Featured in many sci-fi stories as a quicker, more efficient way to record and transfer information, barcodes are both extremely commonplace today, and still amazingly poorly understood by many. Originally designed as a way to allow for increased automation by allowing computer systems to scan a code with information about the item it labels, its potential as an information carrier is becoming ever more popular.
Without the tagging ability of barcodes (and their close cousin: RFID tags), much of today’s modern world would grind to a halt. The automated sorting and delivery systems for mail and parcels, entire inventory management systems, the tracing of critical avionics and rocketry components around the globe, as well as seemingly mundane but widely utilized rapid checkout at the supermarket, all depends on some variety of barcodes.
Join me on a trip through the past, present and future of the humble barcode.
Continue reading “The Barcode Revolution: Welcome To Our Automated World”
At this point, we’ve all seen enough ESP8266 “weather stations” to know the drill: you just put the ESP and a temperature sensor inside a 3D printed case, and let all those glorious Internet Points™ flow right on in. It’s a simple, and perhaps more importantly practical, project that seems to never get old. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for innovation.
Annoyed by the unnecessary bulk of existing solutions, [cperiod] has come up with an ESP8266 temperature and humidity sensor that can plug directly into a standard USB port. Slotted into a USB wall charger or power bank, this diminutive board can provide inconspicuous remote environmental monitoring wherever you need it. For extra hacker points, the board was even produced at home on a PCB mill.
In addition to the ESP-7 or 12 module (which plugs in via a header, should you need to swap it out), the board features a CH330N USB to UART chip and HT7233 voltage regulator. For the sensor itself, [cperiod] has bucked convention a bit and went with the I2C-connected AHT10 over something more common like a member of the BME family.
Unfortunately, this design suffers from the same issue we’ve seen in other compact environmental monitoring solutions; namely, that the heat generated by the chip itself skews the temperature readings. To combat this, aggressive power saving functions are baked into the firmware to make sure the ESP is in a deep sleep as much as possible. While not a perfect solution, it does prevent the ESP from warming the PCB up so much that it invalidades the reported data.
By now, the particularly astute reader may have realized that all the additional components used for the USB side of this board aren’t strictly necessary. After all, if you can pull the ESP module out of the header and program it separately, then you don’t actually need to include that capability in each sensor node. While true, we’re hardly the ones to complain when a hacker showboats a bit on their designs.
Cycling for health and transportation might seem like a good idea, but it unfortunately has the nasty side effect of making you tired. To ease the suffering, many have turned to electric bicycles. But what if you want to really stand out from the crowd? Well then you should look to [Mark Drake] for inspiration, the creator of the beautifully engineered Ruscombe Gentleman’s Steam Bicycle.
[Mark] wanted to create a steam powered bicycle that’s actually usable, instead of just an awkward novelty. To achieve this he made extensive use of modern tech like spreadsheets to model the steam cycle, and CAD for the mechanical design. The engineering design that went into the project really shows in level of refinement of the end product, which is able to comfortably reach 15 mph. Watch the video after the break to see it in action and get all the details.
Petrol is used a fuel source, which is forced to the vaporising burner via air pressure. The fuel is heated by the burner itself to form a vapour before entering the combustion chamber and igniting. The steam generator is a hybrid design, using both mono tube steam generator coils and a small fire tube boiler. This produces superheated steam at over 300 °C, which [Mark] says is key to the bike’s performance. Mineral oil can’t handle the high temperature, so modern synthetic oil is used for lubrication. The steam generator is so well-built that [Mark] managed to get is certified to industrial standards. For safety, it features both a pressure release valve, and a system that automatically shuts of the fuel supply when the steam exceeds a certain pressure. 130 W of power is provided to the wheels by a single cylinder slide valve engine via modern toothed belt. This also drives the air pump to keep the fuel system pressurised, and an adjustable water pump to feed the boiler. Continue reading “The Ruscombe Gentleman’s Steam Bicycle”