Running a Laundromat with an Arduino

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[Hubert] sent us a tip about a friend’s project to rescue a laundromat from its failing electronics. We’re not entirely sure what went wrong with the old control center, but considering a replacement would have cost nearly 25,000 EUR, we think [Stefan] found the perfect solution: he gave it an Arduino and Android overhaul (translated).

Although [Stefan] explains that the boards were defective, perhaps one of our German readers can help us out with a more specific translation. More clear, however, are the steps taken to upgrade the system. The situation at the laundromat was a bit of an emergency: there was no way for customers to pay for use of the machines. As a result, [Stefan] had free reign to overhaul things as he saw fit. He decided to remove the complex button setup in favor of a touchscreen Android tablet, which provided users with a simple interface to make selections. The tablet serves only as an input device. The heavy lifting is handled by an Arduino Mega 2560, which hooks up to what remains of the original system and controls the 27 machines in the laundromat.

[Stefan] admits that he isn’t a particular fan of the Arduino, but that for the price, it’s a tough solution to beat. He’s not the only one overhauling with Arduinos. Check out some other examples of upgraded machines, like the Arduino-enhanced PopCARD vending machine.

UPDATE: [Andreas] sent in a better translation of the project page which we’ve included below. He worries his written English isn’t the best, but we think it is a lot easier to understand than the machine translation. Thank you for you work [Andreas!]

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Custom Arcade Control Panel

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Anybody can fire up an emulator and play arcade games of yesteryear, but if you want to capture more of the nostalgia, you should build a custom arcade control panel. [Quinn] started her build by narrowing down which games she was most interested in playing, and decided on a straightforward 2-player setup. The biggest challenge was finding joysticks that would allow for switchable 4-way or 8-way control: some games such as Ms. Pac Man were made for 4-way joystick input, and the added positions on a 8-way can lead to confused inputs and frustrated players.

[Quinn] found the solution with a pair of Ultimarc Servo Stik joysticks, which use a servo motor to swap between 4 and 8-way mode. The output from both the joysticks and the buttons feed into an iPac encoder, which converts the signal to emulate a USB keyboard. The panel was first mocked up on butcher paper, with dimensions borrowed from various games: the panel itself resembles Mortal Kombat 2, while the buttons are spaced to match X-Men vs Street Fighter 2. [Quinn] chose some spare melamine—plywood with a plastic coating—to construct the panel, drilled some holes and used a router to carve out space for the joysticks. A USB hub was added to power the servos and to make room for future additions, which [Quinn] will have no difficulty implementing considering that her electrical layout is enviably clean. To cap it all off, she fit two “coin slot” buttons: a quarter placed into a slot serves as a start button when pressed.

Be sure to see the videos after the break that demonstrate the coin buttons and the servos, then check out a different retro joystick hack for a tripod controller, or look to the future with the Steam Controller.

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This piggy bank is our stock broker

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[Johna and Justin] are working to take the emotion out of playing the market. They built this piggy bank which automatically purchases stock when your coinage totals the cost of a single share. That’s right, just turn the selector to one of your three chosen stocks (Google, Facebook, and Apple are used in this example) and plug in some coins. The bank counts your money, compares it to the current online stock price, and pulls the trigger if you have enough dough. You can check out a demo clip after the jump.

The hardware is rather simple thanks to Adafruit’s programmable multi-coin acceptor. It handles the cash and it’s pretty easy to interface with the Arduino which handles the rest of the work. It connects to a computer via USB, depending on a PHP script to poll the current price. We dug through the code repository just a bit but didn’t find the snippet that does the actual stock purchase. Whether or not they actually implemented that, it’s certainly an interesting concept.

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Coin-based Rube Goldberg helps bring in donations

This kiosk was conceived as an interactive poster to help raise donations for a German relief organization. Instead of just providing a coin jar, the piece puts on a little show of transporting a two-Euro coin from the slot at the top to the repository in the base. Along the way many of the parts move, telling a story in that Rube Goldberg sort of way.

What is surprising to us is how much this looks like one of our own projects — at least up to the point that the display is painted. The link above shows off some pictures from the development stages. The prototype shapes up on an oddly shaped scrap of plywood with the coin’s path plotted out. After the particulars of a trip from point A to point B were established the empty spaces were filled in to add visual interest. If you take a gander at the back of the plywood you get an eyeful of protoboard and draped wires. A camera, Mac Mini, and Dropbox were included in the mix to share an image of the donor on the group’s Facebook page (with the donor’s consent of course).

The piece had a month-long home in the Hamburg airport earlier this year. See what that looked like in the video clip after the break.

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Donation meter raises alarm when not plugged with coins

This is something of a mandatory donation meter. If you don’t feed it with coins it sounds a very loud alarm continuously.

[Piet De Vaere] built the device for a free festival in Ghent, Belgium. The intent is to help raise awareness that although free of an admission price, the success of the event depends on donations. It works much like a parking meter. When you feed it coins time is added to the meter. When it runs all the way down that large loudspeaker on the right side of the case sounds the alarm.

In the video after the break [Piet] walks us through a demonstration, followed by a tour of the hardware. The pointer on the meter is a piece of cardboard connected to a servo. An Arduino board controls the servo, adding time in two-minute intervals whenever a coin enters the chute and passes by an optical sensor. There is no distinction between types of coins.

The use of a pizza box as a prototyping board shows that you don’t have to be fancy to build something neat.

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Bronze casting with MakerBot

That, dear readers, is the smell of a new Hackspace opening up in Davenport Iowa. It is also the lovely scent of burning plastic. Because how do you celebrate a new Hackerspace? By casting bronze coins of course!

Begin by having a MakerBot extrude plastic coins, then compact the plastic coin in sand to produce a mold. Heat up your bronze in a trashcan furnace and pour it into the mold. The plastic melts away and you’re left with a bronze coin.

There are probably some safety measures and precautions that should be followed as well…

Coin-op pays out when you win

The days of plugging coins into a stand up arcade game are sadly dwindling. [Dirk] figured out a way to prolong the nostalgia by incorporating currency back into the experience in a useful way. He rebuilt the video game Raiden to pay out a prize when you win the game. Now it takes a coin for each play but if you make it to the end you can recoup the expense.

[Dirk] took an original cabinet game, did some dangerous work to replace the old CRT monitor, and retrofit a MAME machine to handle the gaming. He’s using Windows and had some problems because of it but, as you can see after the break, things worked out in the end. The hopper hardware that spits out coins went through several steps from the initial design to the finished product, but it has always been based around a PIC controller connected to the MAME box via parallel port. This is a fun addition to any MAME cabinet.

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