

heat-sync-labs

[Todd Harrison] wrote in not with a project but with a video tour of his local hackerspace: HeatSync Labs in Mesa, Arizona. He took a camera along with him over the weekend to record what you can expect when visiting the space. You’ll find the tour embedded after the break.

It starts off with something we love to see. The space is being used for a talk and it looks to be quite well attended. The building is one unit in a string of storefronts and this provides a big open space as soon as you walk in the door. Just past this gathering area there are a few rows of electronics work benches which include hardware like bench supplies and scopes, as well as soldering and rework areas. In the back corner they’ve got a great big laser cutter and [Todd] spends some time with one of the members looking through all the fun stuff they’ve made with it. The back room keeps the messy projects like wood working, machine tools, and welding separate from the rest.

The place is remarkably clean and we’ll organized. Make sure you stop by and check it out for yourself if you’re in the area.

This is the second time we’ve seen HeatSync Labs. The first tour was hosted by our own [Caleb Kraft]

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Building new, weird CPUs in FPGAs

CPU

The popularization of FPGAs for the hobbyist market means a lot more than custom LED controllers and clones of classic computer systems. FPGAs are also a great tool to experiment with computer architecture, creating new, weird, CPUs that don’t abide by the conventions the industry has used for 40 years. [Victor] is designing a new CPU that challenges the conventions of how to access different memory locations, and in the process even came up with a bit of example code that runs on an ARM microcontroller.

Most of the time, the machine code running on your desktop or laptop isn’t that interesting; it’s just long strings of instructions to be processed linearly. The magic of a computer comes through comparisons, an if statement or a jump in code, where the CPU can run one of two pieces of code, depending on a value in a register. There is the problem of reach, though: if a piece of code makes a direct call to another piece of code, the address of the new code must fit within an instruction. On an ARM processor, only 24 bits are available to encode the address, meaning a jump in code can only go 16 MB on either side of its call. Going any further requires more instructions, and the performance hit that comes along with that.

[Victor] decided a solution to this problem would be to create a bit of circuitry that would be a sliding window to store address locations. Instead of storing the literal address for jumps in code, every branch in the code is stored as a location relative to whatever is in the program counter. The result is an easy way to JMP to code very far away in memory, with less of a performance hit.

There’s an implementation for this sliding window token thing [Victor] whipped up for NXP’s ARM Cortex M3 microprocessor, and he’ll be working on an implementation of this concept in a new CPU over on his git.

Laser toting robot taunts house cat

laser-toting-robot-taunts-house-cat

[Rodney Lederer] and his cat were bored after moving to a new city. He fixed that for both of them by taking on this project which turns a Wowwee robot into feline entertainment.

It’s no secret that cats have a weakness for the little red dot produced by a laser pointer. [Rodney] put that trait to work by automating the movement of a red laser pointer. After mounting it on a servo motor he got down to work programming an Arduino to move it in a playful manner. But it wouldn’t have been much fun if the this was only capable of preprogrammed patterns, so he also included an IR proximity sensor to help give the thing interactivity. Add to that the treaded robot base and you’ve got mobile cat entertainment. The proof is in the video after the break… the cat is certainly having fun chasing the dot. [Rodney] plans to work a bit more on his code so that the motions of the laser dot include a lot of different patterns to keep things exciting.

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Coffee pot aquarium keeps fish warm without cooking them (hopefully)

coffee-pot-aquarium

Beta fish are one of the easiest pets to care for. So when [Derek] gave his girlfriend one for Valentine’s day he thought the job was done. Turns out these tropical pets want 75-80 F water and that’s not going to happen in a plain old bowl when you keep your home thermostat in the mid sixties during the winter. While looking for a simple heating solution he stumbled across the idea of using a cheap drip coffee maker as an aquarium.

The two main components are already in place: a clear glass vessel for the water and a way to heat it. The real trick is to use the heating element to gently warm the water to the appropriate temperature. Perhaps the key piece of the project is that the device already had a timer that shut off the heating element. This translates to easy control with his MSP430 microcontroller as it means there’s a relay present. He also patched into the two seven-segment displays to give him feedback on the temperature currently being read by the RL1003 thermistor which is submerged in the water. You’ll also note that he added a few LEDs to the lid to give the aquarium some inner glow.

Launching a glider from space

launching-a-glider-from-space

We get a ton of tips about weather balloon launches taking hobby electronics into space. But every once in a while one of them stands out from the rest. This project does send an electronic payload into space, but it also lets [David] fly his hardware back from near-space using an RC airplane.

The return vehicle is unpowered, but that shouldn’t be a problem as launching from a weather balloon will provide plenty of altitude for the flight. Because the temperature experienced in that part of the atmosphere is so cold [David] had to take several things into account. Obviously you want your batteries and control electronics to be insulated from the cold. But something that doesn’t usually pop into mind are issues with the servo motors which run the glider’s flaps. They usually have some white grease on the gears. At temps as low as -50C that grease will harden and make the servo stop working so he made sure to clean the gears thoroughly before the flight.

Unfortunately [David] had several problems capturing images and recorded video from the ground station. But his write up is still a fun read and the clip after the break gives a general overview of the entire project from the nose camera of the glider.

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Makerbot shows off 3D scanner

scan

We’ve said our piece over Makerbot and their interpretation of what Open Source means, but the fact remains if you’re sourcing a 3D printer for a high school shop class or a hackerspace, you really can’t do much better than a Makerbot Replicator. Apparently Makerbot is looking to expand their 3D design and fabrication portfolio; they just announced an upcoming 3D scanner at SXSW. It’s called the Makerbot Digitizer, and it takes real, 3D objects and turns them into CAD files.

Since Makerbot and [Bre Pettis] didn’t give out much information about the 3D scanner they’re working on, the best information comes from Techcrunch. The Makerbot Digitizer uses two lasers to scan real objects and turns them into 3D CAD files. The hardware isn’t finalized, and the prototype is made of a few pieces of laser cut plywood. No details are available on how much the Digitizer will cost, when it will be available, or what its resolution is.

Of course 3D scanning of real objects to translate them into CAD files is nothing new for Hackaday readers. We’ve seen our fair share of desktop 3D scanners, including one that was built in a day out of junk. Even the Kickstarter crew has gotten into the action with a few desktop 3D scanners, some of which scan in full color.

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