Hacking a Sonoff WiFi Switch

The ESP8266 platform has become so popular that it isn’t just being used in hobby and one-off projects anymore. Companies like Sonoff are basing entire home automation product lines around the inexpensive WiFi card. What this means for most of us is that there’s now an easily hackable and readily available product on the market that’s easily reprogrammed and used with tools that we’ve known about for years now, as [Dan] shows in his latest project.

[Dan] has an aquaponics setup in his home, and needs some automation to run the lights. Reaching for a Sonoff was an easy way to get this done, but the out-of-the-box device can only be programmed in the simplest of ways. To get more control over the unit, he wired a USB-to-Serial UART to the female headers on the board and got to programming it.

The upgraded devices are fully programmable and customizable now, and this would be a great hack for anyone looking to get more out of a Sonoff switch. A lot of the work is already done, like building a safe enclosure, wiring it, and getting it to look halfway decent. All that needs to be done is a little bit of programming. Of course, if you’d like to roll out your own home automation setup from scratch that can do everything from opening the garage door to alerting you when your dog barks, that’s doable too. You’ll just need a little more hardware.

Eating a QR Code May Save Your Life Someday

QR codes are easy to produce, resistant to damage, and can hold a considerable amount of data. But generally speaking, eating them has no practical purpose. Unfortunately the human digestive tract lacks the ability to interpret barcodes, 2D or otherwise. But thanks to the University of Copenhagen, that may soon change.

A new paper featured in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics details research being done to print QR codes with ink that contains medicine. The mixture of medicines in the ink can be tailored to each individual patient, and the QR code itself can contain information about who the drugs were mixed for. With a standard QR reader application on their smartphone, nurses and care givers can scan the medicine itself and know they are giving it to the right person; cutting down the risk of giving patients the wrong medication.

The process involves using a specialized inkjet printer to deposit the medicine-infused ink on a white edible substrate. In testing, the substrate held up to rough handling and harsh conditions while still keeping the QR code legible; an important test if this technology is to make the leap from research laboratory to real-world hospitals.

In the future the researchers hope the edible substrate can be produced and sent to medical centers, and that the medicinal ink itself will be printable on standard inkjet printers. If different medicines were loaded into the printer as different colors, it should even be possible to mix customized drug “cocktails” through software. Like many research projects it seems likely the real-world application of the technology won’t be as easy as the researchers hope, but it’s a fascinating take on the traditional method of dispersing medication.

QR codes have long been a favorite of the hacker community. From recovering data from partial codes to using them to tunnel TCP/IP, we’ve seen our fair share of QR hacks over the years.

[Thanks to Qes for the tip]

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ESP32, We Have Ways to Make You Talk

One of our favorite scenes from the [James Bond] franchise is the classic exchange between [Goldfinger] and [Bond]. [Connery] (the One True Bond) says, “You expect me to talk?” And the reply is, “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” When it comes to the ESP32, though, apparently [XTronical] expects it to talk. He posted a library to simplify playing WAV files on the ESP32. There is also a video worth watching, below.

Actually, you might want to back up to his previous post where he connects a speaker via one of the digital to analog converters on the board. In that post, he just pushes out a few simple waveforms, but the hardware is the same setup he uses for playing the WAV files.

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Printed Adapter Teaches an Old Ninja New Tricks

Do you like change for the sake of change? Are you incapable of leaving something in a known and working state, and would rather fiddle endlessly with it? Are you unconcerned about introducing arbitrary compatibility issues into your seemingly straight-forward product line? If you answered “Yes” to any of those questions, have we got the job for you! You can become a product engineer, and spend your days confounding customers who labor under the unrealistic expectation that a product they purchased in the past would still work with seemingly identical accessories offered by the same company a few years down the line. If interested please report to the recruitment office, located in the darkest depths of Hell.

A 2D representation of the adapter in Fusion 360

Until the world is rid of arbitrary limitations in consumer hardware, we’ll keep chronicling the exploits of brave warriors like [Alex Whittemore], who take such matters into their own hands. When he realized that the blades for his newer model Ninja food processor didn’t work on the older motor simply because the spline was a different size, he set out to design and print an adapter to re-unify the Ninja product line.

[Alex] tried taking a picture of the spline and importing that into Fusion 360, but in the end found it was more trouble than it was worth. As is the case with many printed part success stories, he ended up spending some intimate time with a pair of calipers to get the design where he wanted it. Once broken down into its core geometric components (a group of cylinders interconnected with arches), it didn’t take as long as he feared. In the end the adapter may come out a bit tighter than necessary depending on the printer, but that’s nothing a few swift whacks with a rubber mallet can’t fix.

This project is a perfect example of a hack that would be much harder (but not impossible) without having access to a 3D printer. While you could create this spline adapter by other means, we certainly wouldn’t want to. Especially if you’re trying to make more than one of them. Small runs of highly-specialized objects is where 3D printing really shines.

This is an entry in Hackaday’s

Repairs You Can Print contest

The twenty best projects will receive $100 in Tindie credit, and for the best projects by a Student or Organization, we’ve got two brand-new Prusa i3 MK3 printers. With a printer like that, you’ll be breaking stuff around the house just to have an excuse to make replacement parts.


Water Cooling a 3D Printer

It may seem like a paradox, but one of the most important things you have to do to a 3D printer’s hot end is to keep it cool. That seems funny, because the idea is to heat up plastic, but you really only want to heat it up just before it extrudes. If you heat it up too early, you’ll get jams. That’s why nearly all hot ends have some sort of fan cooling. However, lately we have seen announcements and crowd-funding campaigns that make it look like water cooling will be more popular than ever this year. Don’t want to buy a new hot end? [Dui ni shuo de dui] will show you how to easily convert an E3D-style hot end to water cooling with a quick reversible hack.

That popular style of hot end has a heat sink with circular fins. The mod puts two O-rings on the fins and uses them to seal a piece of silicone tubing. The tubing has holes for fittings and then it is nothing to pump water through the fittings and around the heat sink. The whole thing cost about $14 (exclusive of the hot end) and you could probably get by for less if you wanted to.

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Mae Jemison and the Final Frontier

From the time Mae Jemison was a little girl, she was convinced that she would go to space. No one could tell her otherwise. She was sure that space travel would be as common as air travel by the time she was an adult. That prediction didn’t pan out, but that confidence combined with her intellect, curiosity, and the above-average encouragement of her parents drove Mae to do everything she wanted, including space travel.

Some people might become a doctor or a researcher, a dancer or an astronaut. But Mae became all of these things. Not everyone supported her non-traditional path—many people just pick a career and stick with it. Her path is impressive and through it all she gained a really interesting perspective on how education is approached, and what effects that approach has on society. After practicing medicine, joining a shuttle mission, appearing in Star Trek, and retiring from NASA, she became a voice for minority students and an advocate for integrating the arts and sciences in the standard curriculum.

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CPAP Hacked into Super Charged 3D Printer Cooler

Of all the parts on your average desktop 3D printer, the nozzle itself is arguably where the real magic happens. Above the nozzle, plastic is being heated to the precise temperature required to get it flowing smoothly. Immediately below the nozzle there’s a fan blowing to get the plastic cooled back down again. This carefully balanced arrangement of heating and cooling is the secret that makes high quality fused deposition modeling (FDM) printing possible.

But as it turns out, getting the plastic hot ends up being easier than cooling it back down again. The harsh reality is that most of the fans small enough to hang on the side of a 3D printer nozzle are pretty weak. They lack the power to push the volume of air necessary to get the plastic cooled down fast enough. But with his latest project, [Mark Rehorst] hopes to change that. Rather than using some anemic little fan that would be better suited blowing on the heatsink of a Raspberry Pi, he’s using a hacked CPAP machine to deliver some serious airflow.

The brilliance of using a CPAP machine for this hack is two-fold. For one, the machine uses a powerful centrifugal fan rather than the wimpy axial “muffin” fans we usually see on 3D printers. Second, the CPAP pushes air down a lightweight and flexible hose, which means the device itself doesn’t have to be physically mounted to the printer head. All you need is manifold around the printer’s nozzle that connects up to the CPAP hose. This “remote” fan setup means the print head is lighter, which translates (potentially) into higher speed and acceleration.

[Mark] was able to connect the fan MOSFET on his printer’s SmoothieBoard controller up to the brushless motor driver from the CPAP motor, which lets the printer control this monster new fan. As far as the software is concerned, nothing has changed.

He hasn’t come up with a manifold design that’s really optimized yet, but initial tests look promising. But even without a highly optimized outlet for the air, this setup is already superior to the traditional part cooler designs since it’s got more power and gets the fan motor off of the print head.

Getting your 3D printed parts to cool down is serious business, and it’s only going to get harder as printers get faster. We wouldn’t be surprised if fan setups like this start becoming more common on higher-end printers.