Hacklet 29 – Altoids Mint Tin Projects

Altoids – they’ve been around since King George III was on the throne. These curiously strong mints have had a storied history, a copy of which is included in every tin. They taste pretty good, but most hackers and makers are more interested in the pocket-sized tin than the mints themselves. It may have been the ham radio operators who first used Altoids tins to hold their sensitive transmitter and receiver circuits. The metal case makes a perfect electromagnetic field shield. It wasn’t long before the tins found their way into thousands of projects. This week’s Hacklet features some of the best projects with Altoids (and other mint) tins on Hackaday.io!

meeting-timerWe start with [Chad Lawson] and the Networking Group Timing Light. [Chad] has a networking meeting where each member has two minutes to introduce themselves. As is the case with most meetings, people tend to be a bit long-winded, running well beyond their allotted two minutes. The timing light contains an RGB LED which changes from green to yellow to red as a speaker’s time ticks away. The timer is reset by simply tilting the mint tin. [Chad] is hoping that the timer will serve as a gentle reminder to keep everyone on track time-wise.

 

radio2Next up is [Rjpope42] and his AM/FM Transmitter Pair. [Rjpope42] loves vintage tube radios, and wants to send his own signals to his amber glowing projects. Wiring an external audio input to a tube radio is pretty easy, but nothing beats a simple AM transmitter for convenience. Small FM transmitters are commonly available to add an MP3 player input to cars without an AUX audio in, but their AM counterparts have become rare. [Rjpope42] has built AM and FM transmitters, each of which will fit in a Mint Tin case. The AM transmitter can run on 9V or 12V, and even includes a USB power output for charging an MP3 player or phone!

da31k[John Hamann] entered Distance Analyzer 3000 in the Trinket EDC contest. While he didn’t win, it was still a great project, especially since this is [John’s] first serious Arduino project. The idea is to use a rotary encoder with a wheel to measure distances. Think of it like a mini version of a surveyor’s walking wheel. The Pro Trinket counts the pulses from the rotary encoder, then converts this to a distance in feet. We’d love to see [John] continue on the project. An ultrasonic distance sensor would be a great addition for multi-sensor distance reads!

 

ttotpFinally, we have [colonwq] with TTTOTP, a pro trinket Time based One Time Password (TOTP) generator. [colonwq] used the trinket to implement the well-known time based one time password algorithm. To implement a project like this, you need a stable time source. The ATmega328 isn’t very good at this, so [colonwq] used a Dallas DS1307 clock chip to keep track of things. The actual code is displayed on a 4 digit 7 segment display. When the button is pressed, the first half of the code is displayed. Once the button is released, the second half of the code is displayed for several seconds.

 

Need more mint? Check out our curiously awesome mint tin project list!

Hackaday.io Update and MeArm Giveaway

Hackaday.io has a few new features, including @username and #projectID. If you mention someone’s username with an @ in front of it, that user will get a notification in their stack. The same goes with mentioning a project ID with a # up front. To celebrate this, we’re giving away a pair of  special edition MeArms. All you have to do is leave a comment using the features on this project log. Huge thanks to [Jasmine] for setting all this up, and to [Ben] for letting us hijack his project for the week!

That’s it for this Hacklet, As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

Hackaday Links: November 10, 2013

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[Henryk Gasperowicz], the wizard of electrons who makes LEDs glow for no apparent reason, has put up another one of his troll physics circuits. We have no idea how he does it (he does say he’s using wireless energy transmission) so a few solution videos would be cool, [Henryk].

Altoids tins make great electronic enclosures, but how about designing your PCBs to fit mint and gum containers? Here’s a Trident USBASP, a tiny Tic Tac ISP thingy, and a Mentos USB to JTAG interface.

By the end of this week, the PS4 will be out, along with the new PS4 camera. It’s a great camera – 1280×800 at 60Hz – but unless someone develops a driver for it, it shall forever remain tethered to a PS4. Luckily, there’s a project to develop a PS4 camera driver, so if you have some USB 3.0 experience, give it a shot.

Multimeter teardowns? [David]’s got multimeter teardowns. It’s an HP 3455A, a huge bench top unit from the 80s. This is, or was, pro equipment and strange esoteric components definitely make a showing. ±0.01% resistors? Yep. Part two has some pics of the guts and a whole ton of logic.

The US Air Force Academy just moved their embedded systems course over to the MSP430. Course director [Capt Todd Branchflower] just put all the course materials online, with the notes, datasheets, and labs available on Github.

Altoid tin etching tutorial

Eminent steampunker [Jake Von Slatt] wrote a small article on etching candy tins for The Steampunk Bible, but the limited space available in the book didn’t allow for a full exposition. To make amends for his incomplete tutorial, he posted this walk through to compliment the Bible’s article.

The process is very similar to the many tutorials we’ve seen on home-etching PCBs using the toner transfer method. Removing the paint from the Altoid tin, creating a mask, printing it on the Sunday circulars, and taking an iron to the tin is old hat for home fabbers.

Unlike PCB manufacturing, [Mr. Von Slatt] doesn’t bother with Ferric Chloride or other nasty chemicals – he does everything with electrolysis. After adding a few tablespoons of table salt to a bucket of water, [Jake] takes a DC power supply and connects the positive lead to the lid and the negative lead to the base. a bit of electrical tape around the corners of the lid keeps the metal from getting too thin.

A nice Copper finish can be applied to a finished tin by swabbing on a solution of Copper Sulfate – a common ingredient in “Root Kill” products. Of course that’s not a necessary step; you can easily enjoy and elegant Altoid tin bare metal.

LM386 Altoids tin amp

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Hacker [Dino Segovis] is back again with the fifth installment in his “Hack a Week” series. This time around he has put together a 1/2 watt audio amplifier that would make for a great weekend project. He’s a big fan of the LM386 amplifier chip because it does so much in such a small package. Since it is so versatile, he used it as the centerpiece of his Altoids tin amplifier.

Now an audio amp inside an Altoids tin isn’t exactly a new concept, but [Dino] takes the time to discuss the circuit in detail, which is great for any beginners out there who are looking for a fun and relatively easy project. After a high-speed video of the assembly process he walks us through the completed amp, then treats us to a couple of short demos.

One thing that makes his amp different than others we have seen in the past is the addition of a 1/4” guitar jack, which allows him to use his amplifier as a combo amp/distortion effect box.

It’s another job well done, so be sure to keep reading if you’d like to watch the latest Hack a Week episode in its entirety.

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Altoids upstaged by gift card tins

Nothing Earth-shattering here. Just, dare we say it, really cute!

The venerable Altoids mint tin has become an icon of the maker culture. Browsing through past articles on Hack a Day, Adafruit or Instructables, you’ll find project after project for which these pocket-sized enclosures provided just the right fit. Eminently practical, affordable, but the aesthetics have occasionally left something to be desired.

We recently stumbled upon these nifty gift card holders that resemble miniature versions of current-generation game consoles. They might be the perfect housing for your next microcontroller project…

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Battery holder reuses blister pack

In need of a portable power supply, [Alastair] threw some batteries into an Altoids tin. The problem was he didn’t have a holder for these size A23 cells. Inspiration struck and he realized the blister pack they came in fits them snuggly and just needs some conductors to complete the circuit. He pulled some battery contacts from a broken CD player. Using foam-based double-stick tape he added some spring to the contacts and came up with a perfectly sized holder that works wonderfully.

We’ve tried making battery packs by wrapping the entire thing in clods of duct tape. This looks like it works a lot better and there’s still room to fit the batteries and a switch inside of this minty enclosure.