Custom Sensor Head Turns 3D Printer into Capacitive Scanner

The best thing about owning a 3D printer or CNC router may not just be what you can additively or subtractively create with it. With a little imagination you can turn your machine into a 3D scanner, and using capacitive sensors to image items turns out to be an interesting project.

[Nelson]’s scanner idea came from fiddling with some capacitive sensors at work, and with a high-resolution capacitance-to-digital sensor chip in hand, he set about building a scan head for his printer. In differential mode, the FDC2212 sensor chip uses an external LC tank circuit with two plain sensor plates set close to each other. The sensor plates form an air-dielectric variable capacitor, and the presence of an object can be detected with high sensitivity. [Nelson]’s custom sensor board and controller ride on a 3D-printed bracket and scan over the target on the printer bed. Initial results were fuzzy, but after compensating for room temperature variations and doing a little filtering on the raw data, the scans were… still pretty fuzzy. But there’s an image there, and it’s something to work with.

Need a slightly more approachable project to get your feet wet with capacitive sensors? Maybe you should use your phone’s touchscreen as a 2D-capacitive scanner.

[via r/electronics]

Musical Proximity Detection Pet Bowls

An essential skill for a maker is the ability to improvise or re-purpose existing materials into new parts. Sometimes, one needn’t make many modifications to create something new, as is the case with [Robin Sterling] and his musical pet bowl.

Originally, it was a sealed pet bowl that opened when the proximity sensors detected an approaching pet. Having helped design the bowl, [Sterling] had a bit of an advantage when he decided to convert it into a theremin/light harp-esque instrument for the company BBQ. He routed the PWM outputs from each of the three proximity sensors (in each of the three bowls) to a small guitar amp, adjusting each sensor’s output to a different frequency. Despite the short amount of time [Sterling] had to practice, it works fairly well!

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Scary Putin guards your stash

If anyone tries to take anything from this coin bank they’re going to have to brave the creepy looks that [Vladimir Putin] gives them. That’s because [Overflo] rigged up the wall hanging to react when you approach it. It’s all in the eyes, which open and turn red based on your proximity to the picture frame.

The frame itself is the ugliest thing [Overflo] could find at Ikea. He spray painted it gold and added an image of [Putin] with a zany background. At rest [Vlad] has his eyes closed. But the lids are connected to a servo motor to pull against the spring that keeps them shut. An infrared proximity sensor is used to trigger the eyelids when you get relatively close, but if you reach out your hand it will even light up the red LEDs hidden in the pupils of the eyes. See a demonstration of the setup in the video after the break.

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Proximity switch for your mains devices

[Ivan’s] friend built a proximity sensor to switch his LED bench lighting off every time he walked away. The idea is pretty neat, so [Ivan] decided to implement it for mains devices by making this proximity switched outlet box.

A Sharp GP2D12 infrared distance sensor is the key to the system. It has an emitter and receiver that combine to give distance feedback base on how much of the light is reflected back to the detector. This is presented as a voltage curve which is monitored by an ATtiny85 (running the Arduino bootloader). It is small enough to fit inside the outlet box along with a tiny transformer and linear regulator to power to logic circuitry. The mains are switched with a relay using an NPN transistor to protect the chip’s I/O pins.

Check out the video after the break to see this in action. It should be a snap to add a count-down timer that gives you a bit more freedom to move around the workshop. With that in place this is a fantastic alternative to some other auto-shutoff techniques for your bench outlets.

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HOPE badge proximity sensor

The HOPE conference was last weekend and [Nathan] spent some time with fellow members of Makers Local 256 developing this badge proximity sensor. They took one of the HOPE badges, which have a radio on board for the tracking network, and wrote code for its MSP430 to detect other badges nearby. It uses a Geiger counter they brought with them as an enclosure, re-purposing the analog gauge to reflect the level of active radio signals in the area. You’ll find their demo clip embedded after the break.

If you managed to get your hands on one of these badges, don’t be shy about sharing your hacks. We want to see them.

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Free parking garage access

This hack is an interesting twist that will allow you to get in or out of some parking garages when the attendant isn’t looking. Using something metal to trip the parking lot’s proximity sensor that is meant to let cars out automatically you can get into the garage or vice-versa without opening your wallet. A magnet from a hard drive might work a bit better because it is able to trip multiple types of sensors, but for this hack any kind of metal will work. This proximity sensor is a high–frequency oscillation type, so anything that attenuates, varies the frequency or stops the oscillation trips the sensor. When you can’t find a place to park, this hack will certainly impress your friends more than this method, but your street credibility could quickly turn into never lived down stories, if you end up driving over tire strips and ruining your tires, get a huge parking or trespassing ticket, or worse yet get your vehicle towed!