Analog Clocks Play Their Own Beat

Play the demo video below and try not to let the rhythm worm its way into your brain. What you’re hearing is the sound of a bunch of clocks, amplified. None of them are keeping wall time, but all of them are playing together.

[Gijs] makes crazy musical instruments. He doesn’t give us much more than a video and a couple schematics for this project, so this one’s still a bit of an enigma, but here’s what we’ve put together.

Klok slave unit schematic
Klok slave unit schematic

The video looks like eight identical version of the same module. The input takes a voltage and converts the rising and falling edges into pulses to drive the coil of an el-cheapo clock. The LEDs pulse as the poles of the clock switch to the incoming beats. The output comes from an amplified piezo sensor stuck on the back of each clock. That is, what you’re hearing is each clock ticking, but amplified. And if you watch the dials spin, it doesn’t look like any of them are telling time.

So far so good, and it matches up with the schematic. But what’s up with that switch on the front? It doesn’t show up anywhere.

And what’s driving the show? [Gijs] tantalizes us with a master clock module (on the same page) that looks like it does keep time, and outputs subdivisions thereof. But that would be too slow to be what’s used in the video. Has he swapped the crystal to make it run faster? It’s a mystery.

Of course, we’d expect no less from the man who mics up a kitchen timer or a gear motor and adds them to his synthesizer rack. We’ve covered a bunch more of [Gijs]’s work in the past, from his video mixers to this hard-drive turned synth oscillator, but this time he’s got us scratching our heads a bit, as well as tapping our feet.

Continue reading “Analog Clocks Play Their Own Beat”

Retrotechtacular: Step Up and Get Your Transformer Training

Whether you’re just getting into electronics or could use a refresher on some component or phenomenon, it’s hard to beat the training films made by the U.S. military. This 1965 overview of transformers and their operations is another great example of clear and concise instruction, this time by the Air Force.

It opens to a sweeping orchestral piece reminiscent of the I Love Lucy theme. A lone instructor introduces the idea of transformers, their principles, and their applications in what seems to be a single take. We learn that transformers can increase or reduce voltage, stepping it up or down through electromagnetic induction. He moves on to describe transformer action, whereby voltages are increased or decreased depending on the ratio of turns in the primary winding to that of the secondary winding.

He explains that transformer action does not change the energy involved. Whether the turns ratio is 1:2 or 1:10, power remains the same from the primary to the secondary winding. After touching briefly on the coefficient of coupling, he discusses four types of transformers: power, audio, RF, and autotransformers.

Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Step Up and Get Your Transformer Training”

Inductive Charger Mod Allows for Non-Stop Wireless Rocking

When you want to jam out to the tunes stored on your mobile devices, Bluetooth speakers are a good option. Battery power means you can take them on the go and the Bluetooth connection means you don’t have to worry about cables or wires dangling around. Unfortunately the batteries never seem to last as long as we want them too. You can always plug the speaker back in to charge up the battery… but when you unhook those cords they always seem to end up falling back behind the furniture.

[Pierre] found himself with this problem, but being a hacker at heart meant that he was able to do something about it. He modified his JAM Classic Bluetooth Wireless Speaker to include an inductive charger. It used to be a lot of work to fabricate your own inductive charging system, or to rip it out of another device. But these days you can purchase kits outright.

The JAM speaker was simply put together with screws, so no cracking of the plastic was necessary. Once the case was removed, [Pierre] used a volt meter to locate the 5V input line. It looks like he just tapped into the USB port’s power and ground connections. The coil’s circuit is soldered in place with just the two wires.

All [Pierre] had left to do was to put the speaker back together, taking care to find space for the coil and the new circuit board. The coil was taped to the round base of the speaker. This meant that [Pierre] could simply tape the charging coil to the underside of a glass table top. Now whenever his Bluetooth speaker gets low on battery, he can simply place it on the corner of the table and it will charge itself. No need to mess with cables.



A Simple LED Flashlight Composed of a Relay and a Magnet

In our tips line we sometimes receive hacks that are amazing just because of their ingenuity. This relay-powered flashlight is definitely one of them. It has been named RattleGen by its creator [Berto], who apparently often makes simple hacks used in his everyday life (have a look at his YouTube channel).

To understand this hack, you first need to know (in case you didn’t already) that a magnet moving near a conductor (here a coil) induces a voltage at its terminals. This is called electromagnetic induction. In the picture you see above, you may distinguish a disassembled relay with a magnet located on the lever’s end. As a ferromagnetic metal is already placed inside the coil, the lever is by default ‘stuck’ in this position. By continuously pressing the latter on its other end, important voltage spikes are created at the coils terminals. [Berto] therefore used a bridge rectifier to transform the AC into DC, and a 1000uF capacitor to smooth the power sent to his super bright LED. A video of the system in action is embedded after the break.

Continue reading “A Simple LED Flashlight Composed of a Relay and a Magnet”

Making a Power Inductor Checker


Back to the basics: there are three kinds of passive electronic components: Inductors, Capacitors and Resistors. An inductor can be easily built and many types of core and bobbin kits are available. However, characterizing one hypothetical coil you just made is quite tricky as its inductance will depend on the measurement frequency and DC bias current. That’s why [ChaN] designed the circuit shown above.

As you may guess, RF enthusiasts are more interested in the inductance vs frequency curve while power circuit designers prefer inductance vs load current (for a given frequency). The basic principle behind the circuit shown above is to load an inductor for repetitive short periods and visualizing the current curve with an oscilloscope connected to a sense resistor. When loading the inductor, the current curve will be composed of two consecutive slopes as at a given moment the coil’s core will be saturated. Measuring the slope coefficient then allows us to compute the corresponding inductance.

[Via Dangerous Prototypes]

Building a linear motor


We admit that this project doesn’t have very many details available, but it was just too neat for us to pass up. It’s a small linear motor which [ligonapProduktion] built after seeing a very brief description of a commercially available version.

The video after the break shows him testing the motor. In this screenshot he’s holding the center shaft while the coil assembly moves back and forth. But it works with a stationary coil moving the rod as well. The motor is basically a modified solenoid. There are sixteen neodymium magnets inside the shaft. The set of four coils is driven by an ATtiny44. Just like a stepper motor, energizing the coils in the correct order pushes against the rare earth magnets creating motion.

We’re not sure if he has any use in mind for this build. For us we just like to see the concept in practice (we feel the same way about a homopolar motor build).

Continue reading “Building a linear motor”

[Staci Elaan]’s awesome portable tesla coils.

We stumbled onto [Staci’s] videos a while ago when we posted this big tesla gun. While it wasn’t the first portable coil we had seen, it was certainly an impressive implementation. In the comments we found [Staci] had already been making these for a while. Hers were big and small, had awesome modulation, and looked freaking cool too.

It also should be pointed out that [Staci] donates her coils to people when she’s done! Let me say that again, she gives them away to groups of people that could use them. That deserves some respect.

Unfortunately, [Staci] didn’t document her builds in great detail at the time. She has added some information recently though.   You can read about her first working prototype from 2006, or a slightly more modern one here.

Of course, the real fun is in seeing them work.

Continue reading “[Staci Elaan]’s awesome portable tesla coils.”