Balancing Robot Needs Innovative Controller and Motor

A self-balancing robot is a great way to get introduced to control theory and robotics in general. The ability for a robot to sense its position and its current set of circumstances and then to make a proportional response to accomplish its goal is key to all robotics. While hobby robots might use cheap servos or brushed motors, for any more advanced balancing robot you might want to reach for a brushless DC motor and a new fully open-source controller.

The main problem with brushless DC motors is that they don’t perform very well at low velocities. To combat this downside, there are a large number of specialized controllers on the market that can help mitigate their behavior. Until now, all of these controllers have been locked down and proprietary. SmoothControl is looking to create a fully open source design for these motors, and they look like they have a pretty good start. The controller is designed to run on the ubiquitous ATmega32U4 with an open source 3-phase driver board. They are currently using these boards with two specific motors but plan to also support more motors as the project grows.

We’ve seen projects before that detail why brushless motors are difficult to deal with, so an open source driver for brushless DC motors that does the work for us seems appealing. There are lots of applications for brushless DC motors outside of robots where a controller like this could be useful as well, such as driving an airplane’s propeller.

Arduino (and Camera) Take Amazing Pictures

There’s an old joke where you ask someone what’s the most important thing about comedy. When they get to about the word “important,” you interrupt them and say, “Timing!” Perhaps the same thing can be said for photography. [Ted Kinsman’s] students at the Rochester Institute of Technology would probably agree. They built an Arduino-based rig to do inexpensive stop action photography.

As Arduino projects go, it isn’t very sophisticated. The circuit contains a  sound detection module and an optoisolator. The code would easily fit on a piece of notebook paper. When a loud sound occurs, the Arduino triggers the flash. Simple enough, but the resulting pictures are amazing. It also looks like a lot of fun to destroy perfectly good things in the name of art.

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CNC Machine Boasts Big Bed, Impressive Power from Off-the-Shelf Parts

A lot of homebrew CNC machines end up being glorified plotters with a router attached that are good for little more than milling soft materials like wood and plastic. So if you have a burning need to mill harder materials like aluminum and mild steel quickly and quietly, set your sights higher and build a large bed CNC machine with off-the-shelf components.

With a budget of 2000 €, [SörenS7] was not as constrained as a lot of the lower end CNC builds we’ve seen, which almost always rely on 3D-printed parts or even materials sourced from the trash can. And while we certainly applaud every CNC build, this one shows that affordable and easily sourced mechatronics can result in a bolt-up build of considerable capability. [SörenS7]’s BOM for this machine is 100% catalog shopping, from the aluminum extrusion bed and gantry to the linear bearings and recirculating-ball lead screws. The working area is a generous 900 x 400 x 120mm, the steppers are beefy NEMA23s, and the spindle is a 3-kW VFD unit for plenty of power. The video below shows the machine’s impressive performance dry cutting aluminum.

All told, [SörenS7] came in 500 € under budget, which is a tempting price point for a machine this big and capable.

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Translate Color to Smell with Bouquet

Hope springs eternal for Smell-O-Vision. [Niklas Roy] recently taught a workshop called Communication Devices at ÉCAL in Lausanne, Switzerland. Four of his Media & Interaction Design students built a scanner that detects colors and emits a corresponding scent.

The project consists of an Arduino connected to a color sensor as well as a SparkFun EasyDriver. The EasyDriver controls a stepper motor which rotates a disc of scent swatches so you sniff the swatch corresponding with the color. The students chose strawberry for red, and blue ended up being “ocean”-scented room spray.

With design students involved it’s no surprise the project looked good. Bouquet’s creators [Erika Marthins], [Arthur Moscatelli], [Pietro Alberti] and [Andrea Ramìrez Aburto] gave the device an intriguingly featureless look, and the “olfactory graphic design” posters they created to demonstrate it look great as well.

[Niklas Roy]’s excellent projects have graced the pages of Hackaday many times before. Be sure to check out his RC Beer Crate, his Music Construction Machine, and his Thermal Imaging Rig if you haven’t already.

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Friday Hack Chat: Tenaya Hurst From Arduino

Join us this Friday at noon PDT for a Hack Chat with Tenaya Hurst of Arduino. If you’ve been one of the big Maker Faires over the last few years (or innumerable other live events) and stopped by the Arduino area you’ve probably met Tenaya. She is the Education Accounts Manager for Arduino and loves working with wearable electronics.

Come and discuss maker education and the role Arduino is playing in getting our students excited about electronics, and STEAM education in general. Tenaya will also be discussing a new wearable tech kit she’s been working on. We hope to see the gear in person at Bay Area Maker Faire next week.

Here’s How To Take Part:

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging.

Log into Hackaday.io, visit that page, and look for the ‘Join this Project’ Button. Once you’re part of the project, the button will change to ‘Team Messaging’, which takes you directly to the Hack Chat.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

DIY Tiny Single-PCB Synthesizer

[Jan Ostman] has been pushing the limits of sound synthesis on the lowly AVR ATMega microcontrollers, and his latest two project is so cute that we just had to write it up. The miniTS shares the same basic sound-generation firmware with his previous TinyTS, which we’ve covered here before, but adds a lot more keys, an OLED, and MIDI, while taking away some of the knobs.

Both feature keyboards that are just copper pads placed over a ground plane, and the code does simple capacitive-sensing to figure out if they’re being touched or not. The point here is that you could pick up a PCB from [Jan] on the cheap, and experiment around with the code. Or you could just take the code and make a less refined version for yourself with a cheapo Arduino and some copper plates.

Either way, we like the combination of minimal materials and maximum tweakability, and think it’s cool that [Jan] shares the code, if not also the PCB designs. Anyone with PCB layout practice could get a clone worked up in an afternoon, although it’s going to be cheaper to get these made in bulk, and you’re probably better off just buying one from [Jan].

Anatomically Correct Plotter Avoids Back Scratch Fever

Everybody needs somebody sometimes, even if it’s just for when your back itches. But directing your itchy interlocutor to the correct spot can be a spatial relations challenge: “Right in the middle… no, down a bit… left… no, the other left! Harder! Wait, not that hard!” Why bother with all that messy interpersonal communication and human contact when you can build an automated, precision-guided back scratcher?

[VijeMiller] has aluminum extrusion tastes on a cardboard budget, but don’t let that put you off this clever build. The idea is pretty simple: a two-axis plotter that moves a rotary-action business end to any point within a V-shaped work envelope. The Arduino in the base talks to a smartphone app that lets you point to exactly the spot in need of attention on what for most of us would be an incredibly optimistic photorealistic map of the dorsal aspect of the body (mildly NSFW photo in the link above dips below the posterior border). Point, click, sweet relief.

The video below shows the rig in action, along with the Thespian skills we’ve come to know and love from [VijeMiller] with such classics as the fake floating 19th green, the no-idling-while-texting alert, and the more recent ker-sploosh fighting foam filled toilet. It does seem like he changed his name from [TVMiller] somewhere along the line, but he can’t throw us off the trail that easily.

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