Clever And Elegant Tilt Sensors From Ferrofluid

Let’s talk about tilt sensors for a second. The simplest tilt sensors – the dead simplest – are a few ball bearings rolling around in a small metal can. When the can is tilted, the balls roll into a pair of electrical contacts, completing the circuit. How about a drop of mercury in a glass ampule with a few contacts? Same thing. You can get more expensive tilt sensors, including a few that are basically MEMS gyros, but they’re all pretty much the same. For [Aron]’s project for the Hackaday Prize, he’s come up with a tilt sensor that is so clever, so innovative, and so elegant, we’re gobsmacked by his creativity.

5700111461442877186Instead of electrical contacts or gyroscopes, [Aron] is using induction to measure the tilt of a sensor. By wrapping a tube with one long primary winding of copper wire, and several secondary windings in various places, [Aron] built a Linear Variable Differential Transformer. If you insert an iron rod inside this transformer, different voltages will be induced in the primary. Simple, and this device is effectively a position sensor for any ferrous material.

Now for the real trick: put ferrofluid in the core of that transformer. Liquids always find their level, and different tilts will induce different voltages in the primary. Brilliant. Continue reading “Clever And Elegant Tilt Sensors From Ferrofluid”

Dog Tracker Knows Where the Dirt is

[Eric] is well on his way to making one of the less pleasant chores of pet ownership a bit easier with his dog tracking system. The dog tracker is actually a small part of [Eric’s] much larger OpenHAB system, which we featured back in July.

As a dog owner, [Eric] hates searching the yard for his pet’s droppings. He had been planning a system to make this easier, and a local hackerspace event provided just the opportunity to flesh his ideas out. The Dog Tracker’s primary sensor is a GPS. Most dogs remain motionless for a few seconds while they go about their business. [Eric’s] Arduino-frgbased system uses this fact, coupled with a tilt sensor to determine if the family pet has left any presents.

The tracker relays this information to the home base station using a HopeRF RFM69 transceiver. The RFM69 only has about a 900 foot range, so folks with larger properties will probably want to spring for a cellular network based tracking system. Once the droppings have been tracked, OpenHAB has an interface

[Eric] has also covered runaway dogs in his design. If Fido passes a geo-fence, OpenHAB will raise the alarm. A handheld dog tracker with its own RFM69 can be used to chase down dogs on the run. Future plans are to miniaturize the dog tracker such that it will be more comfortable for a dog to wear.

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DIY 3D Tilt Sensor

tilt If you’re trying to detect the orientation of an object, sometimes you really don’t need a 6DOF gyro and accelerometer. Hell, if you only need to detect if an object is tilted, you can get a simple “ball in a tube” tilt sensor for pennies. [tamberg] liked this idea, but he required a tilt sensor that works in the X, Y, and Z axes. Expanding on the ‘ball in a tube’ construction of simple tilt sensors, he designed a laser cut 3D tilt sensor that does all the work of of a $30 IMU.

The basic design of this tilt sensor is pretty simple – just an octahedron with four nails serving as switch contacts at each vertex. An aluminum ball knocks around inside this contraption, closing the nail head switches depending on what orientation it’s in. Simple, and the three dimensional version of a ball in tube tilt sensor.

To get the tilt data to the outside world, [tamberg] is using an Adafruit Bluetooth module, with two of the nails in each corner connected to a pin. With just a little bit of code, this 3D tilt sensor becomes a six-way switch to control an RGB LED. Video of that below.

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5 cent tilt sensor


This is a 5 cent tilt sensor. We know it cost more than 5 cents, but it is in fact a tilt sensor that utilizes a 5 cent coin. We’ve all done quick hacks to make quick sensors for various projects. We’ve seen tons of them, from stealing springs out of pens and shoving a resistor through them for flexible contact switches, to tin foil touch sensors. This one is new to us though. The design is fairly simple, you insert 4 bits of wire to serve as contacts and the coin will make contact with only two at a time. It isn’t analog, it isn’t extremely precise, but it is super quick and easy. Thanks for sharing [ix].