Crappy Robots And Even Crappier Electronics Kits

Robots and DIY electronics kits have a long history together. There probably isn’t anyone under the age of forty that hasn’t had some experience with kit-based robots like wall-hugging mouse robots, a weird walking robot on stilts, or something else from the 1987 American Science and Surplus catalog. DIY robot kits are still big business, and walking through the sales booths of any big Maker Faire will show the same ideas reinvented again and again.

[demux] got his hands on what is possibly the worst DIY electronics kit in existence. It’s so incredibly bad that it ends up being extremely educational; pick up one of these ‘introduction to electronics’ kits, and you’ll end up learning advanced concepts like PCB rework, reverse engineering, and Mandarin.

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Second Skin Synth Fits Like a Glove

California textiles artist and musician [push_reset] challenged herself to make a wearable, gesture-based synth without using flex-sensing resistors. In the end, she designed almost every bit of it from the ground up using conductive fabric, resistive paint, and 3-D printed parts.

A couple of fingers do double duty in this glove. Each of the four fingertips have a sensor made from polyurethane, conductive paint, and conductive fabric that is connected to wires using small rivets. These sensors trigger different samples on an Edison that are generated with Timbre.js. The index and middle fingers also have knuckle actuators made from 3-D printed pin-and-slot mechanisms that turn trimmer pots. Bending one knuckle changes the delay timing while the other manipulates a triangle wave.

On the back of the glove are two sensors made from conductive fabric. Touching one up and down the length will alter the reverb. Sliding up and down the other alters the frequency of a sine wave. [push_reset] has kindly provided everything necessary to re-create this build from the glove pattern to the STL files for the knuckle actuators. Check out a short demonstration of the glove after the break. If you love a parade, here’s a wearable synth that emulates a marching band.

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Desolder DIP Packages Like a Pro

Looking for a quick way to desolder those pesky DIP chips? Check out this handy little tip in the video after the break. [Clay Cowgill] shows you the easy way to do it.

Normally, before you desolder a Dual In-line Package (DIP) chip, you have a decision to make: Are you interested in saving the chip or the PCB? The repeated cycles of heating and reheating the PCB while using solder wick, or even a “solder sucker”, can cause a real problem for the PCB. You run the risk of delamination of the PCB traces. Some phenolic based PCBs can barely handle one extra heat cycle, while as a top-quality PCB might be fine with 4 or even 6 rework attempts – but we’ve lifted off tracks with less. And all that thermal stress isn’t exactly the best thing for the chip itself.  You risk ending up with a dud.

The other trick commonly used is to cut the pins of the DIP and then you can treat each pin as a single through hole part – and that is generally less aggressive to the PCB, there by saving your board, but destroying the chip.

In the video [Clay Cowgill] is using a Hakko 850 hot air rework station to desolder parts from an Atari 130EX motherboard. He’s able to effortlessly remove the chips, and save the PCB, all without applying and re-applying heat over and over again. That’s something we’ve seen before – the interesting part is where he then uses the air flow to blow the through hole openings clean – making for some of the fastest and cleanest DIP removal we’ve ever seen without using a dedicated desoldering gun.

[Thanks [wblock] via Eevblog]

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Donuts of ShmooCon

This weekend is ShmooCon, a hacker convention held in Washington DC. Brian Benchoff and I will be there, both of us for the first time. We’d love your input on what talks look the most interesting. Check out the schedule of speakers, then leave a comment below to let us know which talks you think we should cover.

It’s great hearing the big presentations, but I find a lot of times great hacks can be found in smaller venues, or just by walking around. Two examples from 2015 DEF CON: the best talk I sat in on had about 10 people spectating in the IoT village, and I had a great time trying to track down everyone who had an unofficial hardware badge. If you’re at ShmooCon and have something to show off, please find us (@szczys, @bbenchoff)!

On Saturday join us for a Hackaday meetup in the lobby of the Washington Hilton. ShmooCon is well-regarded for the quality of its “lobby-con”, what better place to gather? Look for the Hackaday crowd starting Saturday 1/16 at 8:45am. We’ll bring the donuts, and some swag like Hackaday Omnibus Vol. 02 and of course, some Jolly Wrencher stickers.

Even Easier Toner Transfer PCBs

One of the most popular methods of homebrew PCB fabrication is the toner transfer process. Compared to UV-sensitive films and CNC mills, the toner transfer process is fantastically simple and only requires a laser printer. Being simple doesn’t mean it’s easy, though, and successful toner transfer depends on melting the toner to transfer it from a piece of paper to a copper clad board.

This is heatless toner transfer for PCB fabrication. Instead of using a clothes iron or laminator to transfer toner from a paper to board, [simpletronic] is doing it chemically using acetone and alcohol.

Acetone usually dissolves laser printer toner, and while this is useful for transferring a PCB from paper to board, it alone is insufficient. By using a mixture of eight parts alcohol to three parts acetone, [simpletronic] can make the toner on a piece of paper stick, but not enough to dissolve the toner or make it blur.

From there, it’s a simple matter of putting a piece of paper down on copper clad board. After waiting a few minutes, the paper peels off revealing perfectly transferred board art. All the usual etching techniques can be used to remove copper and fabricate a PCB.

This is an entirely novel method of PCB fabrication, but it’s not exactly original. A few days ago, we saw a very similar method of transferring laser printed graphics to cloth, wood, and metal. While these are probably independent discoveries, it is great evidence there are still new techniques and new ways of doing things left to be discovered.

Thanks [fridgefire] for the tip.

Hackers and Heroes: Rise of the CCC and Hackerspaces

From its roots in phone phreaking to the crackdowns and legal precedents that drove hacking mostly underground (or into business), hacker culture in the United States has seen a lot over the last three decades. Perhaps the biggest standout is the L0pht, a visible 1990s US hackerspace that engaged in open disclosure and was, arguably, the last of the publicly influential US hacker groups.

The details of the American hacker scene were well covered in my article yesterday. It ended on a bit of a down note. The L0pht is long gone, and no other groups that I know of have matched their mix of social responsibility and public visibility. This is a shame because a lot of hacker-relevant issues are getting decided in the USA right now, and largely without our input.

Chaos Computer Club

But let’s turn away from the USA and catch up with Germany. In the early 1980s, in Germany as in America, there were many local computer clubs that were not much more than a monthly evening in a cafeteria or a science museum or (as was the case with the CCC) a newspaper office. Early computer enthusiasts traded know-how, and software, for free. At least in America, nothing was more formally arranged than was necessary to secure a meeting space: we all knew when to show up, so what more needed to be done?

Things are a little different in the German soul. Peer inside and you’ll find the “Vereinsmentalität” — a “club-mentality”. Most any hobby or sport that you can do in Germany has an associated club that you can join. Winter biathlon, bee-keeping, watercolor painting, or hacking: when Germans do fun stuff, they like to get organized and do fun stuff together.

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Powerful Crossbow is Almost Entirely 3D Printed

As it turns out, it’s not feasible to print an entire crossbow yet. But [Dan]’s crossbow build does a good job of leveraging what a 3D printer is good at. Most of the printed parts reside in the crossbow’s trigger group, and the diagrams in the write-up clearly show how the trigger, sear and safety all interact. Particularly nice is the automatic nature of the safety, which is engaged by drawing back the string. We also like the printed spring that keeps the quarrel in place on the bridle, and the Picatinny rail for mounting a scope. Non-printed parts include the aluminum tubes used in the stocks, and the bow itself, a composite design with fiberglass rods inside PVC pipe. The video below shows the crossbow in action, and it looks pretty powerful.

Actually, we’ll partially retract our earlier dismissal of entirely 3D-printed crossbows, but [Dan]’s version is a lot more practical and useful than this model. And for a more traditional crossbow design, check out this entirely hand-made crossbow.

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