LED Clock Strips Time Down To Pulses Of Light

Nietzsche said (essentially) that time is a flat circle — we are doomed to repeat history whether we remember it or not. This is a stark and sobering thought for sure, but it’s bound to dissipate the longer you look at [andrei.erdei]’s literal realization of time as a flat circle.

A clock that uses nothing but RGB LEDs to give the time sounds confusing and potentially cluttered, but the result here is quite pleasing and serene. We figure it must be the combination of brighter LEDs to represent 12, 3, 6, and 9, and dimmer LEDs for the rest of the numbers, plus the diffusion scheme. The front plate is smoky acrylic topped with two layers of frosted black window foil.

Inside the printed plastic ring are two adhesive RGB LED strips running on an ESP8266 that ultimately connects to an NTP time server. The strips are two halves of an adhesive 60 LED/meter run that have been stuck together back to back so that the lights are staggered for seamless coverage. This sets up the coolest thing about this clock — the second hand, which is represented by a single pink LED zig-zagging back and forth around the ring. Confused? Watch the short demo after the break and you’ll figure it out in no time.

Now that times are strange, you might be more interested in a straightforward approach to finding out what day it is. The wait is over.

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This Camera Captures Piezo Inkjet Micro-Drops For DIY Microfluidics

In microfluidics, there are “drop on demand” instruments to precisely deposit extremely small volumes (pico- or nano-liters) of fluid. These devices are prohibitively expensive, so [Kyle] set out to design a system using hobbyist-level parts for under $1000. As part of this, he has a fascinating use case for a specialized camera: capturing the formation and shape of a micro-drop as it is made.

There are so many different parts to this effort that it’s all worth a read, but the two big design elements come down to:

  1. Making the microdrop using a piezo element
  2. Ensuring the drop is made correctly, and visually troubleshooting
Working prototype. The piezo tube is inside the blue piece at the top. The camera is to the right, and the LED strobe is on the left.

It’s one thing to make an inkjet element in a printer work, but it’s quite another to make a piezoelectric element dispense arbitrary liquids in a controlled, repeatable, and predictable way. Because piezoelectric elements force liquid out with a mechanical motion, different liquids require different drive signals¬†and that kind of experimentation requires a way to see what is going on, hence the need for a drop observation camera.

[Kyle] ended up taking the lens assembly from a cheap USB microscope and mating it to his Korukesu C1 USB Camera with a 3D printed assembly. Another 3D printed enclosure doubles as a lightbox, holding the piezo tube in the center with the LED strobe and camera on opposite sides. The whole assembly had a few false starts, but in the end [Kyle] seems pretty happy with his results. The device is briefly described at a high level here. There are some rough edges, but it’s a working system.

Inkjet technology has been around for a long time (you can see a thirty-plus year old inkjet printer in action here) but it’s worth mentioning that not all inkjet heads are alike. Most inkjet printer heads operate thermally, which means a flash of heat vaporizes some ink to expel a micro-drop. These heads aren’t very suitable for microfluidics because not only do they rely on vaporizing the liquid, but they also don’t work well with anything other than the ink they’re designed for. Piezoelectric print heads are less common, but are more suited to the kind of work [Kyle] is doing.

Sending IP Over Morse, Because Why Not?

Are you a ham radio operator? Have you ever felt the need to send IP over Morse? If you answered yes (or no) and don’t mind a few manual steps between converting network packets to and from and Morse code, [Folkert van Heusden]’s IP Over Morse project has you covered.

To send data, a network packet is first split into 5-bit words. Then those 32 different values are mapped to Morse characters (A-Z, 0-5, and a ‘/’ for termination), and the result is turned into an audio file ready to be sent over the airwaves, because no one is insane enough to want to do it by hand. To receive, the process is reversed. The GitHub repository for the project hosts the custom bits that [Folkert] created, should anyone wish to give it a shot.

The process of turning binary data into a completely different format sounds a bit like UUencoding, and is certainly an unconventional use of Morse code. Luckily, learning Morse code is easier than it’s ever been and it’s just waiting to be worked into novel projects, because why not?

Pulse Visualizer Is A Real Work Of Heart

Some projects are all-around simple, such as the lemon battery or the potato clock. Other projects are rooted in simple ideas, but their design and execution elevates them to another level. [Sharathnaik]’s heart visualizer may not be all that electronically complex, but the execution is pulse-pounding.

The closest that most of us will get to seeing our own heartbeat is watching the skin twitch in our neck or wrist. You know that your heart doing the work of keeping you alive, but it’s hard to appreciate how it exerts itself. With just a few components and printed parts, the heart’s pumping action comes to life as your pulse drives single-x scissor mechanisms to push and pull the plastic plates.

This heart visualizer isn’t nearly as complex as the organ it models, and it’s an easy build for anyone just starting out in electronics. Put your finger on the heart rate sensor in the base, and an Arduino Nano actuates a single servo to your own personal beat. We’d love to see it work overtime while someone gets worked up. For now, there’s an even-tempered demo after the break, followed by an assembly video.

Heartbeat sensing can be romantic, too. Here’s a lovely circuit sculpture that runs at the rate of the receiver.

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SpaceX Offers NASA A Custom Moon Freighter

Under the current Administration, NASA has been tasked with returning American astronauts to the Moon as quickly as possible. The Artemis program would launch a crewed mission to our nearest celestial neighbor as soon as 2024, and establish a system for sustainable exploration and habitation by 2028. It’s an extremely aggressive timeline, to put it mildly.

To have any chance of meeting these goals, NASA will have to enlist the help of not only its international partners, but private industry. There simply isn’t enough time for the agency to design, build, and test all of the hardware that will eventually be required for any sort of sustained presence on or around the Moon. By awarding a series of contracts, NASA plans to offload some of the logistical components of the Artemis program to qualified companies and agencies.

Artist’s Rendering of the Dragon XL

For anyone who’s been following the New Space race these last few years, it should come as no surprise to hear that SpaceX has already been awarded one of these lucrative logistics contracts. They’ve been selected as the first commercial provider for cargo deliveries to Gateway, a small space station that NASA intendeds to operate in lunar orbit. Considering SpaceX already has a contract to resupply the International Space Station, they were the ideal candidate to offer similar services for a future lunar outpost.

But that certainly doesn’t mean it will be easy. The so-called “Gateway Logistics Services” contract stipulates that providers must be able to deliver at least 3,400 kilograms (7,500 pounds) of pressurized cargo and 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of unpressurized cargo to lunar orbit. That’s beyond the capabilities of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, which was only designed to service low Earth orbit.

To complete this new mission, the company is proposing a new vehicle they’re calling the Dragon XL that would ride to orbit on the Falcon Heavy booster. But even for this New Space darling, there’s not a lot of time to design, test, and build a brand-new spacecraft. To get the Dragon XL flying as quickly as possible, SpaceX is going to need to strip the craft down to the bare minimum.

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CPAP Firmware Hack Enables BiPAP Mode; Envisions Use As Temporary Ventilator

Operating under the idea that a Constant Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine isn’t very far removed electrically or mechanically from a proper ventilator, [Trammell Hudson] has performed some fascinating research into how these widely available machines could be used as life support devices in an emergency situation. While the documentation makes it clear the project is a proof of concept and is absolutely not intended for human use in its current state, the findings so far are certainly very promising.

For the purposes of this research, [Trammell] has focused on the Airsense S10 which currently retails for around $600 USD. Normally the machine is used to treat sleep apnea and other disorders by providing a constant pressure on the lungs, but as this project shows, it’s also possible for the S10 to function in what’s known as Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) mode. Essentially this means that the machine detects when the user is attempting to inhale, and increases the air pressure to support their natural breathing.

Reflashing the firmware on the S10 CPAP

Critically, this change is made entirely through modifications to the S10 firmware. No additional hardware is required, and outside of opening up the device to attach an STM32 programmer (a process which [Trammell] has carefully documented), there’s nothing mechanically that needs to be done to the machine for it to operate in this breathing support function. It seems at least some of the functionality was already included via hidden diagnostic menus which can be enabled through a firmware patch.

As many of these CPAP machines feature cellular data connections for monitoring and over-the-air updates, [Trammell] believes it should be possible for manufacturers to push out a similarly modified firmware on supported devices. Of course, the FDA would have to approve of something like that before the machines could actually be used as emergency, non-invasive ventilators. They would also need to have viral filters installed and some facility for remote control added, but those would be relatively minor modifications.

Learn more about the efforts being put into ventilators right now. Start with this excellent hardware overview called Ventilators 101 and then take a look at some of the issues with trying to build a ventilator from scratch.

Nintendo Switch Built Completely From Replacement Parts

It seems that everybody around us is playing Animal Crossing New Horizons, and we’re not alone in this. But a new Nintendo Switch can’t be had for love nor money, and second hand ones have fallen victim to price gouging. It seems if you’re not playing the game, you’re out of luck, or are you?

What’s to be done? [Sarbaaz37] found the hardware hacker’s solution to that question: Build a Nintendo Switch entirely from spare parts, of course! It took a month to source the parts and it’s not a project for the fainthearted, but it provides us with a look at all the parts they pack into the handheld. All told, there’s about 22 part numbers in the bill of materials.

Anyone who has peeked inside a laptop recently will be familiar with the arrangement of this type of device. An array of extremely snug-fitting and fragile electronics laid out like a TV dinner has to be carefully assembled in a specific order and this is no different. Along the way [Sarbaaz37] has some pro tips, like cleaning off the stock thermal compound and using a higher quality. The eventual result is a working Switch, which for $200 is not a bad deal, though they do note that the pandemic has since led to a price rise in Nintendo parts as well as consoles.

This is, we think, the first home-made Switch we’ve seen, but it’s not the first desirable piece of consumer electronics made from grey market parts we’ve seen. Who could forget the Shenzhen electronics markets adventure of sourcing all the parts that go into an iPhone?

Thanks [Roel] for the tip.