Brilliant auto-off feature for a bike light


If you’re going to use your bicycle as transportation at night you really must have a head and tail light in hopes that the crazy drivers don’t hit you. For good reason, these lights don’t turn themselves off. But [Miceuz] kept forgetting to shut it down upon arrival and always ended up with dead batteries. His quest for an auto-off feature that actually worked ended in a brilliant and simple add-on circuit.

He first thought about using an accelerometer, but couldn’t find one that fit the bill without also adding a microcontroller. He came up with an even simpler circuit, which can be seen at the base of the black plastic housing. It’s a bit of copper clad board with a small spring attached. The spring completes an RC timer circuit which drives a MOSFET. When that circuit is charged, the MOSFET connects power to the bike light. When the cap runs out the MOSFET threshold cuts power and everything turns off. Since the spring jiggles while he rides it provides the momentary connection necessary to charge the capacitor. Stay stationary for about 30 seconds and the auto-off kicks in.

CNC zen gardening

The Harford Hackerspace in Baltimore, Maryland just went public with the zen garden they built for the Red Bull Creation contest. It’s a CNC creation that will help ease your frustration with that DIY 3d printer that you just can’t seem to get calibrated correctly.

On the hardware side the base of the machine serves as a sandbox. Finding the correct grain size of the medium was one of the more difficult parts of the build. The stylus is driven along three axes using a gantry common in CNC builds. The pulleys and some brackets were 3d printed, with the remained of the brackets being laser cut from wood. The Bullduino commands the stylus via a stepper motor control board, and drives the LEDs via a bank of MOSFETs. Limiting switches were also included to ensure an error didn’t result in damage to the device.

After the break you can see a build montage put to one of the greatest 8-bit game soundtracks of all time. The one thing we wish they would have shown is the built-in leveling bar that is responsible for “erasing” the garden.

Update: The Harford Hackerspace members came through with a new video that shows the ‘erasing’ process. You’ll find it after the break.

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Electric bike (earplugs not included)

It’s obvious this bike has some extra parts. But look closely and you’ll see the chainring has no chain connecting to it. Pedaling will get you nowhere since [PJ Allen] rerouted the chain in order to drive this bicycle using an electric motor.

He’s got beefy motor which pulls 350 Watts at 24 Volts. For speed control he opted to use an Arduino, pumping out PWM signals to some MOSFETs. This results in an incredibly noisy setup, as you can hear in the bench test video after the break. But once this is installed on the bike it doesn’t quiet down at all. You can hear the thing a block away.

The original road test fried the first set of 7A MOSFETs when trying to start the motor from a standstill. It sounds like the 40A replacements he chose did the trick through. We didn’t see any information on the battery life, but if he runs out of juice on the other side of town we bet he’ll be wishing he had left the chain connected to the crankset.

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LED tutorial demystifies several control techniques

Controlling LEDs is really quite simple. As you know, they need to be current limited which is as easy as applying Ohm’s law to your given set of values. To make things even more even there’s a slew of constant current LED driver chips out there that can be had for a song. But do you have any idea how those constant current circuits work? If not, then [Giorgos Lazaridis'] guide on LED driving and controlling methods will bring you up to speed in no time.

He starts out with the most basic concept, how to light an LED using proper current limiting resistors. But from there he moves on to the juicy bits. He builds a transistor-based constant current driver, then adds voltage regulation for the circuit as seen in the schematic on the left. He moves on to the more robust and efficient method on the right which pairs a MOSFET with that transistor circuit. This is the technique found on each pin of many of those constant current drivers and functions well regardless of the voltage input level.

He’s been producing videos to go along with these articles. After the break you can watch the episode that accompanies the schematic on the left. [Read more...]

DIY quadcopter for around $200

We think [FlorianH] did a bang-up job of prototyping his Minima Quadcopter on the cheap. The total bill comes in right around $200 and we’re very happy with the quality of parts as well as the results.

Here you can see the top of the double-sided board which he etched to host all of the components. At each corner there is a power MOSFET which drives the motor. At first glance we thought that the Xbee module was acting as the radio control and processer as well. But on the underside you’ll find an ATmega32 which is responsible for reading the Gyroscope sensor and Accelerometer, processing these signals and driving each MOSFET via PWM lines to provide stability.

You can see some flight tests after the break. [FlorianH] mentions that there is some oscillation in the feedback loop when both the gyro and accelerometer are used. But cut the accelerometer out of the equation and the platform is rock-solid.

This build uses carbon tubes to mount the motors, which we think will be a little more robust than the all-PCB designs are.

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I2C level converter

You’ve got several devices which communicate via the I2C protocol, but some of them can only operate at 3.3V while the rest are hungry for a 5V connection. What to do? [Linux-works] built this I2C level converter to solve the problem.

The circuit comes from an NXP app note (PDF) on the issue. You can take a quick peek at the suggested schematic from that document. The design uses two MOSFETS for each side of the adaptor. Perhaps a better way to explain this is that you need one for the higher voltage and one for the lower voltage on each of the two data lines for a total of four parts. This allows for both of the buses to communicate as one, while still having their own 3.3V and 5V pull-up resistors.

[Linux-works] concedes that there are chips designed to do this for you, but he was able to source the BSS138 MOSFETs locally and for about ten cents a piece. Not a bad alternative to putting in a parts order.

Reverse voltage protection with a P-FET

[Afroman's] latest video shows you how to add reverse voltage protection with minimal power loss. At some point, one of your electronic concoctions will turn out to be very useful. You want to make sure that a battery plugged in the wrong way, or a polarity mistake with your bench PSU doesn’t damage that hardware. It’s easy enough to plop in a diode for protection, but as [Afroman] points out, that wastes power in the form of heat when the circuit is working correctly. His solution is to add a P channel MOSFET which only allows power to flow when the polarity of the source voltage is correct.

The schematic above shows the P-FET on the high side of the circuit. The gate is hooked to ground, allowing current to move across the DS junction when the battery is connected. This design also uses a clamping diode to keep the gate voltage within a safe range. But there are P-FETs out there that wouldn’t need that diode or resistor. This method wastes ten times less power than a simple diode would have.

We’ve embedded the video after the break where [Afroman] shares the math and reasoning behind his component choices.

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