Creating A Custom Engagement Ring With 3D-Printing

Even if you’re pretty sure what the answer will be, a marriage proposal is attended by a great deal of stress to make the event as memorable and romantic as possible. You’ve got a lot of details to look after, not least of which is the ring. So why not take some of the pressure off and just 3D-print the thing?

No, a cheesy PLA ring is probably not going to cut it with even the most understanding of fiancees, and that’s not at all what [Justin Lam] did with this DIY engagement ring. He took an engineer’s approach to the problem – gathering specs, making iterative design changes in Fusion 360, and having a prototype ring SLA printed by a friend. That allowed him to tweak the design before sending it off to Shapeways for production. We were surprised to learn that jewelry printing is a big deal, and Shapeways uses a lost-wax process for it. First a high-resolution wax SLA printer is used to make a detailed positive, which is then used to make a plaster mold. The mold is fired to melt the wax, and molten gold is poured in to make the rough casting, which is cleaned and polished before shipping.

Once he had the ring, [Justin] watched a few jewelry-making videos to learn how to set the family heirloom stone into the bezel setting; we admit we cringed a bit when he said he used the blade shaft of a screwdriver to crimp the edge of the bezel to the stone. But it came out great, even if it needed a bit of resizing. The details of the proposal are left to the romantically inclined, but TL;DR – she said yes.

Congratulations to the happy couple, and to [Justin] for pulling off a beautiful build. Most of our jewelry hacks are of the blinkenlight variety rather than fine jewelry, although we have featured a machinist’s take on the subject before.

AirBass Lets You Jam Wherever

If you play an instrument, you know how rewarding it is to watch and hear yourself reproduce your favorite songs and make new melodies. But you also know how steep the learning curve can be, how difficult it is to learn positions and notes while your body adjusts to the physical side. For stringed instruments, that means gaining muscle memory, growing fingertip calluses, and getting used to awkward arm positions.

For their final project in [Bruce Land]’s class on designing with microcontrollers, [Caitlin, Jackson, and Peter] decided to make a more accessible bass guitar. For starters, it can be placed flat on a table similar to a pedal steel guitar to get around those awkward arm positions. Instead of plucking or slapping the strings, the player wears a glove with a flex resistor on each finger, and plays the string by curling and uncurling their finger.

We think the team’s implementation of the left hand duties and fretboard is pretty clever. Each of the four strings has a break-beam detection circuit, and a single distance sensor decides where the finger is along the fretboard. Another great thing about this backpack-sized bass is that it never needs tuning. If you stay tuned, you can hear [Peter] play “Smoke On the Water” after the break.

There’s more than one way to make an air guitar — this one that does it with LIDAR.

Continue reading “AirBass Lets You Jam Wherever”

Hackaday Links: January 5, 2020

It looks like the third decade of the 21st century is off to a bit of a weird start, at least in the middle of the United States. There, for the past several weeks, mysterious squads of multicopters have taken to the night sky for reasons unknown. Witnesses on the ground report seeing both solo aircraft and packs of them, mostly just hovering in the night sky. In mid-December when the nightly airshow started, the drones seemed to be moving in a grid-search pattern, but that seems to have changed since then. These are not racing drones, nor are they DJI Mavics; witnesses report them to be 6′ (2 meters) in diameter and capable of staying aloft for 90 minutes. These are serious professional machines, not kiddies on a lark. So far, none of the usual government entities have taken responsibility for the flights, so speculation is all anyone has as to their nature. We’d like to imagine someone from our community will get out there with radio direction finding gear to locate the operators and get some answers.

We all know that water and electricity don’t mix terribly well, but thanks to the seminal work of White, Pinkman et al (2009), we also know that magnets and hard drives are a bad combination. But that didn’t stop Luigo Rizzo from using a magnet to recover data from a hard drive. He reports that the SATA drive had been in continuous use for more than 11 years when it failed to recover after a power outage. The spindle would turn but the heads wouldn’t move, despite several rounds of percussive maintenance. Reasoning that the moving coil head mechanism might need a magnetic jump-start, he probed the hard drive case with a magnetic parts holder until the head started moving again. He was then able to recover the data and retire the drive. Seems like a great tip to file away for a bad day.

It seems like we’re getting closer to a Star Trek future every day. No, we probably won’t get warp drives or transporters anytime soon, and if we’re lucky velour tunics and Spandex unitards won’t be making a fashion statement either. But we may get something like Dr. McCoy’s medical scanner thanks to work out of MIT using lasers to conduct a non-contact medical ultrasound study. Ultrasound exams usually require a transducer to send sound waves into the body and pick up the echoes from different structures, with the sound coupled to the body through an impedance-matching gel. The non-contact method uses pulsed IR lasers to penetrate the skin and interact with blood vessels. The pulses rapidly heat and expand the blood vessels, effectively turning them into ultrasonic transducers. The sound waves bounce off of other structures and head back to the surface, where they cause vibrations that can be detected by a second laser that’s essentially a sophisticated motion sensor. There’s still plenty of work to do to refine the technique, but it’s an exciting development in medical imaging.

And finally, it may actually be that the future is less Star Trek more WALL-E in the unlikely event that Segway’s new S-Pod personal vehicle becomes popular. The two-wheel self-balancing personal mobility device is somewhat like a sitting Segway, except that instead of leaning to steer it, the operator uses a joystick. Said to be inspired by the decidedly not Tyrannosaurus rex-proof “Gyrosphere” from Jurassic World, the vehicle tops out at 24 miles per hour (39 km/h). We’re not sure what potential market for these things would need performance like that – it seems a bit fast for the getting around the supermarket and a bit slow for keeping up with city traffic. So it’s a little puzzling, although it’s clearly easier to fully automate than a stand-up Segway.

Converting A Drill Press Into A Milling Machine

Mills are a huge investment, and for hobbyists without the space to install their own personal mill, it can sometimes be a pain to have to find a facility with a mill to complete your project.

What if you could convert your drill press into a mill instead? YouTuber [Small Metalworking Machines] explores this in his video, where he takes a small Central Machinery drill press and adds a few mods. He took some steps to improve the quill, spindle, and bearings — boring down the quill, replacing the bearings, and finally turning and re-threading the spindle it at 1/2-20.

With the adjustments, he was able to add in a cheap drill chuck, which fit in quite nicely with just a slight wobble of 5 thousandths on either side. To introduce some control, he added in a worm gear to engage a gear on the spindle. A pivot point disengages the worm gear, while bearings provide it controlled movement from the worm wheel.

He also added a cheap milling table from eBay, attached to the base of the drill press, all for a total of $120. While it’s not perfect, it’s still significantly less expensive than buying a mill!

Continue reading “Converting A Drill Press Into A Milling Machine”

3D Pens Can Make Ugly Drone Parts That Almost Work

Small hobby aircraft and light plastic parts go hand in hand, and a 3D printing pen makes lightweight plastic things without the overhead of CAD work and running a 3D printer. So could a 3D pen create useful plastic bits for small quadcopters? [Michael Niggel] decided to find out by¬†building his drone parts with a 3D pen loaded with ABS plastic. He mostly discovered that the created objects could politely be said to look like they were sketched by a toddler, but that’s not all he learned.

He found that in general creating an object was harder than the marketing materials implied. As soon as the filament exits the pen’s nozzle, the thin little molten line of plastic cools rapidly and does two things: it has a tendency to curl, and loses its desire to stick to things. [Michael] found the whole affair worked much less like ‘drawing in thin air’ and rather more like piping frosting, or caulking.

An almost functional micro quad frame. The arms aren’t rigid enough to hold the motors vertical when under power.

Nevertheless, [Michael] sought to discover whether a 3D pen could be used to make quick and dirty parts of any use. He created two antenna brackets and one micro quad frame. All three are chaotic messes, but one antenna bracket was perfectly serviceable. The 3D pen was indeed able to create a strangely-shaped part that would have been a nightmare to CAD up. The other antenna part worked, but didn’t do anything a zip tie wouldn’t have done better. The rapid cooling of the plastic from the 3D pen has an advantage: extrusions don’t “droop” like a glob of hot glue does before it hardens.

By now, [Michael] agreed that the best way to create a plastic part of any complexity whatsoever seemed to be to draw sections flat, build them up in layers, then use the pen to weld the pieces together and add bulk. The micro quad frame he made in this way doesn’t look any nicer than the other attempts, but it did hold the parts correctly. Sadly, it would not fly. Once the motors powered up, the arms would twist and the flight controller was unable to compensate for motors that wouldn’t stay straight. This could probably be overcome, but while the end result was dirty it certainly wasn’t quick. The 3D pen’s niche seems restricted to simple, unstressed parts that aren’t permitted to gaze up themselves in a mirror.

If you have a 3D pen, we’d like to remind you of this mini spool design whose parts are welded together with the pen itself. For bigger jobs, a high-temperature hot glue gun can be used to dispense PLA instead.

Space-Saving Servo Tester Console Looks Space-Worthy

You know how it goes — sometimes you just have to stop in the middle of a project and build yourself a tool that vastly improves your workflow as soon as it’s completed. [Ikkalebob] aka [Will Cogley] on YouTube is working on some super secret project that requires a whole bunch of servos. And since all of them have to be tested and set, he built this adorable servo tester as a time-saving gift to himself.

This tester revolves around an Adafruit 16-channel servo driver and an Arduino Uno. The servos show up on the screen in groups of four, and can be tested four at a time with the pots. The buttons let [Ikkalebob] move up and down between the groups. The SainSmart LCD proved to be more difficult to set up than others, but [Ikkalebob] did you a solid and tweaked the library. It’s available along with his code and STLs.

Speaking of STLs, we really dig the mini NASA console look and the folding enclosure. Leveraging the print process to build hinges and other things is awesome, and so is getting away with using fewer fasteners. You can see a bit of how [Ikkalebob] designed it in the video after the break.

Depending on what you’re doing with servos, you might want a different kind of testing suite. Here’s one that’s geared toward RC pilots.

Continue reading “Space-Saving Servo Tester Console Looks Space-Worthy”

All You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Compilers

They say that in order to understand recursion, you must first understand recursion. Once you master that concept, you might decide that it’s time to write your own compiler that can compile itself as a fun side project. According to [Warren] aka [DoctorWkt], who documented every step of writing this C compiler from scratch, a true compiler will be able to do that.

Some of the goals for the project included self-compiling, focusing on a real hardware platform, practicality, and simplicity. [Warren] outlines a lot of the theory of compilers as well, including all the lexical, grammar, and semantic analysis and then the final translation into assembly language, but really focuses on making this compiler one for practical use rather than just a theoretical implementation. He focuses on Intel x86-64 and 32-bit ARM platforms too, which are widely available.

This project is a long read and very thoroughly documented at around 100,000 words, so if you’ve ever been interested in compilers this is a great place to start. There are a lot of other great compiler tools floating around too, like the Compiler Explorer which shows you generated code as you write in a higher level language.