Knives Hewn from Brake Discs Past

Knives are tools that rely heavily on material quality to do their job right. A knife made of cheap steel won’t hold an edge well, and blunt knives are more likely to cause injury, or at the least, be more difficult to use. The trick to making a good knife is to start with good material. Disc brakes just so happen to be a great source of cast iron, and are readily available, so [Diesineveryfilm Customs] has machined a knife out of a brake disc.

The first step is to roughly cut out the knife’s form from the disc. It’s easy enough to cut out with an angle grinder, following up with a belt sander to finish up the grip. After sharpening, the sharp blade is taped off for safety while a wooden grip is added. Holes are drilled in the brake rotor, allowing the wooden parts to be pinned and glued together before a trip to the belt sander for shaping. A string and dye are added to the handle as finishing touches.

It’s a great use of high-quality scrap material to produce a useful tool. An earlier disc brake knife video shares some useful techniques of its own – we liked the shortcut of measuring the disc thickness, then using a matching drillbit to mark the centerline for sharpening.

Perhaps your own knives aren’t sharp enough – check out this home-built adjustable sharpening rig.

Gesture Controlled Sword of Omens Gives Sight Beyond Sight

The 80’s were a golden age of Sci-Fi cartoons. We had Transformers, Voltron, and of course, Thundercats. The story of feline humanoids on third earth has stuck with a few hackers, including [Juan Garcia]. Juan has tunneled his fandom into something amazing – he’s built his own version of Lion-O’s iconic Sword of omens. The modeling and 3D print work are top-notch. While this sword doesn’t have the Eye of Thundera as a power source, it does have some pretty clever electronics. It’s also one of the amazing entries in this year’s Sci-Fi Contest.

[Juan] wanted to create the “sight beyond sight” effect from the TV show. He started with an MPU6050 six axis gyro + accelerometer. These chips are most often found at the heart of quadcopter controllers. An Arduino Pro Mini reads the sensor data. When the sword is lifted vertically, it turns on a row of WS2812 LEDs. The LEDs replicate the pulsing eye effect from the cartoon version of the sword.

[Juan] really made this a neat build. The whole sword is powered by an 18650 Li-Ion battery. Power control and charging circuitry are all concealed inside the 3D print. When it’s time to charge up the eye, the hilt can be unscrewed to reveal a USB charging port. Click past the break to see this hack in action!

Click past the break to see this hack in action, and don’t forget – there’s still time to enter the Sci-Fi Contest!

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Forgot About Valentine’s Day? A Quick IoT Valentine

Did you forget about Valentine’s Day? Do you need a quick project to get ready for Valentine’s Day? [Becky Stern] has you covered. She’s whipped up a neat Internet-enabled Valentine project which should be pretty quick to put together.

At its heart (pun intended) is an ESP8266 microcontroller, in this case an Adafruit Feather Huzzah. Several layers of tissue paper heart are stitched together and cut out into a heart shape and then attached to a spring. A vibrating pager motor is used to shake the it when a signal comes in. Two buttons are used to send the message and a red LED is used to light the heart up. The whole thing is enclosed in a shadow box. [Becky] also put together another controller with a similar setup in a plastic enclosure. When the buttons are pressed on either controller, the other gets a signal and the heart shakes and lights up.

These projects send and receive Valentines, but they could be programmed to send whatever information you’d like. If you’re looking for a quick Valentine’s Day project, this is a great one, and you might have all you need already in your component drawer. Break out the soldering iron and send your Valentine a message! If you’re still looking for a quick Valentine’s Day project, check out this animated heart or this PCB Valentine.

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Explosive New Process Produces Graphene by the Gram

You say you need some graphene so you can invent the Next Big Thing, but you can’t be bothered with processes that yield a few measly milligrams of the precious stuff. Luckily for you there’s a new method for producing gram quantities of graphene. Perhaps unluckily, it requires building a controlled fuel-air bomb.

Graphene is all the rage today, promising to revolutionize everything from batteries to supercapacitors to semiconductors. A molecularly-2D surface with unique properties, graphene can be made in very small quantities with such tedious methods as pulling flakes of the stuff off graphite lumps with Scotch tape. Slightly less ad hoc methods involve lasers, microwaves, or high temperatures and nasty chemicals. But all of these methods are batch methods that produce vanishingly small amounts of the stuff.

The method [Chris Sorenson] et al of Kansas State University developed, which involves detonating acetylene and oxygen in a sturdy pressure vessel with a spark plug, can produce grams of graphene at a go. And what’s more, as their patent application makes clear, the method is amenable to a continuous production process using essentially an acetylene-fueled internal combustion engine.

While we can’t encourage our readers to build an acetylene bomb in the garage, the process is so simple that it would be easily replicated. We wonder how far down it could scale for safety and still produce graphene. Obviously, be careful if you choose to replicate this experiment. If you don’t like explosions and can source some soybean oil and nickel foil, maybe try this method instead. Then you’ll have something to mix with your Silly Putty.

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God of Papercraft Builds Working Organ Used for Own Adulation

There’s a wide world to explore when it comes to papercraft, but we reserve special praise for fully functional builds. [Aliaksei Zholner’s] working papercraft organ is a stunning example of what can be achieved with skill and perseverance.

The video is short but covers some finer touches – the folded concertinas of paper acting as springs to return the keys, for example. Air is supplied by a balloon, and the organ has a tone similar to other toy organs of comparable size.

The builder has declined to share templates at this stage, due to the complexity of the model and the fact that apparently even the thickness of the paper used can affect the function. This is not surprising — to get any sort of pipe organ to play in tune requires finesse and careful fine tuning. The build thread sheds some further light on the build (in Russian) if you’re curious to know more.

Perhaps the one thing we find surprising is that we haven’t seen something similar that’s 3D printed. If you’ve done it, smash it through on the tip line! Else, if you’re thirsty for more functional papercraft, you can’t go past the fantastic papercraft strandbeest build we covered back in 2011.

Retrotechtacular: ERNIE

Wherever you may live in the world, who do you wish to smile upon you and deliver good fortune? You may be surprised to discover that for a significant number of Brits this role is taken by someone called [Ernie].

What, [Jim Henson]’s Ernie from Sesame Street‘s famous duo Bert and Ernie? Sadly not, because the owner of a [Rubber Duckie] can’t offer you the chance of a million quid every month. Instead, [Ernie] is a computer that has been anthropomorphised in the national imagination. More properly referred to as E.R.N.I.E, for Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment, he is the machine that picks the winning bond numbers for the Premium Bonds, a lottery investment scheme  run by the British Government.

Brits have been able to buy £1 bonds, up to 50,000 of them today, since the 1950s, and every month they are entered into a drawing from which ERNIE picks the winners. The top two prizes are a million pounds, but for most bond holders the best they can hope for is the occasional £25 cheque. Premium Bonds are often bought for young children so a lot of Brits will have a few, often completely forgotten. Prizes never expire, so if you are the holder of old bonds you should consider asking National Savings and Investments whether anything is owed to you.

The Great Grandfather of Premium Bond Drawings

The original 1957 ERNIE, now in the collection of the Science Museum, London. Geni [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
The original 1957 ERNIE, now in the collection of the Science Museum, London. Geni [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
The current ERNIE is the fourth-generation model, but our attention today is on its 1950s ancestor. In a way it’s the most interesting of the machines because it has an unusual pedigree, being a creation of the Post Office Research Station, at Dollis Hill, London. As such it came from the lab of the Colossus engineer [Tommy Flowers], and is described as being a descendant of the now-famous but then still top-secret first digital computer used by the World War Two codebreakers. It’s thus a fascinating study for the student of computer history as well as for its role in British postwar social history, because it represents the only glimpse (had they known it at the time) that the British public had of the technology that had helped them so much a decade earlier.

A significant effort was made to ensure that the draw was truly random, and the solution employed by [Flowers] and his team was thoroughly tested before each draw. The thermionic noise generated across a neon tube was sampled, and this random voltage delivered the truly random numbers used to generate the winning bond numbers. The machine’s construction is extremely reminiscent of its wartime predecessor, however it is as well to bear in mind that it owes this to the standard racking and paint used in British telephone exchanges of the day. Gone though are the octal tubes, and in their place are their more familiar miniature successors.

We have two films for you showing this incarnation of ERNIE in action. The first is a National Savings promotional film which explains ERNIE’s purpose, while the second shows us the Minister of the time starting the first draw. Believe it or not, this was a cause of major national excitement at the time.

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Hackaday.io Passes 200,000 Registered Users

Hackaday.io just welcomed the 200,000th registered user! We are the world’s largest repository of open hardware projects and Hackaday.io is proving its worth as the world’s most vibrant technology community. This is where you go to get inspiration for your next project, to get help fleshing out your product ideas, to build your engineering dream team, and to tell the tales of the workbench whether that be success, failure, or anything in between.

Over the past six months, as we’ve grown from the 150k member milestone to this one, our movement has enjoyed ever-increasing interaction among this amazing group of people. Thank you for spending so much time here and making Hackaday.io a great place for everyone!

Hack Chat Bring Experts from Many Fields

bunnie03-01It’s always great when you can watch a conference talk or interview online. But if you weren’t there in person the opportunity for meaningful interaction has already passed. With this in mind, we’ve been inviting experts from numerous fields to host discussions live in the Hackaday.io Hack Chat room.

This is a great way to further our goal of forming a global virtual hackerspace. It’s common to have talks and workshops at a hackerspace, where you can not only learn from and ask questions of the person leading the event, but meet others who share your interests. This has happened time and again with recent guests including Bunnie Huang who talked about making and breaking hardware, a group of Adafruit engineers who discussed their work extending the MicroPython libraries, Sprite_tm who covered the continuing development of ESP32 support, and many more.

This Friday at Noon PST Hackaday’s own Jenny List will be leading the Hack Chat on RF Product design. See you there!

Amazing Projects

It’s pretty amazing to see a guide on building a smartphone for $50 in parts. If that exists anywhere, it’s probably on Hackaday.io — and it’s actually pushing about 80,000 views so far! Arsenijs is a regular around these parts and his ZeroPhone — a 2G communications device based on the Raspberry Pi Zero — is a project that he’s been updating as his prototype-to-production journey progresses. It has a big team behind it and we can’t wait to see where this one goes.

zerophone-thumbWorking on your own is still a great way to learn and we see all kinds of examples of that. Just4Fun is learning the dark arts that went into early personal computing with a $4 project to build a Z80 system on a breadboard.

We revel in the joy of seeing great hardware art come to life. FlipFrame is a great example; it’s a digital picture frame project that goes far beyond that simple description. It rotates the entire screen to fit the layout of the image while showing off all of the hardware that makes this possible rather than hiding it away inside a case.

In addition to our registered users milestone, we’re just about to pass our 20,000th published project. There are so many projects to celebrate and draw inspiration from, and that collection grows every day!

The Rise of Build Contests

This winter we’ve seen a ton of interest in the build contests hosted on Hackaday.io. Of course, nothing can compare to the reach of the Hackaday Prize, our worldwide engineering initiative that challenges people to Build Something That Matters. The 2016 winners were announced in November; even so, people have been tripping over themselves to get a project built for the numerous contests we’ve hosted since then.

enlightenpiOf note is the 1 kB Challenge — a contest dreamed up by our own Adam Fabio which challenged entrants to build an embedded project whose compiled code was 1 kB or less. It was a joy to dive into the entries for this and it will certainly return again.

Running right now is the revival of my favorite build contest: the Hackaday Sci-Fi Contest. Bring your favorite Sci-Fi tech to life — it just needs to be recognizable from a book, movie, or TV show and include some type of electronics.

Meet Your Friends in Real Life

Some of my closest friends in life were first met online. But eventually, you just want to hang out in the same room. This is becoming more and more common with Hackaday.io. In November we celebrated our second Hackaday SuperConferece where hundreds of people who love hardware creation gathered in Los Angeles for two days of amazing talks, workshops, and hands-on hacking challenges. This is a good one to add to your calendar but tickets do sell out so consider some other options.

We have regular meetups in LA and New York. If you are ever traveling there, make sure to look up the schedule and see if it can be part of your trip. Perhaps the most interesting was World Create Day. In 2016, we had 80 groups across the world plan meetups on the same day so that the Hackaday community could hang out in real life. We’re not ready to share the details quite yet, but you should plan for that to happen again this year. Something to look forward to!