roetz shows off his multi hot end 3d printer

Maximum Throughput Benchie

Have you ever needed to make a few hundred of something quickly? [Roetz 4.0] has got you covered with his massively parallel entry into the SpeedBoatRace competition.

The idea behind the SpeedBoatRace is how quickly you can print a Benchy — the little boat that is used as a test print for a 3d printer. Speeding up a print is quite tricky as it means moving the head quicker and giving layers less time to deposit and a whole other host of problems. So [Roetz] took a page out of a CPU designer’s playbook, and rather than increasing the latency, he raised the throughput. The original plan was for 20 hot ends, but due to cooling issues, that had to be reduced to 18. Perhaps even more impressive than the scale of the machine is that the only off-the-shelf parts on it are the fans for cooling. Everything else is printed or machined by [Roetz] himself. The whole run was completed in less than an hour, which technically gives him a sub 3.6 minute time per benchy, even accounting for a few that failed.

This isn’t [Roetz’s] first custom 3d printer. He turned a CMM into a 3d printer a while back that offered incredible accuracy across a large build area. Thanks [Jan Roetz] for sending this one in! Video after the break.

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Belgian Railway Time For Your Home

Some of the 20th century’s most iconic design and typography came to us through public signage in the various national railways of Europe. Were you to think of a Modernist clock face for example, the chances are that the prototype for your image hangs somewhere in one of the continent’s great railway terminals. If you don’t fancy getting on a train to see your favourite public timepiece, then maybe [EBP Controller] has a treat for you, with a 3D-printed double-faced Belgian railway station clock.

Behind the scenes the mechanism is simpler than appearances might lead the observer to believe, with each set of hands driven through a single gear to a motor. Controlling it all is an ESP8266, which is able to synchronise the clock exactly to an NTP server. It appears at first sight to have an unnecessarily large quantity of motors, but considering that there are two faces each with three hands the six motors each have a use. So while the real thing might require a heist from the SNCB, at least modernist clock fans can now have their own.

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Hackaday Links: December 26, 2021

At the time of this writing, the James Webb Space Telescope was perched upon its ride to space, ready for its much-delayed launch from the ESA spaceport in French Guiana. The $10 billion space observatory suffered one final delay (knocks on wood) when predictions of high winds aloft pushed it back from a Christmas Eve launch to a Christmas Day departure, at 12:20 UTC. Given the exigencies of the day, we doubt we’ll be able to watch the launch live — then again, past experience indicates we’ll still be wrapping presents at 4:20 PST. Either way, here’s hoping that everything comes off without a hitch, and that astronomers get the present they’ve been waiting many, many Christmases for.

In other space news, things are getting really interesting on Mars. The ESA announced that their ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter has detected signs of water in the Valles Marineris. The satellite found a large area of increased hydrogen concentration in the top meter of Martian soil; the assumption is that the hydrogen comes from water, meaning that as much as 40% of the material in the region scanned may be water. If so, that’s a huge find, as we thought most of Mars’ water was locked in the polar regions. The Mariner Valley stretches more than 4,000 km just below the equator, and so may prove to be an important resource for future explorers.

Meanwhile, in Jezero crater, Perseverance has decided to upstage its rotorcraft sidekick for a change by finding signs of organic molecules on Mars. It’s not the first time organic compounds have been found — Perseverance’s cousin Curiosity found some too, ESA’s Mars Express mission spotted methane from on high, and then there were the equivocal but intriguing results from the Viking missions in the 1970s. But the latest evidence is really great news for the scientists who picked Jezero crater as a likely place to search for signs of past life on Mars. The organics found are not proof of life by any means, as there are many ways to make organic molecules abiotically. But then again, if you’re going to find evidence of life on Mars, you’ve got to start with detecting organics.

Back on Earth, getting your laptop stolen would be bad enough. But what if it got yoinked while it was unlocked? Depending on who you are and what you do with that machine, it could be a death sentence. That’s where BusKill could come in handy. It’s a hardware-software approach to securing a laptop when it — or you — suddenly goes missing. A dongle with a breakaway magnetic lanyard gets plugged into a USB port, and the other end of the lanyard gets attached to your person. If you get separated from your machine, the dongle sends customizable commands to either lock the screen or, for the sufficiently paranoid, nuke the hard drive. The designs are all up on GitHub, so check it out and think about what else this could be useful for.

If you like the look of low-poly models but hate the work involved in making them, our friend and Hack Chat alumnus Andrew Sink came up with a solution: an online 3D low-poly generator. The tool is pretty neat; it uses three.js and runs completely in-browser. All you have to do is upload an STL file and set sliders to get rid of as many triangles as you want. Great stuff, and fun to play with even if you don’t need to decimate your polygons.

And finally, what have you done with your oscilloscope for the last three years? Most of us can’t answer that except in the vaguest of terms, but then there’s DrTune, who took three years’ worth of screencaps from this Rigol DS1054z and strung them together into a 60-second movie. He swears he didn’t purposely sync the video to the soundtrack, which is “Flight of the Bumblebee” by Rimsky-Korsakov, but in some places it’s just perfect. See if you can guess what DrTune has been working on by watching the waveforms fly by. And watch for Easter eggs.

Planning Custom Aluminum Enclosures With OpenSCAD

We’ve seen a number of projects over the years that let you create custom enclosures using OpenSCAD, and for good reason. The parametric CAD tool is ideal for generating 3D models based on user-adjustable variables, and if you leverage its integrated Customizer, producing a bespoke box is as easy as moving some sliders around. The resulting files get sent off to the 3D printer, and you’re set. But what if you’re looking for a custom enclosure that’s not so…plastic?

In that case, AlClosure by [0xPIT] might be the answer. Rather than generating STL files intended for your 3D printer, the code is written to help you design an enclosure made from aluminum sheets. The top and bottom panels are intended to be cut from 1.5 mm – 2.5 mm sheets, while the sides are made from thicker 5 mm – 8 mm stock to accept a machined pocket that holds the front and rear inserts.

Since it’s OpenSCAD, much of the design is governed by variables which you can tweak. Obviously the outside dimensions of the enclosure can be changed in a flash, but it’s just as easy to modify the thickness of the aluminum sheet being used, or the size of the screw holes. [0xPIT] has also done a great job of documenting the code itself, so you’ll know exactly what you’re modifying.

Obviously, you’ll need the ability to cut and machine aluminum to actually utilize this project. The code itself is really just a way to conceptualize the design and get your dimensions figured out ahead of time. But as we were recently reminded by the keynote presentation [Jeremy Fielding] gave at the 2021 Remoticon, this sort of early prototyping can often save you a lot of headaches down the line.

6502 Goes FPGA (Again)

While there has been no shortage of FPGA-based recreations of classic processors, we always enjoy seeing a new approach. Last month [Some Assembly Required] took on the challenge to recreate a classic computer from the ground up and started with a 6502 implementation in Verilog. You can see in the second video below that he’s made good progress and there are apparently more videos to come.

The ROL instruction is the subject of the second video. We liked the approach of looking at what the instruction does and how many cycles it takes on different variants It is always good to make sure you know exactly what you are trying to accomplish before you get started.

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A CH341 programmer dongle with a stack of adapters on top (one for 1.8V and one for clip connection), and a test clip to the right of it

BIOS Flashing Journey Writeup Puts Tutorials To Shame

A couple of weeks ago, [Doug Brown] bought a Ryzen motherboard, advertised as “non-working” and discounted accordingly. He noticed that the seller didn’t test it with any CPUs old enough to be supported by the board’s stock BIOS revision, and decided to take a gamble with upgrading it.

Not having a supported CPU in hand either, he decided to go the “external programmer” route, which succeeded and gave this board a new life. This is not why we’re writing this up, however. The reason this article caught our eye is because [Doug]’s research leaves no stone unturned, and it’s all there to learn from. Whether through careful observation or thorough research, this article covers all the important points and more, serving as an example to follow for anyone looking to program their BIOS.

For instance, [Doug] correctly points out a design issue with these common programmers resulting in 5 V getting onto the 3.3 V data lines, and fixes it by rewiring the board. Going through all the letters in the ICs part number, something that many of us would dismiss, [Doug] notices that the flash chip is 1.8 V-only and procures a 1.8 V adapter to avoid the possibility of frying his motherboard. After finding out that the 1.8 V adapters don’t work for some people, he reverse-engineers the adapter’s schematics and confirms that it, indeed, ought to work with the specific parts on adapter he received.

Noting another letter in the part number implying the flash chip might be configured for quad-SPI operation, he adds series resistors to make sure there’s no chance of the programmer damaging the BIOS chip with its hardwired pinout. This is just an example of the insights in [Doug]’s article, there’s way more that we can’t mention for brevity, and we encourage you to check it out for yourself.

With this level of care put into the process, it’s no surprise that the modification was successful. The kind of inquisitiveness shared here is worth aspiring to, and writeups like this often surpass general-purpose tutorials in their insights and usefulness. What’s your “successfully making use of something sold as non-working” story?

If you’re looking for other insightful BIOS stories, we’ve covered someone reverse-engineering their BIOS to remove miniPCIe card whitelisting. We’ve typically covered BIOS modification stories in laptops, since there’s more incentives to modify these, but a lot of laptop BIOS articles will apply to desktop motherboards too, such as this supervisor password removal story or this LibreBoot installation journey by our own [Tom Nardi].

Thank you [Sidney] for sharing this with us!

Realtime Shadows On N64 Hardware

Although the Nintendo 64 console has in the minds of many been relegated to the era of ‘firmly obsolete graphics’, since its graphic processor’s (GPU’s) lineage traces directly to the best which SGI had to offer in the 1990s, it too supports a range of modern features, including dynamic shadows. In a simple demo, [lambertjamesd] demonstrates how this feature is used.

As can be seen in the demonstration video (linked after the break), this demo features a single dynamic light, which casts a shadow below the central object in the scene, with a monkey object floating around that casts its own shadow (rendered into an auxiliary frame buffer). This auxiliary buffer is then blended into the main buffer, as explained by [ItzWarty] over at /r/programming on Reddit.

This effectively means that the main scene uses a shadow volume, which was used extensively with Doom 3. The primary reasons for why the N64 didn’t use shadow volumes all over the place was due to the limitations this places on the shadow caster (objects) in the scene, such as the need to be convex, and overlap is likely to lead to artifacts and glitches.

Doom 3 would fix this with the use of a stencil buffer that would further refine the basic dynamic lighting support on the N64, which ultimately would lead to the fancy video game graphics we have today. And which no doubt will look properly obsolete in another decade again, as usual.

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