Lonely? Build Yourself a Chess Robot!

[Oriol Galceran] has constructed an interesting robotic chess player for his end of school project. It’s called the ChessM8, and is an impressive feat considering [Oriol] is only 17!  He’s using an Arduino Mega that connects to the host PC via a Python script.

The AI can be any chess engine that uses the Universal Chess Interface protocol, which [Oriol] points out that most of them do.  We’ve seen other chess robots here before, along with others that you can play on your wall and uses Nixie Tubes. But [Oriol’s] build is the largest of them all.

He says there’s a network of REED switches under the chess board to detect when a piece is present or not. It would be interesting to know how he dealt with debouncing issues, and if Hall Effect sensors might have been a better choice. Let us know in the comments how you would detect the chess piece.

And be sure to check out the video below to see the chess robot in action.

Continue reading “Lonely? Build Yourself a Chess Robot!”

Hard Drive Becomes Hard Drive Activity Light; Stores no Data

A while ago [Frank Zhao] built a computer in an aquarium. It’s exactly what you would expect – a bunch of parts stuffed into a container filled with mineral oil. Yes, there’s an i7 and a GTX970 in there, but there’s also a bunch of neopixels and a neat little bubbling treasure chest. That wasn’t enough for [Frank], and he wanted to add a HDD activity monitor. What’s the most absurd activity monitor for an SSD? An old platter-based drive, of course.

The build is relatively simple and something [Frank] put together from spare parts in a day. After cracking open an old PATA hard drive, the voice coil for the hard drive arm was connected to the motherboard’s HDD activity signal through a few MOSFETs. The platter motor is controlled by an MTD6501 motor driver, set to spin up when the circuit is on.

It’s a kludge as far as controlling the components of a hard drive go, but that’s not really the point. It’s just a neat project to show when the SSD in the aquarium computer is being accessed. That said, the activity monitor is currently disconnected because the old HDD is so freakin’ loud. It looks really cool, though.

Hackaday Links: March 15, 2015

[Fran] and [Bil] are back again for the first Dinosaur Den of 2015. Highlights of this edition include a surprisingly young tri-power supply and Nixie display cards from 1965.

The game of Go has been turned into a sequencer. That’s a project from [Kristian Gohlke] and [Michael Hlatky]. It’s an industrial camera placed above a Go board, and some computer vision algorithms to detect stones on the board. There’s a 16×16 section to create drum patterns (black stones) or synth notes (white stones). Below that there’s a 16×3 grid for the bass notes, two 3×8 grids to control filters and effects, and a 3×3 grid to play percussive loops.

HOW TO REMOVE A GPS ANKLE MONITOR. We had to get the SEO right on this one. Here’s how you can ditch your probation officer for a weekend. Great news: his parents used their house for bail, now an entire family is homeless. Lesson learned: use a burner phone and call forwarding until you’re out of the country.

The Computer History Museum is doing a great series of interviews, and this one is with [Bob Dobkin], former director at National Semiconductor, and co-founder of Linear. Analog design isn’t wizardry, you just need a decade of experience.

[Simon] over at the Hack42 hackerspace finally found the time to repair their old Holborn 9120 terminal – the most space-age terminal ever built. The keyboard is an old Keytronic unit, and the foam underneath the keys had turned to dust. This was replaced with an Ikea mousepad, foam tape, and the foil from a discarded bag of chips. It worked, and they got their terminal to load our retro edition:


If you have some old hardware, try to point it at our retro site, take a picture (or post a writeup) and send it on in.

Mini Robot Wars Looks Fun and Only Slightly Scary

“Ahhhh! They’re so cute! Wait a second, does that little robot have a spinning blade of death?!?!?”  Yes, yes it does.

Welcome to Bristol University 2nd Annual Robot Wars Tournament. It’s loosely based on the old BBC show Robot Wars, where contestants would design and build fighting robots. This pint-sized version is just down right fun to watch. But don’t let their size fool you, some of these little bots pack a mean punch.

This competition follows the “Antweight World Series Rules” and must fit inside a 4 inch cube with a max weight of 150 grams. There are some not-so-fun rules attached to that, such as “No flame based weapons” and “no use of electricity as a weapon.” But hey, it still looks like a blast.

We can’t help but to think that a contest like this would be an amazing thing for local hacker spaces to set up and organize. The playing field seems to be a reasonable size, such that it could be set-up and torn-down without too much hassle. And with RC transmitters/receivers available so inexpensively these days, and ebay flooded with little robot parts from China, now seems like a perfect time to start a local robot competition. It might be a great way to draw people into making and hacking. You can watch the video of the competition and meet the makers after the break.

Continue reading “Mini Robot Wars Looks Fun and Only Slightly Scary”

Custom PLCs for Automation Industries

For many years, factories have used PLCs for automated control over industrial equipment. These systems are usually expensive, proprietary, and generally incapable of being reprogrammed. [Oliver], an engineering student in Ireland created a system for factories to develop their own application-specific PLCs as a final project for Automation Engineering.

In-house PLC creation has many benefits for manufacturers, not the least of which is the opportunity for customization. Making your own PLCs also means no licensing fees and total control over equipment automation. This system is a complete setup including an HMI interface with touchscreen input and a SCADA system for remotely controlling various pieces equipment of equipment from a laptop.

[Oliver] built a metal frame out of industrial-grade strut channel to house an XP machine, two monitors, and the beautifully breadboarded PLC design station. It’s based around a PIC16F887 and includes rugged features expected of a system that never goes into sleep mode, like eight channels of opto-isolation. [Oliver] also developed an environment for engineers to easily program their custom PLCs through a simple HMI interface and ladder logic.

Terra Spider Repairs and Resurfaces new Frontiers

Is your landscape congested with toxic waste, parched, or otherwise abandoned? The Terra Spider may be your answer to new life in otherwise barren wastelands.

Bred in the Digital Craft Lab at the California College of the Arts, the current progress demonstrates the principle of deploying multiple eight-legged drones that can drill and deploy their liquid payload, intended to “repair or maintain” the landing site.

To deliver their project, students [Manali Chitre], [Anh Vu], and [Mallory Van Ness] designed and assembled a laser-cut octopod chassis, an actuated drilling mechanism, and a liquid deployment system all from easily available stock components and raw materials. While project details are sparse, the comprehensive bill-of-materials gives us a window into the process of putting together the pieces of a Terra Spider. The kinematics for movement are actuated by servos, a Sparkfun gear-reduced motor enables drilling, and a peristaltic pump handles the payload deployment.

It’s not every day that flying robots deploy drill-wielding spider drones. Keep in mind, though, that the Terra Spider is a performance piece, a hardware-based demonstration of a bigger idea, in our case: remote coverage and sample deployments in a barren wasteland. While, this project is still a work-in-progress, the bill-of-materials and successful deployment demos both testify towards this project’s extensive development.

With the earnest intent of repairing withering environments, perhaps this project has a future as an entry into this year’s Earth-saving Hackaday Prize….

Coming soon to a galaxy near you!

Continue reading “Terra Spider Repairs and Resurfaces new Frontiers”

3D Printering: Induction Heating

Every filament-based 3D printer you’ll find today heats plastic with resistive heaters – either heater cartridges or big ‘ol power resistors. It’s efficient, but that will only get you so far. Given these heaters can suck down only so many Watts, they can only heat up so fast. That’s a problem, and if you’re trying to make a fast printer, it’s also a limitation.

Instead of dumping 12 or 24 VDC into a resistive heater, induction heaters passes high-frequency AC through a wire that’s inductively coupled to a core. It’s also very efficient, but it’s also very fast. No high-temperature insulation is required, and if it’s designed right, there’s less thermal mass. All great properties for fast heating of plastic.

A few years ago, [SB] over on the RepRap blog designed an induction heater for a Master’s project. The hot end was a normal brass nozzle attached to a mild steel sleeve. A laminated core was attached to the hot end, and an induction coil wrapped around the core. It worked, but there wasn’t any real progress for turning this into a proper nozzle and hot end. It was, after all, just a project.

Finally, after several years, people are squirting plastic out of an induction heated nozzle. [Z], or [Bulent Unalmis], posted a project to the RepRap forums where he is extruding plastic that has been heated with an induction heater. It’s a direct drive system, and mechanically, it’s a simpler system than the fancy hot ends we’re using now.

Electronically, it’s much more complex. While the electronics for a resistive heater are just a beefy power supply and a MOSFET, [Z] is using 160 kHz AC at 30 V. That’s a much more difficult circuit to stuff on a printer controller board.

This could be viewed as just a way of getting around the common 24V limitation of common controller boards; shove more power into a resistor, and it’s going to heat faster. This may not be the answer to hot ends that heat up quicker, but at the very least it’s a very neat project, and something we’d like to see more of.

You can see [Z]’s video demo of his inductive hot end below. Thanks [Matt] for the tip.

Continue reading “3D Printering: Induction Heating”