Hackaday Prize Entry: PCBs On Demand with Etchr

The ambitious etchr – the PCB Printer is just a concept at the moment, but it’s not often we see someone trying to tackle desktop PCB production in a new way. Creator [Jonathan Beri] is keenly aware that when it comes to creating electronics, the bottleneck for most workflows is the PCB itself. Services like OSH Park make professionally fabricated PCBs accessible at a low cost, but part of the bargain is that turnaround times are often measured in weeks.

[Jonathan]’s concept for etchr is a small system that automates not only etching a copper-clad board with all the attendant flooding and draining of chemicals, but applying a solder mask and silkscreen layer labeling as well. The only thing left to do would be to drill any required holes.

The idea behind etchr is to first take a copper-clad board with photoresistive film or spray applied to it, and fix it into a frame. A UV projector takes care of putting the traces pattern onto the board (and also handles a UV-curable solder mask in a later step) and the deep frame doubles as a receptacle for any chemical treatments such as the etching and cleaning. It’s an ambitious project, but the processes behind each step are well-understood and bringing them all together in a single machine is an intriguing approach.

Desktop production of PCBs can be done in a few ways, including etching via the toner transfer method (whose results our own Elliot Williams clearly explained how to take from good to great). An alternative is to mill the PCBs out directly, a job a tool like the Othermill is designed specifically to do. It’s interesting to see an approach that includes applying a solder mask.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Oscilloscope for the Masses

If you head down to your local electronics supply shop (the Internet), you can pick up a quality true-RMS multimeter for about $100 that will do almost everything you will ever need. It won’t be able to view waveforms, though; this is the realm of the oscilloscope. Unlike the multimeter’s realistic price point, however, a decent oscilloscope is easily many hundreds, and often thousands, of dollars. While this is prohibitively expensive for most, the next entry into the Hackaday Prize seeks to bring an inexpensive oscilloscope to the masses.

The multiScope is built by [Vítor] and is based on the STM32-O-Scope which is built around a STM32F103C8T6 microcontroller. This particular chip was chosen because of its high clock speed and impressive analog-to-digital resolution, which are two critical specifications for any oscilloscope. This particular scope has an inductance meter built-in as well, which is another feature which your otherwise-capable multimeter probably doesn’t have.

New features continue to get added to this scope by [Vítor]. Most recently he’s added features which support negative voltages and offsets. His particular scope is built inside of a model car, too, but we believe this to be an optional feature.

Hackaday Prize Entry: Device for Seismic Noise Analysis

Whenever there is an earthquake somewhere in the world, our TV screens fill with images of seismic data. Those news report graphics with simplified bite-sized diagrams that inform the masses, but usually get something wrong. Among the images there will invariably be one of a chart recorder drawing a significant earthquake trace on paper, which makes good TV, but is probably miles away from the state of the art in seismology.

We are not seismologists here at Hackaday, so it was extremely interesting to find [Michael D]’s project, Device for Seismic Noise Analysis. In it, he gives a basic primer in seismic sensors, and outlines his take on the subject, a sensitive wideband seismic sensor designed to capture the seismic background noise. It seems that many seismic sensors are designed to capture big events, yet ignore the noise between them from which using suitable software one can glean advance warning of seismic events.

The sensor is a simple design, a ball of significant mass rests upon three piezoelectric microphone elements spaced at 120 degree intervals. An extremely high impedance op-amp circuit converts and integrates the charge from the piezo element to a voltage that can be read by an Arduino Yun which harvests the data. It is a bold claim, but the device is said to have already given advance warning of minor seismic events near its Tennessee test site.

Seismology has featured here a few times before. There was this seismometer using a subwoofer as its sensor, and this project using commercial geophones, just to name a couple of examples.

Hackaday Prize Bring-a-Hack at Make Munich Next Week!

Attention Europe! Next weekend, May 6th and 7th, is Make Munich. Hackaday wants to help you warm up with a Bring-a-Hack party on Friday, May 5th from 20:30 and on at the Munich local branch of the Chaos Computer Club.

Immediately following build-up for exhibitors at Make Munich, head on over to Schleißheimer Str. 41 (corner Heßstrasse, U-Bahn Theresienstraße) where Hackaday will be providing beer, Mate, and pizza for anyone who brings along a small project that they’re working on. We’ll have Hackaday.com and Hackaday Prize stickers galore, and a few copies of the Hackaday Omnibus on hand for those who really wow us, or just ask really nicely.

Afterwards, get a little sleep and then head back over to Make Munich on Saturday morning. We’ll be wandering around at least on Saturday, so if you see anyone in a Hackaday t-shirt, say hi! There is a lot to see.

Unlike other similar fairs, Make Munich is entirely volunteer-run, and a great way to show your support for the local scene is to help out. The deal: hang out with cool people and help run the show for four hours, and you get in free. We’ve heard that they still have some shifts open.

Non-terrible robots.

Saturday night is the Hebocon terrible robot battle, which is always absurd, and always worth the price of admission. (And you’ve already paid that if you’re going to attend on Saturday anyway.) Rules are sumo-esque, and if your lump of, well whatever, moves — it’s a robot and it has a chance. Battle starts at 18:30. Check out the video from last year embedded below.

If you still want more Make Munich, it goes on Sunday as well. We’ll be at home typing up the previous days’ events so the rest of you can read about it while sipping coffee.

Just in case you missed it in all the hubbub, we repeat: Hackaday Prize Bring-a-Hack at μC3, Friday May 5th from 20:30 on.

Come say hi to [Elliot Williams] and all of your other favorite Munich hackers! Bring a hack, show and tell, pizza and beer. And Mate, and probably Spezi. If you’re coming, shout out in the comments, and let us know your favorite toppings. Continue reading “Hackaday Prize Bring-a-Hack at Make Munich Next Week!”

Hackaday Prize Entry: Another Internet Button

It’s long been a staple of future-gazing, the idea that we will reach a moment at which all of life’s comforts can be summoned at the press of a button. Through the magic of technology, that is, without the army of human servants with which wealthy Victorians surrounded themselves to achieve the same aim.

Of course, to reach this button-pressing Nirvana, someone has to make the buttons. There are plenty of contenders for the prize of One Button To Rule Them All, the one we’ll probably have seen the most of is Amazon’s Dash. Today though we’re bringing you another possibility. [Hendra Kusumah]’s A.I.B. (Another IoT Button) is as its name suggests, a button connected to the Internet. More specifically it’s a button that connects to IFTTT and allows you to trigger your action from there.

Hardware wise, it couldn’t be simpler. A button, a Particle Photon, some wires, and a resistor. Then install the code on the board, and away you go. With a small code change, it also works with an ESP8266. That’s it, it couldn’t be simpler. You might ask where the fun in that lies, but you’d be missing the point. It’s the event that you trigger using the button that matters, so why make creating the button a chore?

We’ve shown you many IoT buttons, just a couple of posts are this ESP8266 button and a look at  the second-generation Amazon Dash.

After The Prize: A Libre Space Foundation

The Hackaday Prize is the greatest hardware build-off on the planet, and with that comes some spectacular prizes. For the inaugural Hackaday Prize in 2014, the top prize was $196,418. That’s a handsome sum, and with that, the right hardware, and enough time, anything is possible.

The winners of the first Hackaday Prize was the SatNOGs project. The SatNOGs project itself is very innovative and very clever; it’s a global network of satellite ground stations for amateur cubesats. This, in itself, is a huge deal. If you’re part of a student team, non-profit, or other organization that operates a cubesat, you only have access to that satellite a few minutes every day — whenever it’s in the sky, basically. SatNOGs is a project to put directional, tracking antennas everywhere on Earth, all connected to the Internet. This is a project that gives global ground station coverage to every amateur-built cubesat.

It’s been two years since SatNOGs won the Hackaday Prize, so how are they doing now? I caught up with some of the midwest reps of SatNOGs at this year’s Hamvention, and the project is doing very well. The steerable antenna mount designed by the SatNOGs project is fantastic, some of the Earth stations are seeing a lot of use, and the network is growing.

Two years is a long time, and since then SatNOGs has evolved into the Libre Space Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation with a mission to promote, advance and develop free and open source technologies and knowledge for space.

The premier project for the Libre Space Foundation is the UPSat, the first Open Source satellite ever launched. For the last two years, this is what the Libre Space Foundation has been working on, and soon this satellite will be orbiting the Earth. The satellite itself was recently delivered, and next month it will be launched to the International Space Station aboard a Cygnus spacecraft. After that, it will be deployed to low Earth orbit from Nanoracks’ deployment platform on the station.

This is truly an amazing project. SatNOGs brought a network of ground stations to amateur cubesats orbiting the Earth, and now the Libre Space Foundation will put an Open Source satellite into low Earth orbit. All the documentation is available on Github, and this is the best the open hardware movement has to offer. We’re proud to have SatNOGs and the Libre Space Foundation proving that Open Hardware can change the world, and we can only hope this year’s winner of the Hackaday Prize has such an impact.

Beyond The Prize: Eye Driving Wheelchairs

For this year’s Hackaday Prize, we opened up five challenges for hackers and tinkerers to create the greatest hardware in five categories. We asked citizen scientists to build something to expand the frontiers of knowledge. We asked automation experts to build something more useful than the Internet of chocolate chip cookies. In the Assistive Technologies portion of the prize, we asked our community of engineers to build something that would open the world up to all of us.

While this year’s Assistive Technologies challenge brought out some great projects, there is one project from last year that must be mentioned. The Eyedrivomatic is a project to turn any electric wheelchair into a gaze-controlled robotic wheelchair, opening up the world to a population who has never had this level of accessibility at a price this low.

eyedriveomatic-hardwareThe Eyedrivomatac was the winner of last year’s Hackaday Prize, and given the scope of the project, it’s not hard to see why. The Eyedriveomatic is the solution to the problem of mobility for quadriplegics. It does this surprisingly simply by adding a servo-powered robot onto the joystick of an electric wheelchair, with everything controlled by eye gaze technology. While other systems similar to this exist, it’s the cost of the Eyedrivomatic system that makes it special. The robotic half of the project can be easily manufactured on any 3D printer, all the associated hardware can be bought for just a few dollars, and the software stack is completely open source. The entire system is interchangeable between different models of electric wheelchairs without any modifications, too.

Since winning last year’s Hackaday Prize, Patrick, Steve, and David of the Eyedrivomatic project received the grand prize of $196,883, and are now working towards starting their own production run of their revolutionary device. Right now, there’s a small cottage industry of eye gaze controlled wheelchairs cropping up, and the Eyedrivomatic team is busy building and assembling systems for electric wheelchair users across the globe.

The Eyedrivomatic is the best the Hackaday Prize has to offer. At its heart, it’s an extremely simple device — just a few 3D printed parts, a few servos, an Arduino, and some open source software. The impact the Eyedrivomatic has on its users can’t be understated. It is a liberating technology, one of the greatest projects we’ve seen, and we’ve very proud to have the Eyedrivomatic as a Hackaday Prize champion.

Continue reading “Beyond The Prize: Eye Driving Wheelchairs”