Model House Models House, Vice-Versa

[Eric Tsai] is on a home-automation rampage. Not content with the usual smartphone-based GUIs, [Eric] built a cardboard model house that models his house. Open the garage door, and the model house’s garage door opens. Open the real front door, and a tiny servo motor opens the cardboard front door.

The model house also comes with a power meter that represents his current power usage, which is certainly useful for figuring out if something electronic has gone grossly wrong. You should watch the video (found after the break) all the way through, here’s the spot where he turns on an electric leaf blower. Despite a little big of lag that’s pretty cool!

But the system doesn’t stop there. Since he can control the garage door and some lights remotely via WiFi, the next logical step is to add a couple of buttons so that the model house can control the real house.

We’ve covered [Eric]’s home before. He set up simple, Arduino-based sensor packages all around his house, connected them together through the pub/sub framework MQTT and added in the open-source OpenHAB software interface. The door sensors connect to a hacked Wink hub. From whether or not his dog is barking to whether his laundry is done, [Eric]’s system knows it all.

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Live Steam… chugga chugga

At Maker Faire this weekend. tucked in between a building full of homegrown foodstuffs and a rock polishing booth is the Bay Area Garden Railway Society (BAGRS). They’re running a few live steam locomotives, and they’re beautiful works of engineering and modeling. None of these trains are electric; they all move by boiling water with either coal or butane. It’s a true, proper locomotive running on 45mm gauge track.

[David Cole] of BAGRS gave me the walkthrough of their booth. It’s a simple oval track that took a solid day to level out. There are technically three sets of tracks, two G-scale, and another O scale sharing a rail with a G-scale track. Each and every one of these locomotives is powered by steam produced when water is heated by either coal or butane. Butane is the fuel of choice because of its ease of acquisition, but BAGRS had a few coal-fired locomotives with tiny shovels shoveling anthracite into tiny fireboxes. After loading up with water and getting the firebox nice and hot, these locomotives will cruise around the oval track for about half an hour, with the speed of the locomotive controlled by a servos and RC gear.

Maker Faire isn’t the headline event for BAGRS; in July 2016 they’ll be hosting the National Garden Railway Convention in San Francisco. If you’re local to the Faire, it will be a cool event to check out.

Paper Topo Models with Vector Cutter

If there’s a science fair coming up, this trumps just about any 2D poster. It’s a 3D topographical map of an inactive Slovakian volcano, Poľana. [Peter Vojtek] came up an easy way to generate SVG topo patterns using Ruby.

Topographical data is available through the MapQuest API. You should be able to model just about any part of the world, but areas with the greatest elevation difference are going to yield the most interesting results. The work starts by defining a rectangular area using map coordinates and deciding the number of steps (sheets of paper representing this rectangle). The data are then chopped up into tables for each slice, converted to SVG points, and a file is spit out for the blade cutting machine. Of course you could up the game and laser cut these from more substantial stock. If you have tips for laser-cutting paper without singing the edges let us know. We’ve mostly seen failure when trying that.

The red model explained in [Peter’s] writeup uses small cross-pieces to hold the slices. We like the look of the Blue model which incorporates those crosses in the elevation representation. He doesn’t explain that specifically but it should be easy to figure out — rotate the rectangle and perform the slicing a second time, right?

If you’re looking for more fun with topography we’ve always been fond of [Caroline’s] bathymetric book.

Boeing 777 from Manilla Folders, A 6+ Year Effort

The closer you look the more you will be in awe of this shockingly intricate 777 replica. The fully-articulating landing gear alone has over 2,000 parts and 200 hours of assembly, not even including the penny-sized tires with individually-cut lug nuts. All carved from manilla office folders by hand.

HAD - 777 WingA high school art architecture class in 2008 inspired this build by teaching a few papercrafting techniques. When [Luca] got a hold of a precision Air India 777-300ER schematic, he started building this 5 foot long 1:60 scale model. His project has received a fair amount of media attention over the years, including some false reports that he was so focused on the build that he dropped out of college (he did, for 2 years, but for other reasons). 6.5 years in the making, [Luca] is rounding the homestretch.

HAD - 777 GearThe design is manually drawn in Illustrator from the schematics, then is printed directly onto the manilla folders. Wielding an X-acto knife like a watch-maker, [Luca] cuts all the segments out and places them with whispers of glue. Pistons. Axles. Clamps. Tie rods. Brackets. Even pneumatic hoses – fractions of a toothpick thin – are run to their proper locations. A mesh behind the engine was latticed manually from of hundreds of strands. If that was not enough, it all moves and works exactly as it does on the real thing.

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The model engineer



As a child, [Mike Chrisp] saw a film featuring one of the great narrow gauge English locomotives. While the story was inordinately heartening, as soon as he walked out of the theatre, [Mike] said to himself that he had to have one of these locomotives. Thus began a lifelong adventure in model engineering.

[Mike] builds model locomotives and other steam-powered means of motive power. Everything from five-inch gauge locomotives to small steam tractors is liable to come out of his small workshop, all built with the machining and engineering excellence only a lifetime of experience can provide.

As for what drives [Mike] to stay in his workshop for long hours, he says his shop is just a place to be, a place to tinker, and a place to simply think about things, even if his hands aren’t getting dirty.  There’s something beautiful about that, even if [Mike] were to hide the products of his skill away from the world.

How does that ship get into the bottle?

Meet [Ray Gascoigne]. He’s a ship builder. Well, he builds ships in bottles. He’s been doing it for years and years and years and you can see it in his hands. The details are fantastic on the ships, but I really love hearing about the tools. He talks about how much things have changed over the years from having to build your own specialized tiny drill bits from broken needles to being able to just walk right down to the store and buy some.

The part that I found most interesting is this video, as amazingly beautiful as it is, never shows the insertion and erection of a full ship.

Hackaday links: September 7, 2012

MakerSlide, European edition

We’re all familiar with the MakerSlide, right? The linear bearing system that has been turned into everything from motorized camera mounts to 3D printers is apparently very hard to source in Europe. A few folks from the ShapeOko forum have teamed up to produce the MakerSlide in the UK. They’re running a crowdsourced project on Ulule, and the prices for the rewards seem very reasonable; €65/£73 for enough extrusion, v-wheels, and spacers to make an awesome CNC router.

Kerf bending and math

A few days ago, I made an offhand remark asking for an engineering analysis of kerf bending. [Patrick Fenner] of the Liverpool hackerspace DoES already had a blog post covering this, and goes over the theory, equations, and practical examples of bending acrylic with a laser cutter. Thanks for finding this [Adrian].

276 hours well spent

[Dave Langkamp] got his hands on a Makerbot Replicator, one thing led to another, and now he has a 1/6 scale model electric car made nearly entirely out of 3D printed parts. No, the batteries don’t hold a charge, and the motor doesn’t have any metal in it, but we’ve got to admire the dedication that went in to this project.

It was thiiiiiiis big

If you’ve ever tried to demonstrate the size of an object with a photograph, you’ve probably placed a coin of other standard object in the frame. Here’s something a little more useful created by [Phil]. His International Object Sizing Tool is the size of a credit card, has inch and cm markings, as well as pictures of a US quarter, a British pound coin, and a one Euro coin. If you want to print one-off for yourself, here’s the PDF.

Want some documentation on your TV tuner SDR?

The full documentation for the E4000/RTL2832U chipset found in those USB TV tuner dongles is up on reddit. Even though these chips are now out of production (if you haven’t bought a proper tuner dongle yet, you might want to…), maybe a someone looking to replicate this really cool device will find it useful.