Surfboard Industry Wipes Out, Innovation Soon Follows

For decades, Gordon Clark and his company Clark Foam held an almost complete monopoly on the surfboard blank market. “Blanks” are pieces of foam with reinforcing wood strips (called “stringers”) in a rough surfboard shape that board manufacturers use to make a finished product, and Clark sold almost every single one of these board manufacturers their starting templates in the form of these blanks. Due to environmental costs, Clark suddenly shuttered his business in 2005 with virtually no warning. After a brief panic in the board shaping industry, and a temporary skyrocketing in price of the remaining blanks in existence, what followed next was rather surprising: a boom of innovation across the industry.

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PCB Tesla Coil Is Perfect Desk Toy

A Tesla coil easily makes it to the top spot on our list of “Mad Scientist” equipment we want for the lab, second only to maybe a Jacob’s Ladder. Even then, it’s kind of unfair advantage because you know people only want a Jacob’s Ladder for that awesome sound it makes. Sound effects not withstanding, it’s Tesla coil all the way, no question.

Unfortunately, winding your own Tesla coil is kind of a hassle. Even on relatively small builds, you’ll generally need to setup some kind of winding jig just to do the secondary coil, which can be a project in itself. So when [Daniel Eindhoven] sent his no-wind Tesla coil into the tip line, it immediately got our attention.

The genius in his design is that the coils are actually etched into the PCB, completely taking the human effort out of the equation. Made up of 6 mil traces with 6 mil separation, the PCB coil manages to pack a 25 meter long, 160 turn coil into an incredibly compact package. As you might expect, such a tiny Tesla coil isn’t exactly going to be a powerhouse, and in fact [Daniel] has managed to get the entirely thing running on the 500 mA output of your standard USB 2.0 port.

In such a low-power setup, [Daniel] was also able to replace the traditional spark gap pulse generator with a PIC18F14K50 microcontroller, further simplifying the design. An advantage of using a microcontroller for the pulse generator is that it’s very easy to adjust the coil’s operating frequency, allowing for neat tricks like making the coil “sing” by bringing its frequency into the audible range.

For those looking to build their own version, [Daniel] has put the PCB schematic and firmware available for download on his site. He also mentions that, in collaboration with Elektor magazine, he will be producing a kit in the near future. Definitely something we’ll be keeping an eye out for.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time [Daniel] has demonstrated his mastery of high voltage. He scared impressed us all the way back in 2010 with his 11,344 Joule capacitor bank, perfect for that laptop-destroying rail gun you’ve been meaning to build.

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This Drone Can Fly, Swim, and Explode….. Wait, What?

You’ve probably heard of micro-drones, perhaps even nano-drones, but there research institutions that shrink these machines down to the size of insects. Leading from the [Wiss Institute For Biologically Inspired Engineering] at Harvard University, a team of researchers have developed a miniscule robot that — after a quick dip — literally explodes out of the water.

To assist with the take off, RoboBee has four buoyant outriggers to keep it near the water’s surface as it uses electrolysis to brew oxyhydrogen in its gas chamber. Once enough of the combustible gas has accumulated — pushing the robot’s wings out of the water in the process– a sparker ignites the fuel, thrusting it into the air. As yet, the drone has difficulty remaining in the air after this aquatic takeoff, but we’re excited to see that change soon.

Looking like a cross between a water strider and a bee, the team suggest this latest version of the RoboBee series  — a previous iteration used electrostatic adhesion to stick to walls — could be used for search and rescue, environmental monitoring, and biological studies. The capacity to transition from aerial surveyor, to underwater explorer and back again would be incredibly useful, but in such a small package, it is troublesome at best. Hence the explosions.

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