The E-Waste Apocalypse Looms

What does post-apocalyptic technology look like? Well, that kind of depends on the apocalypse. Regardless of the cause, we’ll need to be clever and resourceful and re-learn ancient crafts like weaving and pottery-making. After all, the only real apocalyptic constants are the needs of the survivors. Humans need clothing and other textiles. Fortunately, weaving doesn’t require electricity—just simple mechanics, patience, and craftsmanship.

If it turns out the apocalypse is scheduled for tomorrow, we’ll have piles and piles of e-waste as fodder for new-old looms. This adorable loom is a mashup of old and new technologies that [Kati Hyyppä] built at an artist residency in Latvia, a country with a rich historical tapestry of textile-making. It combines a cheerful orange telephone with an old cassette player and some telescoping rods from a radio antenna. [Kati] reused the phone’s hang-up switch to trigger tunes from a deconstructed toddler toy every time the receiver is lifted. Check it out after the beep break.

And yeah, you’re right, it does use batteries. But the looming part doesn’t require power, only the music. In case of apocalypse, just scrounge up a solar panel.

If you’d rather be prepared to have to make your own clothes someday, print this loom beforehand.

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Non-Newtonian Batteries

Batteries placed in harm’s way need to be protected. A battery placed where a breakdown could endanger a life needs to be protected. Lithium-ion batteries on the bottoms of electric cars are subject to accidental damage and they are bathed in flame-retardant epoxy inside a metal sled. Phone batteries are hidden behind something that will shatter or snap before the battery suffers and warrant inspection. Hoverboard batteries are placed behind cheap plastic, and we have all seen how well that works. Batteries contain chemicals with a high density of energy, so the less exploding they do, the better.

Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory have added a new ingredient to batteries that makes them armored but from the inside. The ingredient is silica spheres so fine it is safe to call it powder. The effect of this dust is that the electrolyte in every battery will harden like cornstarch/water then go right back to being a liquid. This non-Newtonian fluid works on the principal principle of shear-thickening which, in this case, says that the suspension will become harder as shear force is applied. So, batteries get rock hard when struck, then go back to being batteries when it is safe.

Non-Newtonian fluids are much fun, but we’re also happy to see them put to use. The same principle works in special speed bumps to allow safe drivers to continue driving but jolts speeders. Micromachines can swim in non-Newtonian fluids better than water in some cases.

Hackaday Links: September 2, 2018

It’s (was, is?) the end of August, and that means the entire dreadlocked population of San Francisco is out in the middle of the Nevada Desert for a week. Yes, it’s Burning Man, and as always we have a host of builds that make you ask, ‘how did they do that, and how did they get that here’.

For the last few years, the greatest logistical feat of art cars is the 747. Yes, it’s the fuselage of a 747, turned into an art car. The top deck is a convertible. The biggest question surrounding this 747 is how do you transport this thing? You can’t fly it in (well, you could, once), it’s not going to fit on a train, and it’s extraordinarily long. Now we have an answer: they did it on a truck. The 747 was stationed in the Mojave, and from there it’s a relatively quick shot up Nevada to Black Rock City. Several power lines had to be raised, and you’re still looking at an enormous logistical endeavour.

I’m saying it now. Sphere, the 1998 movie with Dustin Hoffman. There’s a 25 meter diameter mirror ball that looks like the sphere in Sphere. It’s inflatable, so that takes care of the obvious questions, but we’re still asking how this thing looks in person, how massive wind storms are going to affect what is basically a gigantic sale sail, and what the reflections of the sun will actually do. I suppose being convex, you’re not going to get the accidental architectural parabolic mirror effect that melts cars, but one can always hope.

Want a neat story on the features of Burning Man that doesn’t get a lot of press? IEEE Spectrum did a feature on Black Rock City airport. For one week a year, it is the third busiest airport in Nevada, behind McCarren and Reno. It’s also a towered, yet uncontrolled airport. This makes no logical sense, but it’s something that can happen with FAA regs.

[alicestewwwart] has left us with a quandary. She’s creating highly artistic circuits out of ICs, discrete parts, and wire. These circuits are functional, but we don’t know what to call them. They’re not quite deadbug, because SMD parts don’t have legs, and ‘deadbug’ gets its name from upside down DIPs that looks like dead centipedes. It’s not Manhattan style, although this might be closer to Manhattan than deadbug. So what is it? Leave your answer in the comments.

You Have To Have A Very High IQ To Understand This Rick And Morty Portal Gun Replica

It’s barely September, but that still means you’ve got to start working on your Halloween costume. If last year is any indication, the most popular costume this year will be, by far, Rick from Rick and Morty. There’s a lot to be said about this, but let me simplify it: if you dress up as Rick from Rick and Morty, you are not a Rick. You’re a Morty.

Nevertheless, Halloween is an awesome opportunity for some cosplay and prop-making action, and [Daren] has this year all wrapped up. He’s building the portal gun from Rick and Morty, with a projector. Yes, it will display portals where ever you point it. It’s actually building something instead of buying a blue wig and a lab coat. Rick would be proud.

The key to this portal build replica is the same tech as found in those Christmas projectors that illuminate the sides of houses with tidings of good cheer. These are just tiny little gobos in a rotating frame, illuminated with high-brightness LEDs. That’s easy enough to fit inside a 3D printed portal gun case, and when you add some 18650 LiPOs, a speaker for sound, and a PC fan for cooling, you have the makings of a real, projecting portal gun.

While it’s just a work in progress now, it is a fantastic achievement so far. Halloween is coming up, and this is a great build for all those Mortys out there.

Scratch-Built 3D-Printer Goes Back To The Roots Of The Hobby

It’s so easy and so cheap to order things like CNC routers and 3D-printers off the shelf that we can be forgiven for forgetting what was once involved in owning machines such as these. It used to be that you had no choice but to build your machine from the ground up. While that’s less true today, it’s still the case if you want to push the limits of what’s commercially available, and this huge scratch-built 3D-printer is a good example of that.

It’s not exactly a fresh build – [Thomas Workshop] posted this last year – but it escaped our notice at the time, and we think the three-part video series below that details the build deserves a look over. When we say scratch built, we mean it. This machine started off as a bundle of aluminum and steel stock. No 80/20 extrusions, no off-the-shelf linear rails – just metal and a plan. The build was helped considerably by a small CNC router, which also had that DIY look, but most of the parts were cut and finished with simple hand tools. The resulting gantry allows an enormous work volume 40 cm in each dimension, with a heated bed that uses four heat mats. We were impressed that [Thomas] got the build just far enough to print parts that were used to finish the build – that’s the hacker spirit.

It’s perhaps not the biggest 3D-printer we’ve seen – that distinction might go to this enormous 8-cubic foot machine – and it certainly can’t print a house. But it’s an impressive build that probably cost a whole lot less than a commercial machine of similar capacity, and it’s got that scratch-built cred.

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Branch Out Your SQLite Database With LiteTree

Whether you want some quick and dirty data storage, or simply don’t have that heavy requirements for your local database system, SQLite is always a good choice. With its portable single-file approach, bindings to all major languages, and availability on systems of all sizes, it is relatively easy to integrate a SQLite database in your undertakings. And if you tend to develop directly in your production environment, you may be interested to hear that the folks at [aergo] made this a lot more flexible (and interesting) by adding Git-style branching to the SQLite engine.

Similar to Git, each database operation is now stored as a commit with a unique id as reference point, and new branches will keep track how they diverge from their parent reference point. This essentially lets you modify your data set or database schema on the fly, while keeping your original data not only untouched, but fully isolated and functional. Unfortunately, merging branches is not yet supported, but it is planned for the near future.

In case you don’t see much use for git-alike functionality in a database, how about the other way around then: using Git as a database, among other tricks?

Epoxy Embedded Electronic Art Running On Pyramid Power

We sometimes get our inspirations from art. When [kodera2t] saw some Japanese art of fish drawings embedded in clear epoxy he just had to make his own. But while skilled in electronics, he wasn’t skilled at drawing. We’d still call him an artist, though, after seeing what he came up with in his electronics embedded in crystal clear epoxy.

Controlling epoxy-empedded leds through BluetoothHis first works of electronic art were a couple of transistors and some ICs, including an 80386, encased in epoxy. But then he realized that he wanted the electronics to do something interesting. However, once encased in epoxy, how do you keep the electronics powered forever?

He tried a solar cell charging a battery which then powered an LED but he didn’t like the idea of chemical batteries encased in epoxy for a long time.

He then switched to wireless power transmission with a receiving coil in the base of epoxy pyramids. For one of them, the coil powers a BLE board with an attached LED which he can control from his phone. And his latest contains an ESP32-PICO with an OLED display. The code allows him to upload new firmware over the air but on his Hackaday.io page, he shows the difference between code which can brick the ESP32 versus code which won’t. But don’t take our word for it. Check out the video below to see his artistry for yourself.

While embedding electronics in epoxy is new to [kodera2t], we’ve seen it a few times before. once in the form of an amplifier circuit done beautifully, dead bug style, and a more experimental attempt with a solar lantern.

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