Repairing a mill that cost as much as a car

miters

Years ago, someone at the bio-instrumentation lab at MIT needed to change a CMOS battery in the controller for a three axis mill. This reset the machine’s BIOS and was widely regarded as a bad move. The mill sat in the lab for a few years before  Prof. [Ian Hunter] donated it to MITERS – the student shop at MIT. And so the task of repairing a machine that cost as much as a car fell upon a plucky group of students.

The machine – a  Dyna-Myte 1007 has a 10″x7″x10″ work area, pneumatic tool changers and carousel, and the working for a fourth axis. It is. however, driven by an ancient Pentium computer running DOS with all the fun of ISA slots and IRQs that entails.

The MITERS began their repair by digging around in the software configuration, finding the axis drive is controlled via IRQ 3, which was currently occupied by COM 2. Changing that in the BIOS let the computer control the axes and, with a few solenoids and an air compressor, the tool carousel also worked.

With a bit of digging around, the MITERS also got the spindle working, giving them a very awesome and very expensive CNC milling machine for free. Even though the computer could be replaced with a $35 Raspberry Pi, we really have to admire the MITERS for fixing what they already had; it’s a cheaper and much, much faster way to get their new toy up and running.

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Building a treadle powered lathe

[Chris] found inspiration in an antique flywheel he found. He decided he was going to construct something with it and began rounding up parts. The flywheel, along with some old sewing machine parts becomes a treadle powered lathe.

There’s something so very cathartic about seeing all the wood chiseled and sawed away. That pile of sawdust just means you’re getting things done!

Coding new parts in Eagle

chip

Making new parts in Eagle CAD isn’t the easiest thing in the world, especially if you’re dealing with a package that isn’t in one of the default libraries. Usually, making a new part means digging out a datasheet and drawing a new part in Eagle. A better solution would be to generate new parts with code – define the number of pads, the shape of the pads, the symmetry of the chip, and so forth. [Joost]‘s madparts does just that, allowing anyone to create new parts in Eagle by entering numbers instead of drawing lines.

The idea behind madparts is to code new entries in Eagle libraries with Coffeescript. It has instant graphical feedback for the part you’re designing, and is able to import from and export to Eagle libraries. A KiCAD-enabled release is coming soon, but until then, madparts looks like a great way to create your own parts in weird packages in Eagle.

A table saw to cut solar panels

saw

Steampunker extraordinaire [Jake von Slatt] loves the idea of solar-powered garden lights soaking up the sun’s rays during the day and powering a LED in the evening. Commercially available solar lanterns, as [Jake], you, me, and everyone else on the planet have discovered, are universally terrible and either don’t have solar panels large enough to charge a battery, or only last a year or so. [Jake]‘s solution was to make his own solar lanterns and in the process he came up with a great way of cutting his own solar panels.

[Jake] turned to ebay to source 100 3″ x 6″ solar panels for about $30. These are broken panels, factory rejects, but still are able to produce the 0.5 Volts they should. Since these are rather large panels for a solar lantern, [Jake] needed a way to cut these panels into manageable sizes.

To cut the panels, [Jake] made a box to fit a Dremel with a right angle attachment and a port for a vacuum cleaner. There’s a sled for the panels with markings at 40, 80, 75, and 150 mm so the panels can be quickly cut to size with a diamond cutting wheel.

After the boards are cut, [Jake] checks them out with a multimeter to be sure they’re producing the half volt they should. After that, it’s a simple matter of soldering them together and adding them to his solar lanterns.

Automated resistor sorter puts them into small plastic tubes

This one might be an oldie, but it’s certainly a goodie.

Way back in 2005, [David] and [Charles] needed a project for one of their engineering courses. With so many loose resistors scattered over the lab, they decided to build an automated resistor sorter (PDF warning) to separate these resistors and put resistors of the same value together in the same bin.

The electrical and programming portion of this build is relatively simple – just a PIC microcontroller reading the value of a resistor. The mechanical portion of this build is where it really shines. Resistors are sorted when they pass through small plastic tubes mounted to a wooden frame.

There are several levels of these tubes in [David] and [Charles]‘ sorter that move back and forth. The process of actually sorting these resistors is a lot like going down a binary tree; at each level, the tube can go right or left with the help of a solenoid moving that level of the frame back or forth.

[David] and [Charles]‘ project wasn’t entirely complete by the end of the class; to do so would require  8 levels and 128 different tubes on the bottom layer. Still, it worked as a proof of concept. We just wish there was a video of this machine in action.

Tip ‘o the hat to [Alexander] for finding this one and sending it in.

Building up an inventory of SMD parts

Once you’ve been tinkering around with electronics for a while, you’ll realize the through-hole components that make breadboarding a circuit so easy won’t cut it anymore. Surface mount parts are the future, and make it incredibly easy to build a semi-professional mockup at home. The question arises, though: how do you store thousands of surface mount parts smaller than a grain of rice?

As [George] was building up his SMD inventory, he came across a few clever solutions. The first was a binder sold by Adafruit (and others) that holds strips of cut tape SMD components. [George] wanted something a little more modular, and when he came across an eBay auction for 5000 0805 resistors and 3000 0805 caps, he needed to find a storage solution.

[George] ran across these tiny modular boxes while shopping at Adafruit. These boxes are completely modular, interlock with each other, and have a hinged lid that will hopefully prevent the eventual, ‘SMD parts everywhere’ spill everyone his likely to have.

After printing out some labels for his boxes, [George] had a very tidy solution to his SMD organization problems. We’re wondering what other Hackaday readers use to organize their parts, so if you have a better solution send it in.

A mobile electronics lab for all your projects

When [Nisker]‘s son got a very, very loud and annoying toy, he did what any good maker parent would do: instead of removing the batteries, he sought a way to lower the volume instead. This, of course, meant cracking open the toy and going at the circuit board with a soldering iron. Not having a permanent electronics workbench meant [Nisker] needed to dig out his Weller from a bag full of tools. Surely there must be an easier way to be a tinkerer with a small workspace.

[Nisker]‘s solution was to build a mobile electronics workbench. The resulting wooden box has more than enough space to hold a signal generator, power supply, soldering iron, multimeter, and a bunch of other tools required for making or modding electronics projects.

The case was designed in Google Sketchup and constructed out of 12mm plywood for the sides and 6mm ply for the shelves. All the pieces were cut out with a circular saw and pieced together with screws and glue.

Now [Nisker] has a very compact – 16.9 x 7.9 x 22 inches – electronics lab he can carry just about anywhere. Not a bad project if you’re limited by your current space, and classy enough to keep around once you finally set up a proper workshop.