Infrared Controlled Remote Firework Igniter

Firework Igniter

With Independence Day just around the corner, American hackers are likely to find themselves blowing things up in the name of Independence. It’s all great fun but it can also be dangerous. The standard ignition method of “use a lighter and run away really fast” is not exactly safe. Instead of lighting your fireworks the old-fashioned way, why not follow [Facelesstech's] example and build your own infrared controlled remote igniter?

The first step was to decide how to actually ignite the firework fuse. [Facelesstech] had seen others use a car cigarette lighter for this purpose and he decided to follow in their footsteps. He started by removing the cigarette lighter from his own car and pulling it apart. Only one component was needed for this hack. The main heating element is a small disk with a “stem” on the end. If you apply 12V to the stem and attach the outer edge of the disk to ground, the igniter will quickly become hot.

[Facelesstech] originally thought he could just solder some wires to the device. However, the heating element gets so hot that the solder just melts every time it’s turned on. He then got creative and drilled a hole in a small block of wood that fits the heating element. The element is bolted into the wood and the bolt is used as a conductor for the electrical power.

The heating element is powered via a 12V relay. The relay is controlled by an Arduino Nano. The Nano allows two modes of operation. With the first mode, you simply press a button and the Nano will start a five second timer. The idea is to give you enough time to run to a safe distance before the firework is ignited. This isn’t much different from the old-fashioned method, but it does give you a slightly extended fuse. The second mode is where the project really shines. The Nano is also hooked up to an infrared receiver. This allows [Facelesstech] to press a button on an old television infrared remote control to active the igniter. This is a clever solution because it allows you to get to a safe distance without having to run a long wire. It’s also simple and inexpensive. Be sure to watch the video test of the system below. [Read more...]


diagram of the widgets for the widgeduino

Arduino has made a name for itself by being easy to use and has become an excellent tool for rapid prototyping of an idea. If one wakes up in the middle of the night in a eureka moment and hammers out a contraption – using an Arduino as the brains is about as fast and easy as it gets.

With that said, the WIDGEDUINO aims at making this process even faster and easier. Bristling with an array of meters, graphs and data entry widgets, the WIDGEDUINO is sure to be a hit with hackers, makers and engineers alike.

It’s based on the .NET framework and was designed with Visual Studio Windows Presentation Foundation. The user simply writes a sketch using the WIDGEDUINO library, and connects to a PC via serial or Ethernet to gain access to the assortment of awesome widgets.

You can find a few examples here. We hope the creators will keep us updated on the progress of this impressive project. Be sure to stick around after the break for a video demonstrating what the WIDGEUINO can do.

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Reflow Oven Controller with Graphic LCD

Reflow Controller

A reflow oven is one of the most useful tools you will ever have, and if you haven’t built one yet, now is as good a time as any. [0xPIT's] Arduino based reflow oven controller with a graphic LCD is one of the nicest reflow controllers we’ve seen.

Having a reflow oven opens up a world of possibilities. All of those impossible to solder surface mount devices are now easier than ever. Built around the Arduino Pro Micro and an Adafruit TFT color LCD, this project is very straight forward. You can either make your own controller PCB, or use [0xPIT's] design. His design is built around two solid state relays, one for the heating elements and one for the convection fan. “The software uses PID control of the heater and fan output for improved temperature stability.” The project write-up is also on github, so be sure to scroll down and take a look at the README.

All you need to do is build any of the laser cutters and pick and place machines that we have featured over the years, and you too can have a complete surface mount assembly line!

Hard Drive Clock is Simple and Elegant

Binary hard drive clock

[Aaron] has been wanting to build his own binary desk clock for a while now. This was his first clock project, so he decided to keep it simple and have it simply display the time. No alarms, bells, or whistles.

The electronics are relatively simple. [Aaron] decided to use on of the ATMega328 chips he had lying around that already had the Arduino boot loader burned into them. He first built his own Arduino board on a breadboard and then re-built it on a piece of protoboard as a more permanent solution. The Arduino gets the time from a real-time clock (RTC) module and then displays it using an array of blue and green LED’s. The whole thing is powered using a spare 9V wall wort power supply.

[Aaron] chose to use the DS1307 RTC module to keep time. This will ensure that the time is kept accurately over along period of time. The RTC module has its own built-in battery, which means that if [Aaron's] clock should ever lose power the clock will still remember the time. The RTC battery can theoretically last for up to ten years.

[Aaron] got creative for his clock enclosure, upcycling an old hard drive. All of the hard drive guts were removed and replaced with his own electronics. The front cover had 13 holes drilled out for the LED’s. There are six green LED’s to display the hour, and seven blue LED’s for the minute. The LED’s were wired up as common cathode. Since the hard drive cover is conductive, [Aaron] covered both sides of his circuit board with electrical tape and hot glue to prevent any short circuits. The end result is an elegant binary clock that any geek would be proud of.

The First Arduino Radar Shield

The first Radar Arduino ShieldThe very first fully operational radar Arduino shield was recently demonstrated at Bay area Maker Faire. It was built by [Daniel] and [David], both undergrads at UC Davis.

Many have talked about doing this, some have even prototyped pieces of it, but these undergrad college students pulled it off. This is the result from Prof. ‘Leo’ Liu’s full-semester senior design course based on the MIT Coffee Can radar short course, which has been going on for 2 years now. Next year this course will have 30 students, showing the world the interest and market-for project based learning.

Check out the high res ranging demo, where a wider band chirp was used to amazing results. Video below.
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Do You Have Any Idea How Fast Your Blender Was Going?

blenderSpeed Some people really love their smoothies. We mean really, really, love smoothies and everything about making them, especially the blenders. [Adam] is a big fan of blenders, and wanted to verify that his Vitamix blenders ran as fast as the manufacturer claimed. So he built not one, but two speed measuring setups. Scientific blender measurement method requires one to cross check their results to be sure, right?

Measuring the speed of a blender is all about the RPM. Appropriately, [Adam's] first measurement tool was an LED based stroboscope. Stroboscopes have been around for hundreds of years, and are a great way to measure how fast an object is rotating. Just adjust the speed of a flashing light until the rotating object appears frozen. The number of blinks per second is then equal to the Rotations Per Second (RPS) of the object being measured.Multiply by 60 seconds, and you’ve got RPM. [Adam] used an Arduino as the brains behind his stroboscope. He wired a dial up on his breadboard, and used it to adjust the flash rate of an LED. Since this was a quick hack, [Adam] skipped the display and just used the Arduino’s USB output to display speed measurements on his laptop.

There are possibilities for error with stroboscopes. [Adam] discovered that if the stroboscope was flashing at a multiple of the blade’s rotation speed, the blades would appear frozen, and he’d get an erroneous RPM value. Thankfully, [Adam's] Vitamix had asymmetric blades, which made the test a bit easier. He calculated his blades to be spinning at 380 RPS, or 23,000 RPM. Not satisfied with his results, [Adam] brought out Audacity, and ran a spectral analysis of the blender in operation. He found a peak at 378Hz, which was pretty darn close to his previous measurement. Since the blender has a 4 inch blade this all works out to a blade tip speed right around the claimed value of 270 MPH. We’re glad [Adam] found an answer to his blender questions, but our personal favorite blender hack still has to be the V8 blender created by the Top Gear crew.   [via HackerNews]

640×480 VGA On An Arduino

VGAThere are dozens, if not hundreds of examples around the Intertubes of an Arduino generating a VGA video output. The Arduino isn’t the fastest chip by far, and so far, all of these VGA generation techniques have peaked out at lower resolutions if you want to control individual pixels.[PK] has an interesting technique to generate 640×480 VGA at 60 frames per second without overclocking. It’s hacky, it’s ugly, but surprisingly, it actually works.

The VGA standard of 640×480 @ 60 fps requires pixels to be clocked out at 25.175 MHz, and the ATMega chips found in Arduinos top out at 20 MHz. [PK] wanted to generate VGA signals without overclocking, He did this by doubling the clock frequency with digital logic. The ATMega generates a clock, an inverter delays that clock so it is 90 degrees out of phase, and the two clocks are XORed, doubling clock output of the micro. It produces a very ugly square wave at 32 MHz – an error of 27% compared to the VGA spec. Somehow it still works.

With a hilariously out of spec clock, the rest of the project was pulled together from [Nick Gammon]‘s VGA library, a 16×16 font set, and a project from [lft]. Video below.

[Read more...]