Science fair project sorts recyclables

This crew of high schoolers built a sorting robot for the Smart Young Mindz challenge. We got pretty excited when hearing that it sorts plastic by its recycling code, but unfortunately this isn’t quite what it’s made out to be. The device uses an RFID code on each product to figure out where it goes. Their thinking is that at some point every product sold will have an embedded tag in it. For now this will not revolutionize the recycling industry, but the build is still impressive. We’re sure they learned a ton from all of the mechanical engineering that went into the project.

You can see the three laundry baskets that serve as the sorting bins. The white box above the bin on the right is the hopper in which a plastic container is placed. The box can then revolve around a central axis to position itself over the correct basket. The floor of the box is then retracted, dropping the refuse in the bin. Check out the video after the break for the satisfying cry of the servo motors at work.

We like seeing recycling robots, but so far most of what we’ve seen are aluminum can crushers.

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Kayak to sailboat conversion shows how to weld plastics

This kayak to sailboat conversion is well done and makes for an interesting project. But even if you’re not going to be hitting the water on one of your own, the construction techniques are a useful resource to keep in mind. Many of the alterations were done with a plastic welding iron.

[RLZerr] shows off the materials that went into the build right at the beginning of the video which you’ll find after the break. His kayak is made of High Density Polyethylene and he uses other HDPE scraps, PCV parts, and even some aluminum to make everything. To weld HDPE together he uses a plastic welding iron that is like a cross between a soldering iron and a hot glue gun. It has a pad tip that gets hot enough to melt the plastic, but also includes a channel through which additional HDPE filament can be fed to bulk up the connections.

Additions to the kayak include a centerboard, rudder, and mast. The sail is a plastic tarp attached to the PVC mast which has been stiffened with a wooden shovel handle in its core. The rudder and centerboard are aluminum attached to PVC pipes using JB weld. The boat catches the wind easily, but without outriggers [RLZerr] must be careful not to let a big gust swamp him.

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3d printer filament made of wood

Believe it or not, you can now squeeze wood through the nozzle of your 3D printer.

This new addition to the maker’s palette of 3D printer filaments comes from the mind of [Kai Parthy]. The new filament – going by the name Laywood – is a mix of recycled wood fibers and polymer binders that can be melted and extruded just like any other 3D printer filament.

Parts printed with Laywood have about the same properties as parts printed with PLA filament. One interesting feature of this material is the ability to add ‘tree rings,’ or a subtle gradation in color from a rich brown to a very nice beige. The color can be changed on the fly by setting the temperature of your printer’s hot end to 180° C for a light color, and 230° C for a darker color.

Judging from the ‘in action’ video of Laywood filament being pushed through a printer, the new wood-based filament works just the same as any other PLA or ABS plastic.

Outside eBay, there appears to be only one place to buy this filament. It’s not cheap at about €16/$20 USD per half kilogram, but hopefully that price will come down when it becomes more popular.

Video after the break.

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DIY ultrasonic plastic welding

Here’s something that may be of interest to all the reprappers, vacuum formers, and other plastic fabbers out there: ultrasonic welding of plastics. If you’ve ever wanted to join two pieces of plastic without melting them together with acetone or screwing them together, [circuitguru] is your guy.

Ultrasonic welder setups are usually reserved for companies that don’t mind spending tens of thousands of dollars on a piece equipment. There are smaller versions made for heat staking – melting plastic pillars into rivets on the work piece – and [circuitguru] was lucky enough a somewhat reasonable price.

Because the heat staking gun was a handheld unit, a rotary tool drill press was put to work. The end result is a relatively inexpensive way to join two plastic parts without screws, glue, or solvents. The bond is pretty strong, too. Check out the video after the break to see [circuitguru] join two pieces of a plastic enclosure and try to tear them apart.

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Bronze casting with MakerBot

That, dear readers, is the smell of a new Hackspace opening up in Davenport Iowa. It is also the lovely scent of burning plastic. Because how do you celebrate a new Hackerspace? By casting bronze coins of course!

Begin by having a MakerBot extrude plastic coins, then compact the plastic coin in sand to produce a mold. Heat up your bronze in a trashcan furnace and pour it into the mold. The plastic melts away and you’re left with a bronze coin.

There are probably some safety measures and precautions that should be followed as well…

Recyclebot digests milk jugs to feed MakerBot

The old saying, “garbage in, garbage out” may need to be re-evaluated. Students at Victoria University of Wellington are developing a machine that recycles old milk jugs, extruding an HDPE plastic filament that can then be fed into a MakerBot for 3D printing.

The process involves grinding the plastic into small pieces, then pressing these through a heater and extruder plate to produce a continuous bead of the proper diameter for the MakerBot. Nichrome wire — the stuff of hair dryers and toasters — forms the heating element, and this must be regulated within a specific temperature range for different plastics. The initial grinder design is hand-cranked, but they are working toward a fully automated system. It appears that the machine could also recycle old MakerBot output, provided the grinder has sufficient torque.

So one man’s trash really is another man’s treasure. We envision a future of crazy-haired makers rooting through their neighbors’ garbage, feeding their Recyclebots’ hoppers “Mr. Fusion” style.

Robot boxing with wrist watches

The classic injection molded plastic Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots has been upgraded to use motion control. The project uses four TI Chronos watches, one on each wrist of both players. In the video after the break we get a good look at the guts of the base unit. We’re quite impressed with the quality craftsmanship that went into retrofitting the plastic bots with four servos each. The electronics include some bells and whistles such as an SD card that records scores and can replay a match via saved inputs. If you’ve got a couple of these watches on hand we’d love to see you port this project and make it a Punchout controller.
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