Hackaday Prize Entry: Visualizing Magnetic Fields

In 1820, Hans Christian Oersted discovered the needle of a compass would deflect when placed next to a wire carrying an electric current. It took 15 years for the first electric motor to be invented following this observation. Humans are dumb, but perhaps they wouldn’t be so oblivious to the basic facts of our reality if they could see magnetic fields. Or if they just had a 3D printer. For his Hackaday Prize entry, [Ted Yapo] is doing just this: adding a magnetic field scanner to a 3D printer, allowing for the visualization of magnetic fields in three dimensions.

The device [Ted] is working on is actually extremely simple, and is mostly implemented in software. The hardware is just a 3D printer with a toolhead consisting of a HMC5883L magnetometer breakout board. This is the simplest and easiest way to find the direction and intensity of a magnetic field, the rest of the work is done in software.

Right now, [Ted] has a setup that will scan a 3D volume with a printer. By placing a magnet in the middle of the print bed, he can visualize the magnetic field inside the volume of his 3D printer. It’s a visualization that is vastly superior to a compass, ferrofluid, or even a mess of iron filings, and is surely a much better pedagogical apparatus for classrooms and science museums alike.

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20 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Visualizing Magnetic Fields

    1. about as fair as any statement can be, we are all idiots in some aspect at some time.
      saying one has never acted in a stupid fashion is without a doubt a much more unrealistic statement.

  1. “It’s a visualization that is vastly superior to a compass, ferrofluid, or even a mess of iron filings, and is surely a much better pedagogical apparatus for classrooms and science museums alike.”

    You’re just saying that because you’re obviously in the pockets of Big Magnet! =)

    1. “Can it do it in 4 D?”

      Scan multiple times=4D
      Or, get a really fast/overclocked X/Y/Z system.

      This build looks like you can get real, repeatable data. However a video of dancing ferrofluid doesn’t really have much usefulness. Looks amazing and I want a gallon of the stuff though, lol.

  2. Why not use a grid array of many sensors, then just lift it on Z.
    It would be much faster than scanning with one single sensor,
    and you don’t need a complete 3 printer but just one stepper, you can put this money in buying a lot of sensors

    1. With a single sensor, you can scan around targets in the scanning volume (taking care to avoid striking the target with the scanning head). With a 2D array, you can only scan above (or below) targets.

      I also figure that most of the target audience (educators) already have access to 3D printers.

  3. “The device [Ted] is working on is actually extremely simple, and is mostly implemented in software.”

    Eeek. Mine is mostly implemented in baby oil. It doesn’t claim to be vastly superior however.

  4. Here`s a thought, what would happen if your put iron filings into the field of a magnet in zero g, wouldn`t you get something similar to the visual display he get.

  5. This is neat, but the problem with all these projects is that there’s no way to measure the field without interacting with it somehow. There’s always coupling happening. You could measure the empty volume first, to cal out some of the error. For a strong permanent magnet, the coupling is probably negligible. But it’s important to realize it’s there.

  6. I use exactly this baseline-scan approach for calibration when scanning fields from permanent magnets. For electromagnets, you can save time by taking two data points at each 3D position – one with the current on, and one off.

    I agree. Interaction of measurement apparatus with the system-under-test is always a concern – consider ammeter burden, measuring the temperature of your morning coffee with an initially room-temperature thermometer, or testing the pressure in your bicycle tires. The trick is to be able to estimate the magnitude of the effect, calibrate it out if possible, and otherwise report it as uncertainty.

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