The Relay-Based Mouse Emulator


[Nixie]’s job involves using some test software that requires moving a mouse around, clicking a few buttons, checking if everything is okay, and repeating the process over and over again. This is obviously a solution for some keyboard macros, but in a fit of sadistic spite, the test software requires someone to move a mouse around the screen. What is [Nixie] to do? Make a mouse emulator and automate the whole thing, of course.

The Memulator, as [Nixie] calls the device, is the latest in a series of devices to increase productivity when testing. The first version was the mouse tumor, an odd-looking device that simply switched off the LED for an optical mouse, keeping the cursor in one spot while [Nixie] hammered a button repeatedly. The second version is more advanced, capable of moving the cursor around the screen, all without doing an iota of USB programming: [Nixie] is simply using a resistive touch pad, some relays and a few pots to turn buttons into cursor movements. It’s such a simple solution it almost feels wrong.

There’s some interesting tech here, nonetheless. For some reason, [Nixie] has a few cases of old, can-shaped soviet-era relays in this build. While using such cool, awesome old components in such a useful and productive build seems odd, if you’re trying to fix ancient software that’s so obviously broken, you might as well go whole hog and build something that will make someone in twenty years scratch their head.

Vertical video of the Memulator below.

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A Motion Activated AC Switching Circuit using Mostly Discrete Components

AC motion switch

If you’ve ever dealt with a brightly lit Christmas tree, you might understand the frustration of having to crawl underneath the tree to turn the lights on and off. [brmarcum] feel’s your pain. He’s developed his own motion activated AC switching circuit to turn the lights on and off automatically. A motion sensor ensures that the lights are only on when there are people around to actually see the lights. The circuit also has an adjustable timer so [brmarcum] can change the length of time that the lights stay on.

The project is split into several different pieces. This makes the building and debugging of the circuit easier. The mains power is first run through a transformer to lower the voltage by a factor of 10. What remains is then filtered and regulated to 9VDC. [brmarcum] is using a Parallax PIR sensor which requires 4.5V. Therefore, the 9V signal is then lowered once more using a voltage divider circuit.

When the PIR sensor is triggered, it activates the timer circuit. The timer circuit is driven by a 555 timer. The circuit itself was originally borrowed from a classic Forrest Mims book, though it was slightly modified to accommodate the PIR sensor. The original push-button trigger was removed and replaced with the signal from the PIR sensor. The only problem is that the circuit was expecting a low signal as the trigger and the PIR sensor outputs a high signal. [brmarcum] resolved this problem with an NPN BJT to invert the signal. Once the timer is triggered, it flips on a relay that allows the mains electricity to flow through to the lights.

[brmarcum] soldered the entire circuit onto a piece of protoboard. The final product was then mounted securely inside of an insulated plastic case. This allows him to mount the circuit safely underneath the Christmas tree skirt. The PIR sensor is kept external to the enclosure and wired up into the tree itself. This allows the sensor to still detect motion in the room while the rest of the circuit is hidden away.

[via Reddit]

4-bit Adder Built from Mechanical Relays


Would you consider this to be doing math the old-fashioned way? Instead of going with silicon-based switching (ie: transistors) this 4-bit adder uses mechanical relays. We like it for its mess of wires (don’t miss the “assembly” page which is arguably the juiciest part of the project). We like it for the neat and tidy finished product. And we like it for the clicky-goodness which surely must bloom from its operation; but alas, we didn’t find a video to stand as testament to this hypothesis.

The larger of the two images seen above is from the register memory stage of the build. The black relay in the bottom right is joined by a ring of siblings that are added around the perimeter of the larger relays before the entire thing is planted in the project box.

Sure, simulators are a great way to understand building blocks of logic structures like an adder. But there’s no better way to fully grip the abstraction of silicon logic than to build one from scratch. Still hovering on our list of “someday” projects is this wooden adder.

[Thanks Alex]


Wireless AC Control With The Raspberry Pi

We’ve seen some of [Connor]’s work before, and it looks like he’s now turning to product design. He’s come up with an adapter for the Raspberry Pi to control a few wireless wall socket relays, allowing anyone with a Pi to control lights, coffee makers, TVs, and anything else that falls under the very broad home automation banner.

The system uses a 315MHz radio breakout board for a Raspberry Pi to control the relays in one of three wall socket adapters. There’s a script running on the Pi with a very nice GUI to turn the lights on and off.

[Connor]’s product is extremely similar to a certain WiFi-enabled wall-plug relay system controlled by a smartphone, and to that end, he’s decided to call his device the Belchin’ Emo Switch. The name might need work, but he’s selling three Raspberry Pi-controlled wall plugs for the same price of one wall plug from Brand A.

Below you’ll find [Connor]’s videos for his device. You can also check out this reddit thread where he shows off just how open source he can be; there are part suppliers and even how he’s packaging this system for shipment.

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Meltinator 9000 Fuses Glass by Degrees

kiln[Richard]’s wife scored an Evenheat glass-fusing kiln, but the 20-year-old temperature controller was broken. He could have simply ordered a replacement controller, but that kind of problem solving doesn’t get you on Hack a Day. His wife wanted more control over the kiln and he convinced her that building their own was the way to go. Thus, the Meltinator 9000 was born.

[Richard]’s design uses an Arduino Uno and an Adafruit display shield, protoshield, and thermocouple reader board. He built a simple relay driver with a resistor, BJT, and a diode and connected it to pin 13 and its built-in indicator. To [Richard]’s delight, all of this fit in the original enclosure.

[Richard]’s software provides 25 fusing schedules with ten steps apiece. Each step has a target temperature,  rate of temperature change, and a hold time which can be increased on the fly. He ran a test program that heated the kiln to 1500°F at a rate of 2550°F/hour. He then cooled it to 500°F at a rate of 1000°F/hour, which took longer than he thought. The good news is that the kiln is well-insulated!  [Richard] has the software available on his GitHub.

Don’t have a glass kiln? Prefer to control beer-related temperatures? You could always hack your stove in the name of homebrewing.

How to Stop Grandma’s Wheelchair If She Goes Out of RC Range

Okay, so he doesn’t have Grandma riding in it that we know of, but [zim] recently decided to turn a Jazzy mobility chair into “a radio-controlled platform for mischief”. RC offers more range than wifi or bluetooth, and he was able to find a reasonably priced secondhand radio on Craigslist. However, he found out that in the event of signal loss, the receiver keeps sending the last commands to the speed controller. [zim] didn’t want his 150 lb (68kg) mischief platform getting loose, so he devised a fail-safe that cuts power to the motor when the signal is lost.

[zim] discovered that the receiver returns channel 3 (the throttle) to a preset condition whenever the signal is lost. He used a 24V HVAC relay controlled by an Arduino Nano to sample the PW on channel 3 and shut it off when either the throttle or the signal are cut.

If Grandma is feisty, you could build this caged-in version with a shopping cart.

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A Simple LED Flashlight Composed of a Relay and a Magnet

In our tips line we sometimes receive hacks that are amazing just because of their ingenuity. This relay-powered flashlight is definitely one of them. It has been named RattleGen by its creator [Berto], who apparently often makes simple hacks used in his everyday life (have a look at his YouTube channel).

To understand this hack, you first need to know (in case you didn’t already) that a magnet moving near a conductor (here a coil) induces a voltage at its terminals. This is called electromagnetic induction. In the picture you see above, you may distinguish a disassembled relay with a magnet located on the lever’s end. As a ferromagnetic metal is already placed inside the coil, the lever is by default ‘stuck’ in this position. By continuously pressing the latter on its other end, important voltage spikes are created at the coils terminals. [Berto] therefore used a bridge rectifier to transform the AC into DC, and a 1000uF capacitor to smooth the power sent to his super bright LED. A video of the system in action is embedded after the break.

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