Our cats were both sleeping near the computer and these videos were driving them nuts. To our ears these birdsongs sound pretty good. They didn’t trick the cats into stalking mode, but they did spark an audible complaint. So the predators aren’t drooling but the mechanical engineers reading this should be. These automata combine the precision of a mechanical clock with a bellows and specialized whistle to recreate birdsong.
You’ve got to hear it for yourself to appreciate the variety produced by the mechanisms. The first video shows off the device seen on the left. This particular model is from the 1890’s and the demo gives a good look at the arms that open and block a passageway to alter the sound. After seeing that link — which was sent in by [Stefan] — we started searching around for more info on the devices. The one pictured to the right turned up. It’s from YouTube user [Singing Bird Boxes] who has many videos showcasing these types of devices. We picked this one because he tried to explain how each part of the mechanism works. These are still being made today, but there’s something magical about seeing one built during the steam age.
We’d like to make Retrotechtacular a weekly feature every Tuesday. Help us out by sending in links to projects that highlight old technology, instructional videos of yore, tours of museums or similar relics.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Singing bird automata”
Our mouth is still agape after digging through [Tom’s] watchmaking blog. This gentleman spent several years designing and machining his own mechanical wristwatch. A dozen years ago or so [Tom] answered an ad for an apprentice watchmaker. He worked on watches and came across a book that detailed how timepieces are made. He was told that no-one does it like that anymore, which only fed his curiosity. What he came up with is, to his knowledge, the first timepiece every made in Australia.
It’s no secret that we have a thing for clocks. But we feature digital timepieces almost exclusively. We’ve love mechanical watches too but don’t see them as hobby projects very frequently. After looking at what goes into the mechanism it’s not hard to see why.
[Tom] was faced with a variety of challenges along the way. One of the biggest was having to come up with tools that would let him perform the precise milling work necessary to achieve success. You’ll want to read through his movement design and manufacture posts. He laid out the plan in CAD, but ended up using some hacked together milling tools to get the job done.
[Martin] just sent in a project he’s been working on that takes Donkey Kong out of the realm of pixels and sprites and puts our hero Mario into a world made of laser cut plywood.
This mechanical version of Donkey Kong uses an Arduino stuffed into an old NES to control Mario jumping over ball bearing ‘barrels.’ The game starts with 12 of these barrels ready to be thrown by our favorite gorilla antagonist, which Mario carefully dodges with the help of a pair of servos.
This is only the first iteration of [Martin]’s mechanical version of Donkey Kong. The next version will keep the clever means of notifying the player if Mario is crushed by a barrel – a simple magnet glued to the back of the Mario piece – and will be shown at the UK Maker Faire next year.
Although [Martin]’s ideas for a mechanical version of Donkey Kong aren’t fully realized with this build, it’s already a build equal to electromechanical Pong.
We don’t really know what to say. This Skeeball cabinet is built entirely from Knex. It works exactly how you’d expect Skeeball to work. You plug in quarter and it dispenses balls and keeps score.
[Shadowman39] worked on the build for more than a year. Everything that went into it is a Knex part with the exception of a few rubber bands, and the paper numbers that are used on the scoreboard. There are six motors which drive the machine. Four of them are responsible for turning the scoreboard digits, the others handle ball return.
The link at the top starts off with a bunch of images of the various parts, but you’ll want to watch the video after the break for a closer look. It shows the coin hopper in greater detail. It’s built to only accept quarters and to reject all other coins.
Continue reading “Mechanical Skeeball built from Knex”
The decision to use electronics for our calculating machines has long been decided. However, that doesn’t mean that mechanical engineers didn’t put up a valiant, if ultimately futile, fight. [Dvice.com] has an interesting article comparing the calculating technology of the 1960s, such as the [Haman 505], to today’s iPad.
This comparison and pictures were made possible by [Mark Glusker]’s excellent collection. These models can be divided into two categories, rotary calculators, and printing calculators. According to [Mark]‘s site, the printing calculators stayed on the market a few years after the rotary calculators, which were off the market by 1970.
Although we may never see machines like these made again, anyone even a little bit mechanically inclined would be hard pressed not to be inspired by this collection. Be sure to check out the video of a [Madas 20BTG] calculator after the break to see what one of the rotary models looks like in action! Continue reading “Antique Electromechanical Calculating Machines”
You probably weren’t expecting a project based on [Nikola Tesla’s] work to show up during the Engine Hacks theme. Most people know of him because of his pioneering work with high voltage equipment. Never the less, [Tesla] designed a device that later became known as the Tesla Turbine. Tesla turbines are made out of a series of thin disks attached to a central rotor. Air or steam is injected into the closed turbine housing at the outer edge of the disks. It swirls around through the turbine blades and eventually exits near the rotor. This type of turbine can achieve very high rotational speeds but doesn’t have a lot of torque, which limits their usefulness. Check out this instructable that shows you how to build your own Tesla turbine out of hard drive platters.
We have featured a Tesla turbine in the past on Hackaday. In this previous post, [Rick] shows us how to carve a pumpkin with a skill saw blade that is powered by one of these turbines.
[Alexey] wrote in to share a mechanical claw (Google Translation) he has been hard at work on for quite some time. While a lot of people will turn to some sort of 3D plastic printer such as the MakerBot if they need plastic parts built, [Alexey] didn’t have access to one. Instead, he carefully crafted the entire mechanism from polycaprolactone, or as it’s more commonly known, Shapelock.
Using a wide range of tools from hair dryers and knives to lighting fixtures, he manually sculpted the claw and its control arm out of plastic, piece by piece. We are particularly impressed by the gearing he was able to cut from the plastic, which can be finicky at times.
As you can see in the video below, The claw mimics each movement he makes with the control arm via a handful of Arduino-driven servos. Everything seems to work quite well, and despite the rough translation by Google, we think this is a great project. If you are looking to do something similar yourself, he has plenty of pictures on his site, which should give you a pretty good idea as to how things were put together.
Continue reading “Robotic arm and claw sculpted entirely from ShapeLock”