Automated Parts Counter Helps Build a Small Business

We love to see projects undertaken for the pure joy of building something new, but to be honest those builds are a dime a dozen around here. So when we see a great build that also aims to enhance productivity and push an entrepreneurial effort along, like this automated small parts counter, we sit up and take notice.

The necessity that birthed this invention is [Ryan Bates’] business of building DIY arcade game kits. The mini consoles seen in the video below are pretty slick, but kitting the nuts, bolts, spacers, and other bits together to ship out orders was an exercise in tedium. Sure, parts counting scales are a thing, but that’s hardly a walk-away solution. So with the help of some laser-cut gears and a couple of steppers, [Ryan] built a pretty capable little parts counter.

The interchangeable feed gears have holes sized to move specific parts up from a hopper to a chute. A photointerrupter counts the parts as they fall into plastic cups on an 8-position carousel, ready for bagging. [Ryan] also has a manual counter for wire crimp connectors that’s just begging to be automated, and we can see plenty of ways to leverage both solutions as he builds out his kitting system.

While we’ve seen more than a few candy sorting machines lately, it’s great to see someone building hardware to streamline the move from hobby to business like this. We’re looking forward to seeing where [Ryan] takes this from here.

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Light-Painting Robot Turns any Floor into Art

Is [SpongeBob SquarePants] art? Opinions will differ, but there’s little doubt about how cool it is to render a pixel-mapped time-lapse portrait of Bikini Bottom’s most famous native son with a roving light painting robot.

Inspired by the recent trend of long exposure pictures of light-adorned Roombas in darkened rooms, [Hacker House] decided to go one step beyond and make a lighted robot with less random navigational tendencies. A 3D-printed frame and wheels carries a pair of steppers and a Raspberry Pi. An 8×8 Neopixel matrix on top provides the light. The software is capable of rendering both simple vector images and rastering across a large surface to produce full-color images. You’ll notice the careful coordination between movement and light in the video below, as well as the impressive turn-on-a-dime performance of the rover, both of which make the images produced so precise.

We’ve covered a lot of light-painting videos before, including jiggering a 3D-printer and using a hanging plotter to paint. But we haven’t seen a light-painter with an essentially unlimited canvas before. We’d also love to see what two or more of these little fellows could accomplish working together.

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K’nex whiteboard plotter

[Jerry] has been wanting to put together a whiteboard plotter for some time and just recently got around to building one.

The plotter draws pretty much about anything he can imagine on a white board measuring just shy of 2′ x 3′. The design first started off with a Basic Stamp board at the helm, which he sourced from another project he no longer had any use for. The Stamp worked for awhile, but eventually he ran into problems due to the board’s limited 128 bytes of program space. Needing a more robust micro controller, he switched to an Arduino mid-project, which he says runs the plotter far faster than the Stamp ever did.

The plotter uses a pair of stepper motors mounted on a horizontal platform situated above the whiteboard. Much like this large-format printer we featured earlier this week, the steppers vary the length of a pair of fishing lines, moving the pen precisely across the board.  As you can see in the image above, [Jerry] has been able to create some pretty intricate patterns with his plotter, and we imagine they will only get better with more refinement.

Be sure to check out his site for more details on his build process as well as several additional samples of the plotter’s capabilities.