Roll your own capacitors

diy_caps

Rolling your own electronics components can be fun, but can also help in explaining how certain items actually work. [Addie] from The Toymakers recently set off to figure out how capacitors work, by making her own.

She understood the general concept behind capacitors and how they are constructed, but she wanted to see how it was done first-hand. To construct her capacitor, she selected aluminum foil as her conductor, and saran wrap as the dielectric. She admits that her first attempt was a failure, but undaunted, she carried on. Friends suggested that her conductors were a bit too small to hold any reasonable charge, so she tried larger sheets of aluminum foil to no avail.

She kept at it and found success after using several feet of foil to construct her capacitor. She charged it with a handful of AA batteries and was excited to see her multimeter come to life when she touched the leads to the cap.

While you likely wouldn’t use a hand-made capacitor in your next build, it is a fun experiment to do with children interested in learning about electronics.

[via Adafruit blog]

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DIY sunrise alarm clock

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As a project for an embedded systems class, [Alan] recently built himself a sunrise-simulating alarm clock. You are probably familiar with these sorts of timepieces – they gradually light up the room to awaken the sleeping individual rather than jarring them awake with a buzzer or the radio. Since many commercial units with this feature are sold for $70 and up, his goal was to replicate the functionality at a fraction of the cost, using only open source components.

An Arm Cortex M3 processor runs the show, displaying the time via a pair of 8×8 LED matrix panels on the front of the device. The clock is programmed to gently wake up its user by simulating a sunrise over a period of 5, 15, 30, 45, or 60 minutes. If the user has not woken up before the sunrise simulation is complete, the clock resorts to a traditional piezo alarm to rouse the heavy sleeper.

The project is nicely done, and after looking at his bill of materials it seems to be far cheaper than many sunrise alarm clocks you will find in stores.

DIY resin cast project box

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[Rhys] wrote in to share a custom project box he built from scratch using polyester resin. He states that in New Zealand, he tends to have problems finding the perfect project box. They are typically too big or small to get the job done, so he figured he might as well just build his own to spec.

Using Google SketchUp, he designed his ideal project box, then got busy building wooden molds. He scored some free melamine scraps from a local company, which he used to build the base of his molding rig. Once the inner and outer molds were built, he secured them to his base and mixed up some polyester resin.

A few hours later, he pulled apart his molds and smoothed out his project box with some sandpaper. He drilled and tapped screw holes, then prepared to make a lid and base for the box.

He admits that the process is quite involved, but there is something to be said for building yourself an enclosure made specifically for the project it is going to house. If you are looking to do something similar be sure to check out his blog – he offers up some sound resin casting tips, as well as some pitfalls to avoid.

Save boatloads of cash by building your own laser cutter

diy_laser_build

Have a bunch of time on your hands, and about $2,500 sitting around? Why not settle in and build yourself a laser cutter?

That’s exactly what Buildlog forum member [r691175002] did, and he told us about it in our comments just a few moments ago. Laser cutters can be pretty cost prohibitive depending on what you are thinking of picking up. The cheapest Epilog laser we could find costs $8,000, and you know what can happen when you try buying a cheap laser online.

Instead of going for a ready-made cutter, he purchased an open-source kit from Buildlog, documenting the highlights of the build process online. The build log walks through a good portion of the construction starting with the frame and motor mounts, continuing through wiring up the electronics as well as some of the finishing touches. If you happen to head over to take a look around, you will find that there are plenty of pictures from various stages of the construction process to keep you busy for awhile.

With everything said and done, [Ryan] is quite happy with his laser. After going through the build process, he offers up some useful construction advice, as well as tips on sourcing cheaper hardware. He estimates that if he built the laser today, he could probably cut the costs nearly in half.

There’s no doubt about it – a $1300 laser cutter sounds pretty darn good to us.

These Apple-inspired speakers would make Steve Jobs envious

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Reader [Brett] sent in the build log of his beautiful set of Apple-inspired computer speakers for us to look over. Having seen our recent post on DIY speakers, he thought he would throw his hat into the ring as well, and we’re glad he did.

He wanted a nice set of speakers to complement his iMac, but couldn’t find anything he liked that would provide the sound quality he was looking for while closely matching the design of the computer. The speakers are constructed out of MDF with CNC milled acrylic front and back panels. Hand-built crossovers reside inside the speaker boxes, which provides for a clean, polished look. He originally planned on building a pair of subwoofers into his desk, but ultimately settled on building a single subwoofer to sit on the floor.

The finished product is simply stunning, and we would have a hard time believing they were a DIY project if we didn’t see them come together piece by piece. Do you think you can match [Brett’s] handiwork?  If so, feel free to share your speaker builds in the comments.

Audio Two-fer – Sneaker speakers and DIY Mid-Fi woofers

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Nike Air Force 1 shoes are probably some of the most well-recognized sneakers around the world, aside from the always timeless Chuck Taylor All Stars. So when [Alex Nash] was asked to create some art using something ordinary with a goal of turning it into something special,  he immediately grabbed a pair and got to work.

His vision was to build a set of PC speakers by embedding a small amplifier and speakers into a pair of Air Force 1s. As you can see from the pictures on his site, they look awesome. He doesn’t say how good they sound, but we’re betting they perform better than that old pair that came with your last computer.

When [Stacy] was in college, she didn’t have a ton of room or money for a nice audio setup, so she decided to build a pair of speakers rather than buying them. She admits that these “Mid-Fi” woofers won’t be the centerpiece of your Hi-Fi setup, but they still sound pretty darn good for $50 DIY speakers. She compares them to units you would find in the store for $300+, and they sound so good she continues to use them as a compliment to the rest of her Hi-Fi setup now that she has a place of her own.

DIY ring light takes its cues from fiber optic toys

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DIY ring light setups for DSLR cameras are nothing new around here. While most of them rely on an array of LEDs or a mirror-based light tube, [Wolf] had a different idea. He figured that since optical fibers are made specifically for transmitting light from one place to another, they would make a perfect medium for constructing a ring light.

Since he was using the camera’s built-in flash to power the ring light, he was able to provide a function that few other DIY ring lights do: proper flash compensation. Typically, a self-made ring light flashes at one set brightness, regardless of how much light is actually required to compose the image.

The construction was relatively simple, albeit time consuming. He procured a set of fiber optic cables that had been melted together into 150 small bundles, which he then glued to an acrylic ring that he fabricated. The end result isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing ring light we’ve ever seen, but it’s the pictures that matter at the end of the day. As you can see on his site, they speak for themselves.

Looking to build your own ring light? Check out a couple of other projects we have featured in the past.

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