Automatic speaker control via TV

[Jon] wanted his speakers to come on and off along with his TV. The speaker heats up if left on so he didn’t want to do that. But killing the power also resets the volume level (this is an old set of PC speakers and the remote is wired, not IR) so using one of those switched power strips was out as well. He thought a bit about trying to use the power LED on the TV to build his own circuit when it dawned on him. It’s possible to monitor the USB port on the TV and use it to switch on the speakers.

The circuit above uses a couple of opto-isolators to protect both the television and the speakers. The 5V line from the USB port on the back of the TV is monitored by an XNOR gate (which helps to filter out some of the toggling at power-on). When that gate latches it activates a 555 timer which in turn fires up the speakers. Presumable this happens when power is cut as well, but we’ll let you work through the circuit logic yourself.

Constant current dummy load

Inspired by a design he saw on the EEVblog, [George Graves] put together this constant current dummy load.  You might need on of these if you’re testing power supplies or batteries. They pull a constant current regardless of the voltage of the supply. [George’s] version extends the range of the original a little bit by running the op-amp at 8 volts. He says that everything runs fine at 1 amp. He tried 2 amps but things got hot pretty quickly. What we really like though, is he took fantastic pictures. Sometimes even simple things can catch our attention with the right pictures!

Build an induction heater and become a metalsmith

If you’ve ever wanted to forge, cast, or smelt metal, this project is right up your alley. It’s a 30 kVA induction heater built by [bwang] over on Instructables. It gets hot enough to melt and forge steel, iron, and aluminum.

An induction heater operates by surrounding the object to be heated with a coil carrying high frequency AC current. Basically, the entire setup acts like a huge transformer with a shorted secondary. To get these currents into a workpiece, [bwang] used a TL494 PWM controller as an oscillator. The output of the TL494 is filtered and amplified a few times to generate a huge amount of AC current.

Larger versions of [bwang]’s induction heater are found in foundries and forges all across the land; even though this small version sucks down 50 A out of a dryer or stove outlet, induction heating is very efficient. We’re actually wondering why we don’t see many home blacksmiths using induction heating, so we’ll leave that for our readers to discuss in the comments.

[sessions] reminded us of this induction heater from a few years ago. A little smaller, but still usable.

Auto power circuit for an arcade machine

Some of the pinball machines which [Jeri Ellsworth] has restored have ended up in the break room at her work. We’re sure her coworkers are thankful for this, but sometimes they forget to turn off the power to the machines, and letting them run constantly means more frequent servicing will be necessary. She set out to fix the situation by building a circuit that will automatically power the machines.

We think the solution adds some much needed functionality. Instead of hunting for the power switch, you can now power the machine up by hitting the left flipper, and it will automatically shut off after about five minutes of not having that flipper button pressed. For this she grabbed a 555 timer chip and built a circuit to control the relay switching the mains power.

She added a magnet and reed switch to the left flipper switch assembly to control her add-on circuit. It connects to the base of a PNP transistor which controls a resistor network and capacitor. This part of the circuit (seen to the left of the 555 in the schematic) allows the timer to be re-triggered. That is, every time you press the flipper the 555 will reset the timer. Don’t miss the demo she filmed after the break.

Continue reading “Auto power circuit for an arcade machine”

USB killswitch turns off your home entertainment bling automatically

Finally, the USB port on the back of your television can be tapped for something useful. [Don] is using this add-on device to automatically cut the power to his Ambilight clone. Initially, he got tired of unplugging the power adapter each time he shut off the television, so he added a switch. But laziness overcame him and he decided he needed an automatic method. After probing around on the connections available, he established that the serial interface (normally used for servicing the device) was not of any use, but the USB port is. He measured the voltage of the power bus to be 5V when the TV is on, and 0.15V when it is off. He whipped up the circuit you see above which uses the USB connection to trigger a relay, connecting power to his Ambilight clone when the television comes on, and disconnecting it when the set is switched off.

Our dream has always been an XBMC capable device that can Velcro to the back of a TV, and be powered from that USB port. Unfortunately the Beagle Board hasn’t yet made it to a stable level when running XBMC. Our next hope is the AppleTV 2, which can run XBMC but would require some hacking to get it working off of the USB port, raising concerns about how much current it would draw at 5V.

Magellan GPS hack for hassle-free charging


Hackaday reader [Paul] recently shared a simple hack he put together via our Flickr photostream.

It seems that his Magellan GPS unit is pretty finicky when it comes to power supplies. When connected to the Magellan adapter, the GPS unit charged as you would expect. When connected to a PC, it sensed the connection and allowed its file system to be mounted, just as it was intended to do.

However, a problem arose when he tried hooking the Magellan up to a different power supply. The unit still thought it was connected to a PC, and refused to perform any GPS-related functions since its file system was tied up. Not wanting to lug around multiple chargers, he decided to see what the heck was going on with his GPS unit.

He pulled the plug apart and found that the 4th and 5th pins of the USB cable were shorted together. While most devices ignore the 4th pin, the Magellan checks to see if that pin is grounded. If so, it assumes it is connected to its power supply. If not, it assumes that it should act as if it is connected to a PC.

With this information in hand, [Paul] did the same thing as any of us would and hacked together a USB cable with shorted pins. The cable can be attached to any standard USB port or charger, saving him from having to lug around an extra adapter.

Everything You Need to Know About Wall Warts

If you work with electronics at any skill level you need juice. [Jon] has a great, and clearly worded tutorial about Wall Wart Power Supplies with pretty much everything you need to know about those little black boxes hanging off of your outlets.

The whole thing starts off with the basics like transformers, rectification smoothing and regulation, then moves on to the different basic types, dedicating a page to linear, regulated and switching types, giving output performance charts under different situations.

Also included is a run-down of DC barrel jack structure so you get the right plug every time, wall wart type identification, a random sample comparison test, and a good selection of formulas to even keep the old hats reading along. Although you might want to set aside a little time at 9 pages and some Q/A in the comments, it might take a moment to read.