State Of The Art For Nixies Gets A Boost From Dalibor Farny’s Supersize Prototype

Never one to pass up on a challenge, artisanal Nixie tube maker [Dalibor Farný] has been undertaking what he calls “Project H”, an enormous array of 121 Nixie tubes for an unnamed client. What’s so special about that? Did we mention that each Nixie is about the size of a sandwich plate?

Actually, we did, back in May when we first noted Project H in our weekly links roundup. At that time [Dalibor] had only just accepted the project, knowing that it would require inventing everything about these outsized Nixies from scratch. At 150 mm in diameter, these will be the largest Nixies ever made. The design of the tube is evocative of the old iconoscope tubes from early television history, or perhaps the CRT from an old oscilloscope.

Since May, [Dalibor] has done most of the design work and worked out the bugs in a lot of the internal components. But as the video below shows, he still has some way to go. Everything about his normal construction process had to be scaled up, so many steps, like the chemical treatment of the anode cup, are somewhat awkward. He also discovered that mounting holes in the cathodes were not the correct diameter, requiring some clench-worthy manual corrections. The work at the glassblower’s lathe was as nerve wracking as it was fascinating; every step of the build appears fraught with some kind of peril.

Sadly, this prototype failed to come together — a crack developed in the glass face of the tube. But ever the pro, [Dalibor] took it in stride and will learn from this attempt. Given that he’s reduced the art of the Nixie to practice, we’re confident these big tubes will come together eventually.

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NASA Claims Cold Fusion Without Naming It

Do you remember in 1989 when two chemists announced they’d created a setup that created nuclear fusion at room temperature? Everyone was excited, but it eventually turned out to be very suspect. It wasn’t clear how they detected that fusion occurred and only a few of the many people who tried to replicate the experiment claimed success and they later retracted their reports. Since then, mentioning cold fusion is right up there with perpetual motion. Work does continue though, and NASA recently published several papers on lattice confinement fusion which is definitely not called cold fusion, although it sounds like it to us.

The idea of trapping atoms inside a metallic crystal lattice isn’t new, dating back to the 1920s. It sounds as though the NASA method uses erbium packed with deuterium. Photons cause some of the deuterium to fuse. Unlike earlier attempts, this method produces detectable neutron emissions characteristic of fusion.

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Sliding Screen Has Wheels, Will Travel

For a recent event, [MakerMan] was tasked with creating an interactive display that could move back and forth along an image of the Moscow skyline to highlight different points of interest. The end result is certainly gorgeous, but since this is Hackaday, we were more excited to see all the behind the scenes video of how it was built.

As with many of his projects, this one started with little more than scrap parts. Two metal I-beams were welded together to make a track, and a wheeled cart was fashioned to ride on it. Using a belt and pulley system that’s not unlike a scaled up version of what you might see on a desktop 3D printer, the motor in the cart is able to move the arrangement back and forth with minimal slop.

Installing the motor and pulley in the cart.

The cart actually holds all of the electronics in the project, including the power supplies, MA860H motor controller, a pair of endstop switches, and the Arduino that pulls it all together. A drag chain is used to keep the wires tight to the side of the rail without getting tangled up in anything.

[MakerMan] doesn’t explain much of the software side of this one, though we suppose he might only have been contracted to develop the hardware. But towards the end of the video you can see how the cart, now with large touch screen display mounted on top, moves back and forth when the appropriate commands are sent to the Arduino.

We’re not really sure what application such a contraption would have for the average hacker, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be jealous. There’s just something about huge illuminated screens that just speaks to us.

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Voice Controlled Sofa Meets Your Every Beverage Need

It’s often taken for grated, but the modern world is full of luxuries. Home automation, grocery delivery, and even access to the Internet are great tools to have at hand, but are trivial to most of us. If these modern wonders are not enough for you, and the lap of luxury is still missing a certain je ne sais quoi, allow us to introduce you to the ultimate convenience: a voice controlled, beer-dispensing sofa with a built-in refrigeration system.

This is a project from [Garage Avenger] and went through a number of iterations before reaching this level of polish. Metal work on the first version didn’t fit together as expected, and there were many attempts at actual refrigeration before settling on repurposing an actual refrigerator. With those things out of the way, he was able to get to the meat of a project. The couch-refrigerator holds 12 beers, and they are on a conveyor belt which automatically places the next beer onto the automated drawer. When commanded (by voice, app, or remote) the sofa opens the drawer so the occupant can grab one easily without having to move more than an arm. Everything, including the voice recognition module, is controlled by an Arduino, as is tradition.

The attention to detail is excellent as well. The remote control contains a built-in bottle opener, for one, there are backlights and a glass cover for the refrigerator, and the drawer is retracted automatically when it senses the beer has been obtained. We couldn’t ask for much more from our own couches, except maybe that they take us where we want to go. But maybe it’s best to keep these two couch use cases separate for now.

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Check Your Pockets For Components

The ideal component tester is like a tricorder for electronics — it can measure whatever it is that you need it to, all the time. Maybe you have a few devices like an ohmmeter and maybe a transistor socket on our multimeter. But what do you do when you need to see if that thyristor is faulty? [Akshay Baweja] wants an everything-tester at the ready, so he’s building a comprehensive device that fits in a pocket. It will identify the type and size of: Continue reading “Check Your Pockets For Components”

PC Cases Are Still Stuck In The Dark Ages, But We Can Fix This

In the dawning of the IBM PC era, the computer case was a heavy, stout thing. These were industrial machines, built with beefy paddle power switches, and weighing as much as a ton of bricks. Painted in only the ugliest beige, they set the tone for PC design for the next couple of decades.

At the turn of the millennium, the winds of change swept through. The Apple iMac redefined the computer as a hip, cool device, and other manufacturers began to reconsider their product aesthetics. Around the same time, the casemodding scene took off in earnest, with adherents building ever wilder battle stations for internet clout and glory.

With all the development that has gone in the last 40 years of the PC platform, we’ve seen great change and improvement in almost every area. But in building a new rig this past month, this writer discovered there’s one element of the modern PC that’s still trapped in the past.

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Mechanical Engineering Hack Chat

Join us on Wednesday, September 30 at noon Pacific for the Mechanical Engineering Hack Chat with Adam Zeloof!

Almost every non-trivial project involves some level of cross-discipline work. If you build a robot, for instance, you need to worry not just about the electronics but also the mechanical design. You need to make sure that the parts you use will be strong enough to deal with the forces that it’ll face, you have to know how much power it’ll take to move your bot, and you have to deal with a thousand details, from heat flow to frictional losses to keeping things moving with bearing and seals.

Unfortunately for many of us, the mechanical engineering aspects of a project are foreign territory. We lack the skills to properly design mechanical systems, and so resort to seat-of-the-pants decisions on materials and fasteners, or over-engineering in the extreme — the bigger the bolt, the better. Right?

Some of us, though, like Adam Zeloof, actually know a thing or two about proper mechanical engineering. Strength of materials, finite element analysis, thermodynamics — all that stuff that most of us just wing are Adam’s stock in trade. Adam brings a trained mechanical engineer’s skillset to his multi-discipline projects, like the Rotomill or his reverse-engineered ride-share scooter. And many of you will have been lucky enough to see Adam’s excellent 2019 Superconference talk on thermal design for PCBs.

Adam joins us on the Hack Chat to talk about anything and everything to do with mechanical engineering. Join us with your burning — sometimes literally — questions on how to make your designs survive the real world, where things break and air resistance can’t be ignored.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events in the Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, September 30 at 12:00 PM Pacific time. If time zones baffle you as much as us, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

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