Cheap GPS units are readily available nowadays, which is great if you have something that needs to be very precisely located. Finding the position of things is one of many uses for GPS, though. There are plenty of ways to take advantage of some of the ancillary tools that the GPS uses to determine location. In this case it’s using the precise timekeeping abilities of the satellites to build a microsecond-accurate network time protocol (NTP) server.
GPS works by triangulating position between a receiver and a number of satellites, but since the satellites are constantly moving an incredibly precise timing signal is needed in order to accurately determine location from all of these variables. This build simply teases out that time information from the satellite network and ignores the location data. There are only two parts to this build, a cheap GPS receiver and a Raspberry Pi, but [Austin] goes into great detail about how to set up the software side as well including installing PPS, GPSd, and then setting up the actual NTP server on the Pi.
While this is an excellent way to self-host your own NTP server if you don’t have Internet access (or just want to do it yourself), [Austin] does note that this is probably overkill on timekeeping as far as accuracy goes. On the other hand, the Raspberry Pi has no built-in real time clock of its own, so this might actually be a cost-competitive way of timekeeping even when compared to something more traditional like a DS3231 RTC module.
Continue reading “NTP Server Gets Time From Space”
People really want to 3D print metal, but while true metal printers exist, they still are expensive and out of reach of most hackers. However, even if you can afford an exotic printer or use metal-impregnated polymer, you don’t often see copper as a print material. Copper has high electrical and thermal conductivity which makes it very useful. But that thermal conductivity also makes it very difficult to print using any process that involves heating up the material and copper reflects common lasers used in the 3D printing process. However, a German company, Infinite Flex, is claiming a breakthrough that will allow printers that use a standard IR laser to produce copper parts. The material, Infinite Powder CU 01 is suitable for selective laser sintering and several other laser-based techniques.
The powder has 99.5% copper and particle sizes of between 10 and 45 microns. There are some copper alloys that reduce thermal conductivity to allow printing, but often the reason you want a copper part is for its thermal properties. A kilogram of the powder will set you back nearly $100, so it isn’t dirt cheap, but it isn’t astronomical, either.
Continue reading “3D Printing Copper”
If you’ve dealt with robots or other wheeled projects, you’ve probably heard of mecanum wheels. These seemingly magic wheels have the ability to move in any direction. If you’ve ever seen one, it is pretty obvious how it works. They look more or less like ordinary wheels, but they also have rollers that rotate off-axis by 45 degrees from the normal movement axis. This causes the wheel’s driving force to move at a 45 degree angle. However, there are a lot of details that aren’t apparent from a quick glance. Why are the rollers tapered? How do you control a vehicle using these wheels? [Lesics] has a good explanation of how the wheels work in a recent video that you can see below.
With four wheels, you can have a pair of wheels — one at the front right and one at the back left — that have a net force vector of +45 degrees. Then the other pair of wheels can be built differently to have a net force vector of -45 degrees. The video shows how moving some or all wheels in different directions can move the vehicle in many different directions.
Continue reading “All About Mecanum”
When you see something made from metal that seems like it would be impossible to manufacture, chances are good it was made with some variety of electrical discharge machining. EDM is the method of choice for hard-to-machine metals, high aspect ratio hole drilling, and precise surface finishes that let mating parts slip together with almost zero clearance. The trouble is, EDM is a bit fussy, and as a result hasn’t made many inroads to the home shop.
[Action BOX] aims to change that with a DIY wire EDM machine. In wire EDM, a fine brass wire is used as an electrode to slowly erode metal in a dielectric bath. The wire is consumable, and has to constantly move from a supply spool through the workpiece and onto a takeup spool. Most of the build shown in the video below is concerned with the wire-handling mechanism, which is prototyped from 3D-printed parts and a heck of a lot of rollers and bearings. Maintaining the proper tension on the wire is critical, so a servo-controlled brake is fitted to the drivetrain, which itself is powered by a closed-loop stepper. Tension is measured by a pair of strain gauges and Arduinos, which control the position of the shaft brake servo and the speed of the motor on the takeup spool.
Unfortunately, in testing this setup proved to live up to EDM’s fussy reputation. The brass wire kept breaking as soon as cutting started, and [Action BOX] never made any actual cuts. There’s certainly promise, though, and we’re looking forward to developments. For more on EDM theory, check out [Ben Krasnow]’s look at EDM hole-drilling.
Continue reading “Bringing The Power Of EDM To The Home Shop”
Many embedded devices that require a setup menu will use a USB serial port which you connect to your favorite terminal emulator. But we recently encountered a generic USB knob that did setup using a text editor, like Notepad or even Vim (although that was a bit ugly). A company called iWit makes several kinds of USB knobs which end up in many such products.
These generic USB knobs are normally just plug-and-play, and are used to control your PC’s volume and muting. Some models, like the iWit, the user can configure the mapping within the device. For example, knob rotation can be set to generate up and down arrow keys, and knob press could be ENTER. One could do this kind of mapping on the PC, but many of these USB knobs can do it for you. The crux of the setup is this menu (which you can see in action in the first 30 seconds of the video below).
Continue reading “Setup Menu Uses Text Editor Hack”
“LEDs improve everything.” Words to live by. Most everything that Debra Ansell of [GeekMomProjects] makes is bright, bold, and blinky. But if you’re looking for a simple string of WS2812s, you’re barking up the wrong tree. In the last few years, Debra has been making larger and more complicated assemblies, and that has meant diving into the mechanical design of modular PCBs. In the process Debra has come up with some great techniques that you’ll be able to use in your own builds, which she shared with us in a presentation during the 2021 Hackaday Remoticon.
She starts off with a quick overview of the state of play in PCB art, specifically of the style that she’s into these days: three dimensional constructions where the physical PCB itself is a sculptural element of the project. She’s crossing that with the popular triangle-style wall hanging sculpture, and her own fascination with “inner glow” — side-illuminated acrylic diffusers. Then she starts taking us down the path of creating her own wall art in detail, and this is where you need to listen up. Continue reading “Remoticon 2021 // Debra Ansell Connects PCB In Ways You Didn’t Expect”
Sometimes the best inspiration is limitation. The 555 timer does “one thing” — compares a voltage to a couple thresholds and outputs a signal accordingly. It’s two comparators, a voltage ladder, and a flip-flop. And yet, it’s the most sold single chip of all time, celebrating its 50th birthday this year! So when Hackaday runs a 555 Timer Contest, hackers of all stripes come out with their best work to show their love for the Little DIP That Could.
Far and away the favorite entry was the Giant 555 Timer by [Rudraksha Vegad]. Every one of our judges rated it in the top five, and it took top honors twice. On its face, this is a simple “giant 555 in a box” build, but have a look under the hood. Each sub-module that makes up the 555 — comparators, flip-flop, and amplifier — are made from salvaged discrete parts in actual breadboard fashion, soldered to brass nails hammered into wood. As an end product, it’s a nice piece of woodworking, but as a process of creation, it’s a masterwork in understanding the 555 at its deepest level. We should all make one!
The Menorah555 is a simple design with some very nice tricks up its sleeve. Perhaps the cutest of which is pulling the central candle out and lighting the others with it — a trick that involves a supercapacitor and reed switches. Each of the candle lighting circuits, however, use a 555 timer both for its intended purpose of providing a timed power-on reset pulse, and another 555 is used as a simple flip-flop. It’s a slick design, and a great user interaction.
The Cyclotone Mechanical Punk Console Sequencer is a rotating tower of circuit sculpture and noisemakers. This one looks great, is amazingly well documented in the video series, and uses a billion clever little tricks along the way. The 555’s role? Each of the four levels is the classic Atari Punk Console circuit.
All three of these projects win a $150 shopping spree at Digi-Key. That’s a lot of timers!
Continue reading “Congratulations Winners Of The 555 Timer Contest!”