Traffic Jam In The Suez Canal; Container Ship Run Aground

A vital shipping lane has been blocked in Egypt, as a 220,000 ton container ship, the MV Ever Given, became lodged sideways in the channel Tuesday morning local time. The Suez Canal, long a region of trading and strategic importance, has been blocked to travel in both directions as authorities make frantic efforts to free the ship.

Live tracking shows a flurry of activity around the stricken vessel. If you find yourself transiting the Suez Canal next week, don’t do this. Everyone’s patience is going to be pretty thin.

The Ever Given is carrying goods from China to Rotterdam, making a northward journey through the canal. The exact reason for grounding remains unclear, though such incidents are often due to mechanical malfunction or navigational errors in the tight confines of the channel. Like many important waterways, the Suez Canal requires transiting vessels to take on a pilot. This is to ensure that ships passing through the canal have someone onboard with experience of navigating the 673-foot wide passage. However, incidents still happen, as with huge container ships, there is minimal room for error.

A flotilla of tugboats dispatched to the area have begun working to free the ship, working in concert with excavators on the banks of the canal. This photo taken by [Julianne Cona] at the incident shows the sheer scale of the problem — with the excavator digging at the bow a tiny speck in the shadow of the gigantic ship.

We’re sure shipping firms and residents of the Netherlands are eager for a quick resolution, whether its to avoid costly delays or simply to get those online purchases sooner. If you live near the canal and want to keep an eye on what’s happening, you could always grab a software-defined radio and track things in real time. Alternatively, watch the progress on Vessel Finder. And, if you’ve got strong opinions on the proper procedure for navigating the Suez Canal, sound off in the comments!

DIY I2C Tester

[Dilshan] built a dedicated I2C tester which allows for I2C bus control over USB using simple commands such as init, read, write, etc. The Linux kernel has had I2C driver support for a couple of decades, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a computer or laptop with a I2C connector (excluding Bunnie Huang’s Novena hacker’s laptop, of course). This tester does require a Linux host, and his programs use libusb on the computer side and V-USB on the embedded side.

[Dilshan] put a lot of time into building this project, and it shows in the build quality and thorough documentation. With its single-sided PCB and all thru-hole construction, it makes a great beginner project for someone just getting into the hobby. At the heart of the tester is an ATmega16A in a 40-pin PDIP package (despite the Microchip overview page calling it a 44-pin chip), supported by a handful of resistors and transistors. Schematics are prepared in KiCad, code is compiled using gcc and avr-gcc, and he provides a label for the enclosure top. The only thing missing is information on the enclosure itself, but we suspect you can track that down with a little sleuthing (or asking [Dilshan] himself).

If you use I2C quite a lot, give this project a look. Easy to build, useful in the lab, and it looks nice as well. We have featured [Dilshan]’s work over the years, including this logic pattern generator and his two-transistor-on-a-breadboard superheterodyne receiver.

3D Printed Vortex Cooled Rocket Needs To Stop Leaking

Rocket engines are known for one thing above all else, and that’s getting hot. It’s this very property that makes them such a challenge to build and run from a materials engineering standpoint. It’s hard enough to build one with advanced metal alloys, but [Integza] presses on with trying to make one on a 3D printer. Progress is being made, but success remains elusive.  (Video, embedded below.)

To try and mitigate the thermal effects of burning propellants in his engine design, [Integza] looked to vortex cooling. This is where oxygen is swirled around the outer edge of the combustion chamber in a vortex, acting as a buffer layer between the burning fuel and the chamber walls. With 3D printed chamber components, keeping temperatures as low as possible is key, after all. Unfortunately, despite using a special ceramic-laden resin for printing and lathering the rocket components in various refractory materials, it wasn’t possible to stop the chambers leaking. Solid combustion was possible for a few seconds at a time, but eventually each motor tested turned into a ball of flames as the walls broke down.

Thankfully, nobody was hurt in testing, and [Integza] has a clear idea of the problems that need to be fixed in the next iteration. We’ve featured other vortex cooled rockets before – the theory is sound. As always, the devil is in the implementation.

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A Mobius Strip Track For Superconductor Levitation

Superconductors are interesting things, though we don’t really rely on them for much in our day to day lives. They’d be supremely useful, if only they didn’t need to be so darned cold. While the boffins toil away in the lab on that problem however, there’s still some fun to be had, as demonstrated by the Möbius Strip levitation track at Ithaca College.  (Video, embedded below.)

The rig takes advantage of the fact that superconductors can levitate over magnets, and vice versa. Under certain conditions, the superconductor can even lock into position over a magnet, due to flux pinning, wherein flux “tubes” from the magnet’s field penetrate a superconductor and are pinned in place by currents in the superconductor. It’s an awe-inpsiring effect, with the superconducting material appearing to magically float at a locked height above the magnetic surface, quite distinct from traditional magnetic levitation.

Construction of the track wasn’t straightforward. Early attempts at producing a Möbius Strip twisted through 540 degrees were unsuccessful in steel. The team then switched tack, using a flexible plastic which was much more pliable. This was then covered in neodymium magnets to create the necessary field, and the resulting visual effect is one of a silver-bricked magnetic road.

It’s a great display, and one that quite intuitively demonstrates the concepts of both a Möbius Strip and superconducting levitation. If room-temperature semiconductors become a real thing, there’s every possibility this could become an always-on installation. It’s also the trick behind one of the coolest hoverboards we’ve ever seen. Video after the break.

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Hacking The Ortur Laser With Spoil Board, Z-Height, And Air Assist

Last month in my hands-on review of the Ortur Laser I hinted that I had done a few things to make it work a little better. I made three significant changes in particular: I anchored the machine to a spoil board with markings, I added a moving Z axis to adjust focus by moving the entire laser head, and I added an air assist.

Turns out, you can find designs for all of these things all over the Internet and I did, in fact, use other people’s designs. The problem is the designs often conflict with one another or don’t exactly work for your setup. So what I’ll tell you about is the combination that worked for me and what I had to do to get it all working together. The air assist is going to take a post all by itself, but some of the attempts at air assist led to some of the other changes I made, so we’ll talk about it some in this post, as well.

One of the modifications — the spoil board mount — I simply downloaded and the link for that is below. However, I modified the moving Z axis and air assist parts and you can find my very simple modifications on Thingiverse. You’ll also find links to the original designs and you’ll need them for extra parts and instructions, too.

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Fire At Renesas Plant Fuels Chip Supply Woes

The small city of Naka (pop. 53K), a two-hour train ride from Tokyo on the eastern coast of Japan, was thrust into the international spotlight in the early dawn of Friday morning. A fire broke out among electroplating equipment in Renesas’s 300 nm N3 fabrication facility. It was extinguished before breakfast time, and fortunately nobody was injured nor were there any toxic chemical leaks. Only six hundred square meters on the first floor of the plant was damaged, but the entire building has to be closed for repairs. It will take approximately one month to restore normal operations, and CEO Hidetoshi Shibata is “concerned that there will be a massive impact on chip supplies”.

Renesas Naka Plant Location

In a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Renesas reports that the source of the fire has been determined, but the details are still unclear:

The casing of the equipment and the plating tank have relatively low resistance to heat, and the equipment ignited due to overcurrent. However, the cause of the overcurrent and the reason for the ignition is currently being investigated.

Semiconductors are already in short supply, as we reported back in January, forcing slowdowns at many auto manufacturers. The Naka plant primarily makes automotive semiconductors, worsening an already stressed supply chain. While the news focuses on the automotive sector, this shortage spills over into many other industries as well.

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Digital PlayStation 3 Purchases May Only Live As Long As Your PRAM Battery Without Sony Servers

Word of Sony shutting down PlayStation storefront servers for PS3 this summer spread like wildfire on the internet Monday. The discourse in comment sections were filled with anti-DRM rhetoric and renewed pledges of physical-only game collections, because without content servers to connect to, your digital PS3 purchases will eventually become unplayable. Even if legitimate purchases are installed to the console’s hard drive before Sony “flips the switch”, they may only live on as long as the internal clock stays in sync. Which is why this guide to replace a PS3 PRAM battery written by [Andrew] has renewed importance. After a battery replacement the internal clock needs to be reset and this requires validation from the PlayStation network (you know, the one that’s soon to be shut down).

Game preservationist group [Does it play?] drove home the impact of such a business decision by Sony on Twitter. The thread is quick to point out that even if users are quick to re-download all of their purchases to a PS3 system before the purported July 2nd deadline, those games will eventually become unplayable if the system clock becomes desynchronized. Replacing the PRAM battery and reconnecting to the PlayStation Network prior to Sony shuttering their servers should buy the user some more playtime. However, without any further changes to Sony’s licensing policy little else can be done physically to ensure those digital PS3 games will work in perpetuity.

Sony isn’t the only one to have drawn the ire of digital rights advocates in regards to terminating their online services. Nintendo shuttered the DSI-Shop in 2017 and Microsoft turned off access to the original Xbox LIVE servers in 2010. The big three console makers have all let their consumers down by removing the ability to reacquire purchases in some way, but the fact that so many PS3 exclusives were only ever available digitally just further exacerbates issues with digital rights. Dropping in a fresh coin-cell may not be the permanent solution everyone is looking for at the moment, but it couldn’t hurt to re-familiarize yourself with the Cell processor.

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