Cortex 2 is One Serious 3D Printed Experimental Rocket

Rocketry is wild, and [Foaly] is sharing build and design details of the Cortex 2 mini rocket which is entirely 3D printed. Don’t let that fool you into thinking it is in any way a gimmick; the Cortex 2 is a serious piece of engineering with some fascinating development.

Cortex 1 was launched as part of C’Space, an event allowing students to launch experimental rockets. Stuffed with sensors and entirely 3D printed, Cortex 1 flew well, but the parachute failed to deploy mainly due to an imperfectly bonded assembly. The hatch was recovered, but the rocket was lost. Lessons were learned, and Cortex 2 was drafted up before the end of the event.

Some of the changes included tweaking the shape and reducing weight, and the refinements also led to reducing the number of fins from four to three. The fins for Cortex 2 are also reinforced with carbon fiber inserts and are bolted on to the main body.

Here’s an interesting details: apparently keeping the original fins would result in a rocket that was “overstable”. We didn’t really realize that was a thing. The results of overstabilizing are similar to a PID loop where gain is too high, and overcorrection results in oscillations instead of a nice stable trajectory.

Cortex 2 uses a different rocket motor from its predecessor, which led to another interesting design issue. The new motor is similar to hobby solid rocket motors where a small explosive charge at the top of the motor blows some time after the fuel is gone. This charge is meant to eject a parachute, but the Cortex 2 is not designed to use this method, and so the gasses must be vented. [Foaly] was understandably not enthusiastic about venting hot gasses through the mostly-PLA rocket body. Instead, a cylindrical cartridge was designed that both encases the motor and redirects any gasses from the explosive charge out the rear of the rocket. That cartridge was SLA printed out of what looks to us like Formlabs’ High Tempurature Resin.

Finally, to address the reasons Cortex 1 crashed, the hatch and parachute were redesigned for better reliability. A servo takes care of activating the system, and a couple of reverse-polarity magnets assist in ensuring the hatch blows clear. There’s even a small servo that takes care of retracting the launch guide.

The rocket is only half built so far, but looks absolutely fantastic and we can’t wait to see more. It’s clear [Foaly] has a lot of experience and knowledge. After all, [Foaly] did convert a Makerbot printer into a CNC circuitboard engraver.

Fail of the Week: Hard Lessons in 3D-Printed Bushings for a Giant RC Car

Can you turn 47 pounds (21 kg) of PLA filament into a gigantic working 3D-printed RC car? No, no you can’t — at least not if you eschew proper bearings in favor of printed bushings.

That’s the hard lesson that [Joel Telling] learned with his scaled up version of the OpenRC F1 car, an RC car that can be mostly 3D-printed. The small version still has its share of non-printed parts, mainly screws and bearings. In his video series documenting the build of the upsized version, [Joel] elaborates on some of the reasons for going with printed bushings rather than bearings, which mainly boil down to hoping that the graphite lubricant powder he added would reduce friction enough to prevent the parts from welding themselves together.

The car came out looking great, and even managed to scoot about nicely for a few seconds before its predictably noisy and unhappy demise. But what was unexpected was the actual failure mode. The plastic-on-plastic running gear seemed to handle the rolling loads fine; it was the lateral force exerted on the axle by the tension of the drive belt that was too much for the printed bushing to bear.

As [Joel] rightly points out, it’s only a failure if you fail to learn something, so kudos to him for at least giving this a try. And all that PLA won’t go to waste, of course — everything else on the car worked fine, so adding one bearing should get it back on the road. He should check out our primer on bearings for a few tips on selecting the right one.

Continue reading “Fail of the Week: Hard Lessons in 3D-Printed Bushings for a Giant RC Car”

The Umbrella That Tells You The Weather

Most people can tell you the various uses of the umbrella — it keeps the rain off, pokes sleeping train passengers awake, and can be used as an improvised defensive weapon when tension in the hot dog line reaches boiling point. A true Englishman would never deign to employ their brolly so imprudently, of course, but they might just give it an upgrade by packing in a full weather station.

Please do not message us to complain about the redundancy of a rain sensor on an umbrella.

The build uses the Particle Photon as the brains of the operation, interfacing it with several sensors. There’s a DHT11 to handle temperature and humidity measurement, an Adafruit barometric pressure sensor, along with a custom-built anemometer using a brushed motor with 3D printed wind cups. Finally, a breadboard is turned into a rain detector, based on the same principles as those used in automotive applications.

 

The Particle Photon uses WiFi to tether to a smartphone, deliver the collected data to the cloud via Adafruit IO. This enables the data to be collated and processed further on a PC. Yes, it’s 2018, and they have the internet on umbrellas now.

As we reach further into the depths of winter, it’s one project that could very much come in handy, and [The Gentlemen Maker] has been kind enough to share the code on Particle.io. If that’s not good enough, perhaps you could use your umbrella as a WiFi antenna. Video after the break.

Continue reading “The Umbrella That Tells You The Weather”

Achieving Zen the Arduino Way

The purpose of a Zen garden, those stylized landscapes created by painstakingly placing rocks and raking gravel into perfect patterns, is the doing of the thing. Making sure every line is perfectly formed is no mean feat, and the concentration required to master it is the point of the whole thing. But who has time for that? Why not just build a robot to create the perfect Zen garden in miniature?

That was what [Tim Callinan] and his classmates did for a semester project, and the “ZenXY” sand plotter was the result. There isn’t a build log for the device per se, although the video below makes it plain how they went about this. The sand table itself is a plywood box whose bottom is layered with fine white sand and contains a single steel ball. Below the table is an X-Y gantry carrying a powerful magnet. A gShield riding on top of an Uno turns G code into slow, stately movement of the ball through the sand. The patterns are remarkably intricate, and while it might not be the same as mastering the body control needed to rake gravel with precision, watching the ball push the sand around is pretty Zen all by itself

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen someone try to automate a traditional Japanese practice. This tea ceremony robot comes to mind, and this nicely crafted sand table is very similar to the ZenXY.

Continue reading “Achieving Zen the Arduino Way”

How a Microcontroller Hiding in a USB Port Became an FPGA Hiding in the Same

When you think of microcontroller development, you probably picture either a breadboard with a chip or a USB-connected circuit board. But Tim Ansell pictured an ARM dev board that is almost completely hidden inside of a USB port. His talk at the 2018 Hackaday Superconference tells that story and then some. Check out the newly published video, along with more details of the talk, after the break.

Continue reading “How a Microcontroller Hiding in a USB Port Became an FPGA Hiding in the Same”

Automatic Soap Dispenser Hides Arduino Board

If you’ve been hanging out here at Hackaday for awhile, you’ve certainly seen projects that were based around the concept of putting a miniature computer inside the carcass of some other piece of electronics. In fact at this point it’s something of a running joke, certainly we must have seen an Arduino or Raspberry Pi shoehorned into every type of consumer gadget ever built by this point. But if you thought this would be another example of that common trope by the headline, you might be in for something of a surprise.

[zapta] didn’t put an Arduino inside this GOJO LTX-7 soap dispenser, it was already in there to begin with. That’s right, apparently we’ve hit the point that even cheap soap dispensers are now running on programmable microcontrollers. While we can’t blame those of you who are no doubt groaning and/or rolling their eyes thanks to this particular case of computational gluttony, it does mean we’re able to report with a straight face something which frankly would have passed as an April Fool’s joke in previous years: the development of an open source soap dispensing firmware.

So how does one upload a new Arduino sketch to their GOJO soap dispenser? It’s not like the thing has a USB port on the side for convenient hacking. As explained by [zapta], it involves stripping the dispenser all the way down until the electronics board is free, and then adding in a programming header to make subsequent firmware fiddling a bit easier. Writing a new firmware to the ATTiny48 powered board will require an external ISP (the Atmel AVRISP MKII was used for this hack, though any should work), but it’s otherwise pretty painless.

[zapta] has done an excellent job documenting the different components on the board, and reverse engineered enough of the critical aspects (such as the motor controller and proximity sensor) to write a new open source firmware which can be flashed to the GOJO LTX-7. Beyond allowing you to “Open Source All the Things”, using this new firmware does have some practical advantage in that you can configure how much soap is dispensed per activation. Going further, we’d be exceptionally interested in hearing about anyone who manages to come up with a firmware that enables some hitherto impossible soap dispensing trickery.

We’ve seen hacks involving dispensers of all types, from Halloween games that spit out candy to gadgets which let dogs get their own treats, but a soap dispenser hack is something truly new for us. More proof that there’s still plenty of hardware out there just waiting to be hacked!

Machine Learning on Tiny Platforms Like Raspberry Pi and Arduino

Machine learning is starting to come online in all kinds of arenas lately, and the trend is likely to continue for the forseeable future. What was once only available for operators of supercomputers has found use among anyone with a reasonably powerful desktop computer. The downsizing isn’t stopping there, though, as Microsoft is pushing development of machine learning for embedded systems now.

The Embedded Learning Library (ELL) is a set of tools for allowing Arduinos, Raspberry Pis, and the like to take advantage of machine learning algorithms despite their small size and reduced capability. Microsoft intended this library to be useful for anyone, and has examples available for things like computer vision, audio keyword recognition, and a small handful of other implementations. The library should be expandable to any application where machine learning would be beneficial for a small embedded system, though, so it’s not limited to these example applications.

There is one small speed bump to running a machine learning algorithm on your Raspberry Pi, though. The high processor load tends to cause small SoCs to overheat. But adding a heatsink and fan is something we’ve certainly seen before. Don’t let your lack of a supercomputer keep you from exploring machine learning if you see a benefit to it, and if you need more power than just one Raspberry Pi you can always build a cluster to get your task done just a little bit faster, too.

Thanks to [Baldpower] for the tip!