Hardware Tribes Growing Up Around Artisanal Electronics

Consumer electronics are design beasts that must serve many masters. There’s a price point for the product itself, a ceiling for the feature set (lest it not be ‘user friendly’), and to take the risk of actually manufacturing something there needs to be proof of the market. A lot of great things make it through this process, but some really unique and special gear goes completely around it.

So is the story of this AND!XOR hardware badge being built for DEF CON 25. This is not the official conference badge, but the latest in a growing trend of hardware/firmware engineers and hackers who design their own custom gear for the conference, trying to one-up not just the official badge, but the other hardware tribes doing the same. This unique hardware excitement is a big reason that Hackaday has developed electronic badges for our conferences.

The new badge is a mashup of Bender from Futurama and Raoul Duke from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, presents something of monstrosity to hang around your neck. That has certainly never stopped us from having one of these bouncing around our necks as we pound the cattle paths from talk to talk (and the DC23 vinyl record was way more unwieldy anyway).

Bender’s forehead display has now been upgraded from a diminutive OLED to a generous color LCD display. The 433 MHz which used the spring antenna on the previous badge has given way to a Bluetooth Low Energy. The BLE is built into the Rigado BMD-300 SOC that is now in conrol of the badge. We can’t wait to see the shenanigans unlocked with this new hardware — they’re already showing of crazy animations, retro gaming, and teasing a huge multiplayer game with all the badges. Finally, the “Secret Component” at the bottom of their components list delivers the je ne sais quoi to the whole project.

Fans of AND!XOR have already thrown their weight behind it. Unofficial badges have been unavailable to a wider group or only offered in flash-sales that pop up during the con. Last year the team was met with a huge mob throwing money at their supply of 175 badges. Now the AND!XOR team has grown to five people toiling away to make the design, the easter-egg laden firmware, and the manufacturing process better than the amazing work of last year. They just launched a crowd funding campaign on Tuesday and immediately blew past their goal about five times over.

We’re hoping to get our mitts on one of these ahead of DEF CON to give you an early look at what these hardware artists have accomplished. If you’re part of another hardware tribe building custom electronics for the love of it, we’d really like to hear from you. This goes for any conference — we know of at least one other in progress.

DIY Roll Bender Keeps it Simple and Sturdy

If you’ve ever tried to bend a metal pipe or bar over your knee, you’ll know that even lightweight stock requires quite a bit of force. And the force needs to be properly directed, lest the smooth bend you seek become a kink or a crease. When your hands and knees no longer fill the bill, try [MakeItExtreme]’s sturdy and simple roll bender.

As we watched the video below, we had a little déjà vu — hadn’t the [MakeItExtreme] crew built a roll bender for their shop before? Turns out they had, but in reviewing that video, we can see why they gave it a second shot. This build is a model of simplicity compared to the previous. With a frame fabricated from just a few pieces of steel I-beam, this version is far more approachable than its big brother and just about as capable. The three forming rollers ride in stout pillow blocks and can be repositioned for different bending radii. A 2-ton hydraulic bottle jack provides the force needed to direct the stock through the rollers, which are manually powered. In a nice touch, the incomplete tool was used to create the rim of the large-diameter handwheel for the drive roller.

The tools keep piling up at [MakeItExtreme]’s open air workshop — we even get a glimpse of their heavy-lift electromagnet that we recently featured. As always, we love the fit and finish on these builds, and watching the time-lapse videos is like a condensed class in metalworking.

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Animatronic Head Responds with Animated GIFs

[Abhishek] describes Peeqo as a “personal desktop robotic assistant” that looks like “the love child of an Amazon Echo and a Disney character.” We’re not sure about that last part — we’re pretty sure [Bender Bending Rodriquez] would fail a paternity suit on this one. Just look at that resemblance.

vkwnaidWhatever Peeqo’s parentage may be, it’s a pretty awesome build, and from the look of [Abhishek]’s design notes, he put a lot of thought into it, and a lot of work too. The build log reveals 3D-printed parts galore, custom-etched PC boards, and a hacked Raspberry Pi to both listen for voice commands and play responses in the form of animated GIFs on Peeqo’s ‘face’. The base has six modified RC servos to run the Gough-Stewart platform that lets Peeqo emote, and the head contains pretty much all the electronics. Beyond the hardware, a ton of programming went into giving Peeqo the ability to communicate through head gestures and GIFs that make sense for the required response.

Whether it’s bopping along to the tunes on your playlist or motivating you to lay off the social media with [Will Ferrell]’s flaming angry eyes, Peeqo looks like a ton of fun to build and use. Conveniently enough, [Abhishek] has shared all his files so you can build one too.

We haven’t seen anything like Peeqo before, but we have seen a lot of Amazon Echo hacks and even a few Stewart platform builds. But did we inadvertently feature a project starring Peeqo’s dad way back in 2009?

[Thanks to Aaron Cofield for the tip]

Hands-on the AND!XOR Unofficial DEF CON Badge

DEF CON 24 is still about two weeks away but we managed to get our hands on a hardware badge early. This is not the official hardware — there’s no way they’d let us leak that early. Although it may be unofficial in the sense that it won’t get you into the con, I’m declaring the AND!XOR badge to be officially awesome. I’ll walk you through it. There’s also a video below.

Over the past several years, building your own electronic badge has become an impromptu event. People who met at DEF CON and have been returning year after year spend the time in between coming up with great ideas and building as many badges as they can leading up to the event. This is how I met the trio who built this badge — AND!XORAndrew Riley, and Jorge Lacoste — last year they invited me up to their room where they were assembling the last of the Crypto Badges. Go check out my guide to 2015 Unofficial DEF CON badges for more on that story (and a video of the AM transmissions that badge was capable of).

The outline is this year’s badge is of course Bender from Futurama. Both eyes are RGB LEDs, with another half dozen located at different points around his head. The microcontroller, an STM32F103 ARM Cortex-M0 Cortex-M3, sits in a diamond pattern between his eyes. Above the eyes you’ll find 16 Mbit of flash, a 128×64 OLED screen, and a reset button. The user inputs are five switches and the badge is powered by three AA batteries found on the flip side.

bender's-nose-closeup

That alone makes an interesting piece of hardware, but the RFM69W module makes all of the badges interactive. The spring coming off the top of Bender’s dome is a coil antenna for the 433 MHz communications. I only have the one badge on hand so I couldn’t delve too deeply what interactive tricks a large pool of badges will perform, but the menu hints at a structure in place for some very fun and interesting applications.

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On-Demand Paper Clips

3D Printers are great for printing out parts or items you need, but can they really help if you run out of paper clips? Yes, the all important and extremely overlooked bent metal fastener can put a serious damper on your day if not readily available. There is a solution to this problem, it’s called the Paper Clip Maximizer 1.0. The only consequence of using such a machine may be the destruction of mankind.

The machine takes a spool of wire and methodically bends it into a paper clip shape. Just like an extruder on a 3D Printer, there is a knurled drive wheel with a spring-loaded bearing pinching the wire. This drive wheel is powered by an RC servo that has been modified for continuous rotation. After the drive mechanism, the wire passes through a sturdy guide block. Upon exit, the wire finds the bending head, also powered by a servo. There is a bearing on the end of the bending head that is used to bend the wire around the guide block. After making several bends to form the paper clip, the bending head swings around to cut off the newly manufactured clip with an abrasive wheel. Unfortunately, this part of the process doesn’t work well. The cutoff wheel motor is powered directly by the Arduino that controls the entire machine, the power output of which is not enough to easily cut the wire. It can also leave a sharp burr on the cut wire which is not a great feature for paper clips to have. But we just see these as future fodder for hacking sessions!

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Vise Reborn as a Roll Bender

Have you ever tried bending a metal rod into a consistent curve? Maybe you bent it over your knee or broke out a bucket or something. Doing it by hand never really gets the arc perfect. Handyman [Joe] found himself needing to bend a bunch of 1/4″ metal rod into various diameter rings. He didn’t have any tools to bend or roll metal and instead of fretting about it, he put on his ingenuity hat and built a perfect tool for the job.

That perfect tool is called a Roll Bender and it uses 3 rollers to bend metal into an arc of consistent radius. The straight piece of metal is passed by the rollers many times. The distance between the rollers is continually adjusted to reduce the radius of the arc of the metal until it reaches the correct size.

[Joe] started out with an old drill press vise. A piece of plate steel was welded to the  stationary vise jaw to provide a platform for a grooved pulley to be mounted. On the clamping jaw, a piece of angle iron was attached to support two very large bearings. The metal rod is clamped between the two bearings and the grooved pulley. A key made from a socket and some scrap metal as a handle allow the user to rotate the pulley by hand while the distance between the rollers is adjusted by the vise’s crank. Doing this moves the rod back and forth between all 3 rollers to gradually mold the once-straight rod into a full ring.

We’ve always been fond of machines that do the bending for you. Even if they haven’t been invented yet.

A closer looks helps you build your own DiWire Bender

Whether or not you’re actually going to build this CNC wire bender, we think you’ll love getting a closer look at how it’s put together. The team over at PENSA got such a strong response from a look at the original machine that they decided to film a video (embedded after the break) showing how the thing was put together. They’ve also posted a repository with code, bom, etc.

In the image above [Marco] shows off the portion that actually does the bending. It’s designed to mount on the pipe through which the straightened wire is fed. The 3d printed mounting bracket really makes this a lot easier. The assembly provides a place to attach the solenoid which moves a bearing in and out of position. That bearing presses against the wire to do the bending, but must be moved from one side of the wire to the other depending on the direction of the next bend. This is a lot easier to understand after watching the demo video which is also embedded after the break.

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