Retrotechtacular: The Magic of Making Cars in the ’30s

retrotechtacular-manufacturing-chevrolet

We usually shy away from calling things ‘magic’ in our features because, you know… science. But in the case of this Chevrolet manufacturing reel from 1936 the presentation is nothing short of an industrialized version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Well, not in the sense of mischief, but in that there is almost no explanation and the way the footage is laced together you get the strong feeling that, at the time, this type of industrialization was magic; a modern marvel. The techniques and skills of each worked passed down from a master to an apprentice but virtually unknown to the general public.

The clip, which is also embedded below, starts off in the machine shop where mold makers are getting ready to go into assembly line production. From there it’s off to the foundry for part casting and then into the stamping plant where white-hot (perhaps red-hot, but black and white film) metal is shaped by man-mangling presses. The image above follows the cast, stamped, and machined parts onto the assembly line. We like seeing a room full of pistons being QA checked by hand using a width gauge and micrometer.  The film continues through to the finished vehicle and we think you’ll agree there’s more than enough voyeuristic video here to overcome that lack of narration.

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This is run by an Arduino

industrial-arduino-use

Let us be the first to say: Not a hack! Nonetheless this is an interesting read about how the Arduino movement has made hobby microcontroller boards attractive for industrial applications.

This is a digital printing machine which looks like it is used for industrial packaging. [Paul Furley] worked for the company which produces it, developing the software for the control interface. He recounts the story of how he helped guide the company away from choosing a microcontroller, and toward using an Arduino board. Actually, using three Arduino boards. We can already hear the flame war boiling up in the comments section. But before you rage, read the article and see if you don’t agree with [Paul’s] reasoning.

The most compelling argument to us is that choosing Arduino is absolutely future proof. If the company goes out of business there are hundreds of clone devices already available. As the Arduino platform evolves it will keep pin compatibility in order to support the older shields. And if they choose a different microcontroller the Arduino IDE will still compile the same sketch for the new hardware.

One thing that pops into our minds is write protection. The machine uses a big PCB to which the three Arduinos mount. That can be produced anywhere without threat of having the source code leak as the PCB doesn’t include chips that need to be programmed. Arduino uses AVR chips that have write protection fuses which can be burnt in-house after they flash the control firmware.

[Thanks Thomas]

 

24V relay driver circuit

driving-24v-relays

[Glitch] got his hands on a slew of relays which are meant for use in industrial equipment. They are designed to operate at 24V. He wanted to use these with common microcontrollers and instead of buying a driver he designed and built his own.

There’s a few things to consider with a project like this. You need a power source, a way to level convert the driver pins, and some protection in case something goes wrong with the circuit. Looking at the board above should give you some idea of what’s going on. There’s a big transformer taking up half of the footprint. This steps down mains voltage to something a 7824 regulator can handle. That’s a 24V linear regulator which is fed by a bridge rectifier along with some smoothing capacitors. With the source taken care of [Glitch] uses an optoisolator for both protection and level conversion. After working the bugs out of the design he was able to control the relay using 3.3V, 5V, or 12V.

Custom Made Industrial Hookah

Since their invention in the 1500s, Hookahs have always been a way for craftsmen to show off skills by creating ornate, elaborate, and functional pieces of art. This still holds true today, as easily seen above. Found on the Hookah subreddit, this pipe was pieced together by recycling an old vodka bottle, as well decorating and re-purposing a number of plumbing items. Some finishing touches such as LEDs and gears to the base, as well as a set of turn-valves to the hose plugs give this hookah a very distinctive look.

As always, we at Hackaday do not recommend or promote smoking, no matter what goes into the bowl of the hookah. However, whether you smoke or not, the final product is worth appreciating. Be sure to check out the higher resolution pictures after the break.

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Kinetic sculpture takes a page from modern life

The blurry image above is a snap of toy cars as they zoom around a multi-lane, multi-level, maniacal-maze called Metropolis II. We originally took a look at the video after the break (do it now!) but found more information on [Chris Burden’s] kenetic sculpture in this NYT article. He and eight studio artists began work on the project back in 2006. They built 1200 custom designed cars and gave them a huge city to traverse, with up to 18 lanes at times. The work is not yet done, and the video below is dated (having been filmed in 2009), but project is slated to conclude in about two months and the installation has already been snapped up by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

And here we thought this was the product of an out-of-work packaging system design engineer. Nope, it’s art, and it certainly eclipses other kinetic sculptures we’ve seen.

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As promised: more industrial robot goodness

Remember [Mattythorne]? He took a BMW industrial arm and re-purposed it to write twitter messages on a white board. You can read a small excerpt here.

Well [Matt] is back, and as promised includes an entire write up for how he got @scribblebot scribbling twitter messages.  It’s a little light on details and we wish there was some more in-depth how-to magic, but then we remembered with most of the population not having an industrial arm in the first place the extra time spent incorporating the extra info would be far from worth it. Regardless, it doesn’t surprise that the previous commentators were not far off the mark in how difficult programing one of these machines would be. While such arms do have a few built in libraries it looks like a very exhausting process to override the default axis of motion, incorporate a UI, build a pen holder, and more. And in the end, is it worth it? [Matt] tells us the arm is going to be going back to monotonous car building work soon, giving weeks of prep only a day in the limelight.

Re-purpose industrial robotic arms

We must find out where you can acquire these industrial robots pictured above. Sure, you expect car companies like BMW to have a few lying around, which they used to make into a Twitter message writing robot. But Bungie, a video game company, to have one as part of an advertisement for Reach?

The former is just a scratch on the surface, with some pictures, but a much more decent writeup will be provided after September 12th. The latter has a few videos, and you can watch it recreate a monument with light ‘live’. And while both are impressive uses of old tech, neither answered our first question, we gotta get us one of these.

[Thanks Matt and FurryFriend]