Juggling Robot Deftly Handles Balls

A well-designed robot can do any action a human can do. Whether this is an acrobatic performance, or just writing with a pen, there’s a robot out there for any single action a human can perform. This includes juggling, but never before has the human action of juggling been replicated at this scale. [Nathan] built a robot that can juggle seven balls simultaneously. That’s more balls in the air than any other juggling robot.

jugglebotWhile the original plan was to build a low-cost version that could juggle balls by throwing them up in the air, this proved to be very difficult. Instead of giving up, [Nathan] simplified the problem by rolling the balls up a ramp. The entire build is documented in an imgur gallery, and there’s some interesting tech going on here. The 3D printed arms are controlled by beefy stepper motors running at 60V. To stop the balls from bouncing around in the arms, [Nathan] included and electromagnet to hold the balls in place for a fraction of a second during each cycle.

Juggling seven balls is amazing, but how about eight? This is the question every builder of a juggling robot will get, and it’s not quite as simple as adding another ball. The motion of juggling an even number of balls is completely different from juggling an odd number. That being said, [Nathan]’s robot does have four balls under its belt. It should probably get that looked at.

This isn’t [Nathan]’s first amazing 3D printed robot, and it probably won’t be the last, either: he recently built a Skittles sorting machine for the next time Van Halen comes to town. There’s an amazing amount of skill in all his projects, and he’s certainly an asset to the entire hackaday.io community.

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Hackaday Prize Semifinalist: Individualized Breathing Apparatus

Preterm infants frequently require ventilator support while they’re in the neonatal ICU, and this is usually done with a CPAP machine. The machine to infant interface is called a nasal cannula, a bit of plastic that connects an infant’s nose to the machine. Because there aren’t that many sizes of nasal cannula available, and preemies come in all sizes, there are inevitable problems. Ill-fitting nasal cannula can reduce the effectiveness of a CPAP, and can even cause significant damage to an infant’s septum.

For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Ben] is tackling this problem head on. He’s working on creating individualized nasal cannula for newborns using 3D modeling and printing, allowing nasal cannula of all shapes and sizes to be created in a matter of hours.

To create these customized cannula, [Ben] is 3D scanning an infant mannequin head to gather enough data to import it into a Processing sketch. A custom cannula is then created and printed with flexible 3D printer filament. In theory, it should work, apart from the considerations involved in building a medical device.

As for why custom plastic tubes matter, [Ben] works at the only NICU in Western Australia. Even though he only sees 8-10 CPAP ‘pressure injuries’ in his unit each year, these kids are extremely fragile and some parents have expressed a desire for something that isn’t as uncomfortable for their newborn than the off-the-shelf solution. Customizing these cannula from a quick 3D scan is a great way to do that, and a perfect example of the Hackaday Prize theme of ‘build something that matters.’

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

This Project Will Be Stolen

What do you get when you take a flight case from Harbor Freight, fill it up with random electronics junk, and send it off to a stranger on the Internet? The travelling hacker box. It’s a project I’m putting together on hackaday.io to emulate a swap meet through the mail.

The idea is simple – take a box of random electronics junk, and send it off to a random person on hackaday.io. This person will take a few items out of the box, replace those items with something sitting on their workbench, and send it off to the next person. This is repeated until the box is stolen.

Has something like this been done before? Yes, yes it has. The Great Internet Migratory Box of Electronics Junk was a thing back in the ‘aughts, with Hackaday (via Eliot) receiving a box (code name: Rangoon) from [John Park], before sending it off to [Bre Pettis]. The box subsequently disappeared. There were many migratory boxes of electronics junk, but most didn’t travel very far. Already the Travelling Hacker Box has 2,525 miles on its odometer, and plans are in the works for travelling 25,000 miles – the circumference of the Earth – before heading out of the United States.

If you’re wondering what’s in the box, here’s a mostly complete inventory. With the exception of a few items from the swag bag from the Open Hardware Summit last weekend, it’s mostly random electronics stuff I’ve had sitting around on my workbench and desk. The first recipient grabbed a few dev boards and replaced them with a Teensy LC and enough tubes to make a small amplifier.

The current plan for the Travelling Hacker Box is to bounce across the United States for the circumference of the Earth until departing for more exotic lands. There are people queued up to receive the box from across the world, and the box will eventually be hitting Europe, India, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Everyone is welcome to participate as it is passed from hacker to hacker as a migratory box of electronic toys.

A DIY Mobile Soldering Iron

Cordless soldering irons are, as a rule, terrible. A few months ago, you could pick up a cordless soldering iron from Radio Shack that was powered by AAA batteries. You can guess how well those worked. There are butane-fueled soldering irons out there that will heat up, but then you’re left without the requisite degree of temperature control.

[Xavier] didn’t want to compromise on a mobile soldering iron, so he made a desktop version portable. His mobile temperature controlled soldering iron uses the same electronics that are found in inexpensive Hakko clones, and is powered by a LiPo battery.

The soldering station controller comes directly from eBay, and a DC/DC boost converter accepts just about any DC power supply – including an XT60 connector for LiPo cells. A standard Hakko 907 iron plugs into the front, and a laser cut MDF enclosure makes everything look great. There were a few modifications to the soldering station controller that involved moving the buttons and temperature display, but this build really is as simple as wiring a few modules together.

With an off-the-shelf LiPo battery, the iron heats up fast, and it doesn’t have a long extension cord to trip over. With the right adapter, [Xavier] can use this soldering station directly from a car’s cigarette power port, a great feature that will be welcomed by anyone who has ever worked on the wiring in a car.

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Simplest Electricity Monitoring Solution Yet

Monitoring your home’s energy use is the best way to get a handle on your utility bills. After all, you can’t manage what you can’t measure! The only problem is that most home energy monitoring systems are cumbersome, complicated, or expensive. At least, until now. [Kevin] has created a new electricity meter based on Particle Photons which should alleviate all of these problems.

The Particle Photon (we get confused on the naming scheme but believe this the new version of what used to be called the Spark Core) is a WiFi-enabled development board. [Kevin] is using two, one to drive the display and one to monitor the electricity usage. This part is simple enough, each watt-hour is accompanied by a pulse of an LED on the meter which is picked up by a TLS257 light-to-voltage sensor. The display is a Nextion TFT HMI (touch screen) which is pretty well suited for this application. The data is corralled by emoncms, part of the OpenEnergyMonitor platform, which ties everything together.

For a project that has been done more than a few times, this one does a great job of keeping the price down while maintaining a great aesthetic. Make sure to check out the video below to see it in action.

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RaspiDrums Uses Expensive Sensors

Piezoelectric sensors are great for monitoring mechanical impacts with a microcontroller. Whether you’re monitoring knocks on a door or watching a heartbeat, they are a cheap way to get the job done. They do have their downsides, though, so when [Jeremy] wanted to build an electronic drum set, he decided to use more expensive accelerometers to measure the percussive impacts instead.

Even though piezo sensors are cheap, they require a lot of work to get them working properly. The ADXL377 3-axis accelerometer that [Jeremy] found requires much less work, plus provides more reliable data due to a 1kHz low-pass filter at the output. In his setup, a Raspberry Pi handles all of the heavy lifting. An ADC on each drum sends data about each impact of the drum, and the Raspberry Pi outputs sound via the native Alsa driver and a USB sound card.

This project goes a long way to show how much simpler a project like this is once you find the right hardware for the job. [Jeremy]’s new electronic drums are very well documented as well if you are curious about using accelerometers on your newest project rather than piezo sensors. And, if you’re into drums be sure to see how you can have drums anywhere, or how you can build your own logic drums.

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Core Memory for the Hard Core

[Brek] needed to store 64 bits of data from his GPS to serve as a last-known-position function. This memory must be non-volatile, sticking around when the GPS and power are off. Solutions like using a backup battery or employing a $0.25 EEPROM chip were obviously too pedestrian. [Brek] wanted to store his 64 bits in style and that means hand-wired core memory.

OK, we’re pretty sure that the solution came first, and then [Brek] found a fitting problem that could be solved, but you gotta give him props for a project well executed and well documented.

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