This Useless Machine Now Plays with Fire

The Useless Machine, Candle Edition

Useless machines are a lot of fun, if not just a little overdone. Looking for a new twist, [bd594] decided to try making one that integrates a candle — it works quite well!

While not quite as impressive as some of [bd594's] previous projects, like his rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody on old school computer equipment, we like how he used regular DC motors in this design, instead of servos (the easy way).

A PICAXE14M2 microcontroller controls the H-Bridge responsible for the geared DC motors (taken from a Mac floppy drive), and a light sensor checks for the flame. He’s also made use of some NPN transistors to invert some logic levels to show you if you’re running low on I/O pins, its always possible to incorporate some other discrete components like a transistor to achieve your design.

Among others, some great alternative spins on the “useless machine” include the moody useless machine, an even more useless machine (featuring 8 switches!), a pull-string version, and even a rather ridiculous elevator button pressing useless machine!

Stick around to see this one put out the candle (Caution: Very exciting).

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Moody Useless Machine

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If you ever get bored of trolling the internet seeking inspiration for your next big project, try a YouTube search of “useless machine”. After a few hours of watching these pointless, yet hilarious creations, we’re sure you’re going to want to build one. Luckily for us, [Arvid] documented the design of his moody useless machine to get you started.

Why is [Arvid's] machine moody? Well, to fully appreciate the emotional sensitivity of a useless machine, you first need to understand what it is they do don’t do. A one sentence explanation is all that is needed here; you flip a switch and the machine flips the switch back… that’s it. [Arvid] implemented a two servo system with a stand-alone Arduino, which allowed him to give his machine a “personality”. Sometimes the switch is thrown back quickly without argument, other times the machine throws a fussy tantrum.

Although the machine is useless, the electronics inside are anything but. To keep everything clean and innocuous looking, the machine is powered by batteries, so [Arvid] places the Arduino into a ‘sleep’ mode until the switch is toggled. The switch is configured as an interrupt on the Arduino, which when toggled, wakes the Arduino.  Once the Arduino is awake, it enables power to the servos via a power MOSFET, then everything’s ready to go; the machine makes its response and goes back to ‘sleep’. This was a great project, but believe it or not, things can get more useless, like with this advanced useless machine.

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An even more useless machine

Useless

Here’s the most useless machine we’ve seen so far. It comes from the workshop of [forn4x] and happily turns itself off whenever any one of its eight switches are flicked to the on position.

The build began when [forn]‘s Canon 850i printer gave up the ghost because of a broken print head. All the other electronics and mechanics were still salvageable, so it was decided to turn this printer into something a little more useless.

The printer used a regular DC motor with an optical encoder to move the print head. [forn] easily found the schematics for this optical sensor, because of the TTL output was able to read out the position of the slider. The rest of the build is an ATMega8, a servo, and an octet of toggle switches. [forn] has been able to get the accuracy of the servo-controlled arm down to about 0.1 mm, more than enough to accurately turn all its switches off.

You can see [forn]‘s most useless machine in action after the break.

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A Clockwork Useless Machine Prototype

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Most of us have seen the [Useless Machine] where a switch is flipped and a finger comes out to turn it off, retreating into it’s box again. Most of those are electrical, but why not a [Useless Machine] made only of mechanical clockwork? Apparently this has been done before, but why not one more?

After some rough, sketches, and almost no research, I finally “came up with” a way to do this mechanically. A small wheel acts as the driver for the assembly, which is weighed down by a T-handle attached to a string wrapped around it. When released, this smaller wheel fully rotates causing the larger wheel to rotate up around ninety degrees then come down again. In reality, the flipped switch doesn’t reverse the motion of the finger at all, it instead stops it from cycling over and over. The video after the break may explain it a bit better.

This machine currently is a prototype. Although it works well without a lid on at simply reversing the switch, it’s much too fast and isn’t capable of lifting any sort of weight. Like a lid to come out of, for instance. This whole assembly was made possible with my CNC router and inexpensive/easily machineable MDF. [Read more...]

Hackaday Links: Tuesday, July 19th

Here’s another “useless machine” variant.  The trick to this one is that it has dual “fingers” and can work either way. Which way it turns off is selectable via a switch on the side, and the fingers can both be turned on to “fight” each other. Check out the video here.

This video depicts the assembly of a Gameboy MAME-style cabinet. For those wanting to try something like this, this video may fill you in on some of the required assembly techniques, such as how to put decals on the side of your cabinet.

This video featuring the “Autonomous Ultimate Wall-E” shows this robot’s navigational skills around the house.  Additionally, it has some nicely actuated arms.

The Verbalizer is a microphone designed to be used with Google’s voice search. It’s also designed with Arduino compatibility in mind and is open-source. Could be a good tool for your next hack.

These clever multimeter probes were built using pogo pins used in electrical test equipment. The springs inside of these pins help keep them planted firmly on the test point in question and reportedly gives a very good connection.

Most useless machine loses carbon footprint

[Clayton Boyer] took the electricity out of the useless machine, making one that runs like a clock. To this point, we’ve always seen these useless machine use electric motors. [Clayton's] clever design uses a wind-up spring and a series of wooden gears to bring the fun, making it a great companion for the binary adder you built. The video above shows the inner workings and the design plans are for sale. We’d love to print out the parts or perhaps just laser-cut them from wood like the legs of this spider bot.

[Thanks llwynog]

Homopolar motor

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Slow day at the office?  Here’s a trick that’ll make your coworkers smile. Dangerously Fun has a guide to build a homopolar motor from a battery, copper wire, and magnet. A homopolor motor doesn’t rely on electromagnets in an armature changing their polarity to force a rotation movement compared to stationary magnets. Instead, they use an electrical current’s orientation to a magnetic field to provide a repulsive or rotational force.  In this implementation, the current moves through a loops of copper wire from one pole of a battery to the other.  A rare-earth magnet on one pole of the battery provides the magnetic field.

After the break we’ve embedded video of this simple example as well as a few more complex homopolar examples such as a five speed version.  The motor in action certainly brings a smile to our faces and places this firmly in the useless machines family of hacks.

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