If you’ve got a half-hour or so to spare, you could do worse than this video trip through a Philips factory in the 1930s.
The film is presented without narration, but from the Dutch title cards and the fact that it’s Philips, we gather that this factory of gigantic proportions was somewhere in the Netherlands. In any case, it looks like something right out of [Fritz Lang]’s Metropolis and turned the rawest of materials into finished consumer products.
Much of the film focuses on the making of vacuum tubes; the sheer physicality of the job is what really stands out here. The upper body strength that the glassblowers had to have boggles the mind. Check out the chops — and the soon-to-be very unfashionable mustache — on the glassblower at the 12:00 mark. And it wasn’t just the gents who had mad skills — the fine motor control needed for the delicate assembly of the innards of the tubes, which seems to be mostly staffed by women, is just as impressive. We were also surprised by the amount these manual crafts were assisted by automated systems.
Especially interesting is the section where they build the luidspreker. Without narration or captions, it’s a little hard to tell what’s going on, but it appears that they used an enormous press to form chips of Bakelite into sleek covers for the speakers, which themselves are super-chunky affairs made from scratch in the factory. We’re also treated to assembly of the radios, packaging of finished products, and a group of dockworkers who clearly didn’t read the “Fragile” labels pasted on the boxes.
One can’t help but wonder if these people had the slightest inkling of what was about to sweep over them and the rest of the world. And if they did, would they even begin to comprehend how much the very products that they were making would contribute to both the slaughter of the coming war as well as to the sparing of so many lives? Likely not, but the film is still an interesting glimpse into the creation of an industry, one that relied very much on craftsmanship to get it started.
Continue reading “Retrotechtacular: Philips Factory Tour, Circa 1930s”
There’s a major push now to find energy sources with smaller carbon footprints. The maritime shipping industry, according to IEEE Spectrum, is going towards ammonia. Burning ammonia produces no CO2 and it isn’t hard to make. It doesn’t require special storage techniques as hydrogen does and it has ten times the energy density of a modern lithium-ion battery.
You can burn ammonia for internal combustion or use it in a fuel cell. However, there are two problems. First, no ships are currently using the fuel and second most ammonia today is made using a very carbon-intensive process. However it is possible to create “green” ammonia, and projects in Finland, Germany, and Norway are on schedule to start using ammonia-powered ships over the next couple of years.
Continue reading “Fueling With Ammonia”
Many small gasoline engines can be safely modified to run on natural gas or propane with a kit that replaces the carburetor and adds a regulator, providing a reliable alternative fuel source in the event that gasoline is difficult to obtain in an emergency situation. This seat of the pants hack by [HowToLou] is definitively not the safe way to run your generator on natural gas, but if you ever find yourself in a situation where getting the power back on might be a literal matter of life or death, it’s a tip worth keeping in mind.
The basic idea here is that you feed natural gas (though propane should also work) directly into the engine’s intake by way of a hose attached to the air filter box. While cranking the engine, a valve on the gas line is used to manually adjust the air–fuel mixture until it fires up. It’s an extremely simple hack that, in a pinch, you can pull off with the parts on hand. But as you might expect, that simplicity comes at a cost.
There are a few big problems with this approach, but certainly the major one is that there’s nothing to cut off the flow of gas when the engine stops running. So if the generator stalls or you just forget to close the valve after you shut it down, there’s the potential for a very dangerous situation. Additionally, the manual gas valve will be at odds with a generator that automatically throttles up and down based on load. Though to be fair, there are certainly generators out there that simply run the engine flat-out the whole time.
Much like his DIY generator interlock plate that we covered last month, we imagine this project may rub some folks in the wrong way. Admittedly, this isn’t a modification that you should take lightly and certainly not something you’d want to rely on for long-term use. But as the recent situation in Texas has reminded us, drastic times can occasionally call for drastic measures.
Continue reading “Generator Runs On Natural Gas With Field Expedient Tip”
As a hacker community, we are no strangers to beautiful and unique musical instruments. A sympathetic nail violin built by [Nicolas Bras] is a welcome addition to the eclectic family. Working up from the simple idea of a nail in a piece of wood and adjusting the pitch by hammering the nail farther into the wood, [Nicolas] expanded the idea. With careful planning and tuning, the nails can have sympathetic properties. These properties mean that when one nail is played via a bow, it causes other nails to sound, creating harmonies and sustains.
With a bit of careful woodworking and a scant touch of metalwork, an instrument was crafted. It offers vast flexibility as it can be played by bow, by plucking with your finger, or by strumming. There are several levels of nails, each level having a paired sympathetic nail. This allows for a diverse and versatile instrument.
Here at Hackaday, we seem to have a thing for tiny violins, whether physical or virtual. While the nail violin may not look like your traditional violin, we can certainly appreciate the wonderful music it creates.
Continue reading “A Sympathetic Nail Violin”
We all know what it means to procrastinate, but what about actively spending time building a useless machine? You have undoubtedly seen the ornamental boxes with a tempting little toggle switch on the top. When you inevitably flip the switch, an actuator pops out from one half of the enclosure with the sole purpose of undoing its own power switch. [Paz Hameiri] took it a step further by adding some [Rube Goldberg] flavor, and with the help of a microcontroller, his levers take their sweet time powering themselves down. (Video after the break.)
We didn’t find any code or diagrams for the project, but if you know the useless machine’s internals, it shouldn’t be any trouble to recreate one for your desk. The most significant design factor is that the switches. Their contacts must be wired in parallel so that the controller has power as long as one is active. How would you spice up the useless machine?
Even though these are called useless machines, they serve the purpose of decoration, conversation-starting, or a way to show off your woodworking and programming skills.
Continue reading “Complicated And Useless Cancel Each Other Out”
There’s been a constant over the last few weeks’ news, thanks to Elon Musk we’re in another Bitcoin hype cycle. The cryptocurrency soared after the billionaire endorsed it, at one point coming close to $60k, before falling back to its current position at time of writing of around $47k. The usual tide of cryptocurrency enthusiasts high on their Kool-Aid hailed the dawn of their new tomorrow, while a fresh cesspool of cryptocurrency scam emails and social media posts lapped around the recesses of the Internet.
This Time It’s Different!
The worst phrase that anyone can normally say about a financial bubble is the dreaded phrase “This time it’s different“, but there is something different about this Bitcoin hype cycle. It’s usual to hear criticism of Bitcoin for its volatility or its sometime association with shady deals, but what’s different this time is that the primary criticism is of its environmental credentials. The Bitcoin network, we are told, uses more electricity than the Netherlands, more than Argentina, and in an age where global warming has started to exert an uncomfortable influence over our lives, we can’t afford such extravagance and the emissions associated with them.
Here at Hackaday we are more concerned with figures than arguments over the future of currency, so the angle we take away from it all lies with those power stats. How much energy does Argentina use, and is the claim about Bitcoin credible?
Continue reading “What Uses More Power Than Argentina But Doesn’t Dance The Tango?”
Liquid handling workstations are commonly used in drug development, and look like small CNC machines with droppers on the ends which can dispense liquid into any container in a grid array. They are also extraordinarily expensive, as is most specialty medical research equipment. This liquid handling workstation doesn’t create novel drugs, though, it creates art, and performs similar functions to its professional counterparts at a much lower cost in exchange for a lot of calibration and math.
The art is created by pumping a small amount of CMYK-colored liquids into a 24×16 grid, with each space in the grid able to hold a small amount of the colored liquid. The result looks similar to a Lite-Brite using liquids instead of small pieces of plastic. The creator [Zach Frew] created the robot essentially from scratch using an array of 3D printers, waterjets, and CNC machines. He was able to use less expensive parts, compared to medical-grade equipment, by using servo-controlled valves and peristaltic pumps, but makes up for their inaccuracies with some detailed math and calibration.
The results of the project are striking, especially when considering that a lot of hurdles needed to be cleared to get this kind of quality, including some physical limitations on the way that the liquids behave in the first place. It’s worth checking out not just for the art but for the amount of detail involved as well. And, for those still looking to scratch the 90s nostalgia itch, there are plenty of other projects using the Lite Brite as inspiration.
Thanks to [Thane Hunt] for the tip!