Can You Help 3D Print A Selectric Ball?

The IBM Selectric changed typewriters as we knew them. Their distinctive ball element replaced the clunky row of typebars and made most people faster typists. When [Steve Malikoff] thought about 3D printing a type ball — colloquially known as a golf ball — it seemed like a great idea.

The problem? It just doesn’t work very well. According to [Steve], it is likely because of the low resolution of the printer. However, it isn’t clear the latitudes of the characters are correct. and there are a few other issues. It is possible that a resin printer would do better and there’s a call for someone out there to try it and report back. We are guessing a finer nozzle and very low layer height might help on an FDM printer.

Judging from the images, it looks like some of the balls do pretty well, but don’t get a full strike at the tilt angle. So it could be something else. However, it does sound like cleaning up the print so it fits is a major problem.

The Selectric was notable for several reasons — you can see an ad for the machine in the video below. The type ball meant you couldn’t jam keys. Since you didn’t have to unjam keys and you had the ribbon in a cartridge, you would have to work really hard to get ink on your fingers, even if you used the cloth ribbon instead of the arguably better carbon film ribbon. The Selectric II could even use a special tape to lift the carbon ribbon off the paper for correcting mistakes. No white-out liquid or fussing with little strips of correction paper. The fact that the ball moves means you don’t have to clear space on the side of the machine for the platen to travel back and forth.

Can you help? If you have a Selectric I or II and a high-quality printer, this would be a fun project to try and report back your results to [Steve]. If you are familiar with the later issue typeballs, you might not have seen the wire clip that [Steve] uses to hold the ball in place. However, you can see them in the video ad below. More modern balls use a plastic lever that acts as a handle so even with cloth ribbons you have less chance of getting ink on your hands.

Although there were Selectrics meant to interface with a computer, you can refit any of them to do it with some work. The Selectric also has a role in one of the great techno spy stories of all time: The GUNMAN project.

Continue reading “Can You Help 3D Print A Selectric Ball?”

Teardown And Analysis Of A Cheap Solar Lamp

If you walk the aisles of a dollar store one constant that you will see worldwide is the Chinese solar lamp. Your dollar gets you a white LED behind plastic, mounted on a spike to stick into the ground, and with a solar cell on top. It charges in the sunlight during the day and then lights the LED for a few hours at nightfall. They are in gardens everywhere, and no doubt landfill sites are full of them because they do not last very long. [Giovanni Bernardo] had one that stopped working, so he subjected it to a teardown to find out what was up, and what made it tick (Italian, Google Translate link).

As expected, the culprit proved to be a leaking and corroded 1.2 volt NiMh cell, and its replacement with an AA cell brought the lamp back to life. But the interesting part of this tale comes from his teardown and analysis of the lamp’s components. It’s centered around a YX8016 battery charger and power management chip. The device has an amazing economy of design with only four components including the solar cell and the LED. The final component is a small inductor that forms part of the boost converter to keep the LED lit as the battery voltage falls. The chip switches at 580kHz, and produces a 3.2 volt supply.

If this is a subject that interests you, don’t forget to take a look at the power harvesting challenge we ran a while back.

Hackaday Links: January 26, 2019

The news this week was dominated by the novel coronavirus outbreak centered in Wuhan, China. Despite draconian quarantines and international travel restrictions, the infection has spread far beyond China, at least in small numbers. A few cases have been reported in the United States, but the first case reported here caught our eye for the technology being used to treat it. CNN and others tell us that the traveler from Wuhan is being treated by a robot. While it sounds futuristic, the reality is a little less sci-fi than it seems. The device being used is an InTouch Vici, a telemedicine platform that in no way qualifies as a robot. The device is basically a standard telepresence platform that has to be wheeled into the patient suite so that providers can interact with the patient remotely. True, it protects whoever is using it from exposure, but someone still has to gown up and get in with the patient. We suppose it’s a step in the right direction, but we wish the popular press would stop slapping a “robot” label on things they don’t understand.

Also in health news, did you know you’re probably not as hot as you think you are? While a glance in the mirror would probably suffice to convince most of us of that fact, there’s now research that shows human body temperature isn’t what it used to be. Using medical records from the Civil War-era to the 1930s and comparing them to readings taken in the 1970s and another group between 2007 and 2017, a team at Stanford concluded that normal human body temperature in the USA has been slowly decreasing over time. They proposed several explanations as to why the old 98.6F (37C) value is more like 97.5F (36.4C) these days, the most interesting being that general overall inflammation has decreased as sanitation and food and water purity have increased, leading the body to turn down its thermostat, so to speak. Sadly, though, if the trend holds up, our body temperature will reach absolute zero in only 111,000 years.

Wine, the not-an-emulator that lets you run Windows programs on POSIX-compliant operating systems, announced stable release 5.0 this week. A year in the making, the new version’s big features are multi-monitor support with dynamic configuration changes and support for the Vulkan spec up to version 1.1.126.

Any color that you want, as long as it’s amorphous silicon. Sono Motors, the German start-up, has blown past its goal of raising 50 million euros in 50 days to crowdfund production of its Sion solar-electric car. The car is planned to have a 255 km range on a full charge, with 34 km of that coming from the solar cells that adorn almost every bit of the exterior on the vehicle. Living where the sun doesn’t shine for a third of the year, we’re not sure how well this will pay off, but it certainly seems smarter than covering roads with solar cells.

And finally, here’s a trip down memory lane for anyone who suffered through some of the cringe-worthy depictions of technology that Hollywood came up with during the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Looking back through the clips shown in “copy complete” reminds us just how many movies started getting into the tech scene. It wasn’t just the sci-fi and techno-thrillers that subjected us to closeups of scrolling random characters and a terminal that beeped every time something changed on the screen. Even straight dramas like Presumed Innocent and rom-coms like You’ve Got Mail and whatever the hell genre Ghost was got in on the act. To be fair, some depictions were pretty decent, especially given the realities of audience familiarity with tech before it became pervasive. And in any case, it was fun to just watch and remember when movies were a lot more watchable than they are today.

Light The Way To Every Component

How do you organize your stock of components and modules? If an unruly pile of anti-static bags and envelopes from China stuffed into a cardboard box sounds familiar, then you need help from [Dimitris Tassopoulos]. He’s organized his parts into drawers and created a database, then linked it via an ESP8266 and a string of addressable LEDs to light up the individual drawer in which any given component resides. It’s a genius idea, as you can see in action in the video below the break.

Behind the scenes is a web server sitting atop an SQL database, with a PHP front end. It’s running on a Banana Pi board, but it could just as easily be running on any other similar SBC. The ESP8266 has a REST API to which the webserver connects when a component is sought, and from that it knows which LED to light.

The LED strip is not the tape with which most readers will be familiar, but a string of the type we might be more used to as Christmas lights. These have a 100mm spacing between LEDs, allowing them to be easily positioned behind each drawer. The result is a very effective parts inventory system. We’re not entirely sure that it would entirely banish the tide of anti-static bags here, but we’re impressed nevertheless.

Continue reading “Light The Way To Every Component”

CNC Etch-A-Sketch: Stop Motion Is Logical Next Step

It happens to everyone. You get your hands on an Etch-A-Sketch for the first time, and armed with the knowledge of how it works, you’re sure you can draw things other than rectangles and staircases. And then you find out the awful truth: you are not as precise as you think you are, and if you’re [QuintBUILDS], the circles you try to draw look like lemons, potatoes, or microbes.

Okay, yes, this definitely isn’t the first CNC-ified Etch-A-Sketch we’ve seen, but it just might be the coolest one. It’s certainly the most kid-friendly, anyway.

Most importantly, you can still pick it up and shake it to clear the screen, a feature sorely lacking in many of the auto-sketchers we scratch about. And if you’re not fully satisfied by this hack, be sure to check out the stop-motion video after the break that turns this baby into a touch-screen video player for Flatlanders.

Turn it over and you’ll find a Raspberry Pi 3 and a CNC hat. The knobs are belt-driven from a pair of NEMA-17 size stepper motors that interface to the knobs with tight-fitting pulleys. Power comes from four 18650s, and is metered by a battery management board that provides both overcharge and drain protection. At some point in the future, [QuintBUILDS] plans to move to a battery pack, because the cell holder is electrically unstable.

We love the welded frame and acrylic enclosure because they make the thing sturdy and portable. Also, we’re suckers for see-through enclosures. They’re clearly superior if you want to do what [QuintBUILDS] did and take it to an elementary school science fair to show the kids just how cool science can be if you stick with it.

If you don’t think motorized Etch-A-Sketches can be useful, maybe you just haven’t seen this clock build yet.

Continue reading “CNC Etch-A-Sketch: Stop Motion Is Logical Next Step”

Hubble Telescope Power Supply Tester On EBay

Got $75K spare? Then this is the eBay deal for you! [jvanorsdal] pointed us to this eBay bargain: the VPI Vehicle Power Interface Rack & Console Hubble Space Telescope. This was the actual system used to test the power systems of the Hubble Space Telescope before it was launched, so it’s a genuine piece of space history.

For the price you get two, yes two CRT displays, six HP power supplies and a huge amount of hand-wired history. Even if you aren’t going to bid, it is worth taking a look at the insides of this thing, as it is all hand-soldered and the cable routing is a thing of beauty. I have absolutely no use for this, but I totally want it for my living room.

There are a few gotchas, though. Because it is NASA space hardware, you can’t export it to places like Iran, and the shipping cost for the US is a cool $1.5K. Considering the size of the thing, that is not so bad, perhaps: it is built into a three rack metal cabinet with built-in wheels that measures over 7 feet long and weighs over 800 lbs.

Interested? It is on sale for $75k, and there is a handy buy it now button on the site.

We all love space history here at Hackaday. Back in 2019, our own [Tom Nardi] got to spend an evening with the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

Keeping A 3D Printed NAS Updated With The Times

Back in 2018, [Paul-Louis Ageneau] created a 3D printed network-attached storage (NAS) enclosure for his Raspberry Pi. The design worked well, the Internet liked it when he posted the details on his blog, and all was right with the world. But of course, such glories are fleeting. Two years later that design needs updating, and thanks to the parametric nature of OpenSCAD, he’s been able to refresh his design for another tour of duty.

In our book, this is as much a cautionary tale as it is a success story. On one hand, it’s a testament to the power of CAD and desktop 3D printing. That a design can be tweaked and reproduced down the line with only minimal hassle is great for folks like us. But it’s also a shame that he didn’t get more than two years before some of the parts he used in the original NAS became unobtainium.

The main issue was that the integrated USB hub he used for the first version is no longer available, so the design had to be modified to accept a similar board. Unfortunately, the new hub is quite a bit wider than the old one. Resizing the entire case isn’t really an option since the Pi has to slide into it, so the hub now bumps out a bit on one side. He’s added a printable cover that cleans it up a bit, but the asymmetrical look might be a problem for some. While fiddling with the design, he also changed around the cooling setup so a larger fan could be mounted; now that the Raspberry Pi 4 is out, it can use all the cooling help it can get.

We covered the original version of the printed NAS back when it was first released, and it’s always good to see a creator coming back and keeping a project updated; even if it’s because hardware availability forced their hand.