Legend has it that Henry Ford would send engineers out to junkyards all over the US looking for Fords. They were supposed to study each one they found and make note of any parts that had not failed. But it wasn’t so that he could start making all of those parts stronger. Instead, Ford allegedly used this data to determine where he could cut corners in future production runs so as not to waste money by making any part last longer than any other part.
Most things tend to break down rather than completely giving out. Usually it’s only one or two components that stop working and the rest of it is still serviceable. And this is a good thing. It’s what lets us repair PCBs or scavenge parts off them, drive our cars longer, and help save each other’s lives through organ donor programs. Can you imagine how different life would be if each part of every thing failed at the same time?
Continue reading “One Hoss Shay and Our Society of Obsolescence”
All over the world, mountains of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics are available for recycling in the form of soda bottles. And wherever there is enough cheap raw material, a market is sure to emerge for it. One brilliant inventor in Brazil has decided to capitalize on this market by building a magnificent factory to turn PET bottles into threads, rope, and other products.
Not a word of English is spoken in the video, and our Portuguese stops at obrigado, but you don’t really need to understand what’s being said to know what’s going on. Built from what looks to be the running gear of several bicycles and motors from various cast-off appliances, our nameless genius’ machines slit the PET bottles into fine threads, winds the thread onto spools, and braids the threads into heavier cords. We love the whole home-brew vibe of the machines; especially clever is the hacked desk calculator wired to a microswitch to count revolutions, and the salvaged auto jack used to build a press for forming the broom heads. All in all it’s a pretty amazing little factory cranking out useful products from zero-cost raw material.
We’d love to have more context about what’s being said in the video, so we’ll put this one out there for our Portuguese-speaking readers. Maybe we can get a partial translation in the comments? If so, then obrigado.
Haven’t you heard? You can make your own 3D filament nowadays from plastic granules (10X cheaper than filament), or even by recycling old plastic! Except if you’re recycling plastic you will have to shred it first…
[David Watkins] came up with a different way of shredding plastic. Typically we’ve seen shrunken versions of giant metal shredders used to dice up plastic into granules that can be melted down and then extruded back into filament. These work with a series of sharp toothed gears that kind of look like a stack of circular saw blades put together inside of a housing.
But that can be rather pricey. [David’s] method is super cheap, and you can do it at home with minimal tools, and maybe $10 or less worth of parts?
Continue reading “A Different Kind of Plastic Shredder for 3D Filament Making”
When most people think of 3D printing, they think of Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM) printers. These work by heating a material, squirting it out a nozzle that moves around, and letting it cool. By moving the nozzle around in the right patterns while extruding material out the end, you get a part. You’ve probably seen one of the many, many, many FDM printers out there.
Stereolithography printing (SLA) is a different technique which uses UV light to harden a liquid resin. The Chimera printer uses this technique, and aims to do it on the cheap by using recycled parts.
First up is the UV light source. DLP projectors kick out a good amount of UV, and accept standard video inputs. The Mitsubishi XD221u can be had for about $50 off eBay. Some modifications are needed to get the focus distance set correctly, but with that complete the X and Y axes are taken care of.
For the Z axis, the build platform needs to move. This was accomplished with a stepper motor salvaged from a disk drive. An Arduino drives the motor to ensure it moves at the right rate.
Creation Workshop was chosen as the software to control the Chimera. It generates the images for the projector, and controls the Z axis. The SLA process allows for high definition printing, and the results are rather impressive for such a cheap device. This is something we were just talking about yesterday; how to lower the cost of 3D printers. Obviously this is cheating a bit because it’s banking on the availability of cheap used parts. But look at it this way: it’s based on older technology produced at scale which should help a lot with the cost of sourcing this stuff new. What do you think?
Who didn’t get in trouble for taking things apart as a kid? The TakeItApart booth at the 2014 Maker Faire was among my favorite. It let anyone (especially the kids) grab a piece of electronics headed for recycling and crack it open just to see what is inside. The good news being that you didn’t need to be able to put it back together again since it’s just going to be ground up for its constituent materials anyway.
There’s something cathartic about watching a 7-year-old stabbing at a Walkman radio with a slotted screwdriver (those plastic cases are more robust than you might think). I asked if anyone had managed to slice open their hand back-to-the-future style in the process and thankfully the answer was no. But there was at least one instance of “free daycare” where the parents wandered off — there are plenty of distractions at MF — much to the chagrin of their progeny.
Seeing this made me think of this recent interview with [Bunnie Huang] in which he mentions taking chips out of their sockets on an Apple II when he was a kid. He would pull them and replace them backwards to see what effect it would have. Ha! If you have a similar childhood experience to share we’d love to hear about it in the comments. If you just want to see the guts of a bunch of stuff head of to TakeItApart.
We’ve seen a fair number of hacks like this one that reuse a Kindle basically just for its ePaper display. [HaHaBird] has this device hanging on his refrigerator to display the weather and remind him about recycling day. It kind of make us wonder why we’re not seeing cheap ePaper modules on the hobby market?
The concept isn’t new, but [HaHaBird] does move it along just a little bit. He started by following the guide which [Matt] wrote after pulling off the original Kindle weather display hack. It uses a separate computer running a script that polls the Internet for weather data and generates a vector graphic like the one seen above. The Kindle then loads the image once every five minutes thanks to a cron job on the rooted device. But why stop there? [HaHaBird] tweaked the script to include a reminder about his municipality’s irregular recycling schedule.
Don’t overlook the quality of the hardware side of this hack. With its prominent place in the kitchen he wanted a nicely finished look. This was achieved by building a frame out of cherry and routing passages on the back to make room for the extension cable (so it could hang in landscape orientation) and a toggle to hold the Kindle firmly in place. Additional information on the build is available here.
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.
Continue reading “Science fair project sorts recyclables”