If you like playing Grand Theft Auto, you’re pretty familiar with squeezing the triggers for accelerating and braking while driving around. [David Programa] decided this was too easy, and instead developed a system to allow him to pedal his way around the virtual world.
The device relies on a flywheel-based exercise bike, with six magnets placed on the flywheel that triggers a reed switch six times per rotation. The extra magnets give the system better resolution at slow speeds. A Hall Effect sensor would be a more reliable way to build this to survive in the long term, but the reed switch does work. It’s paired with a debounce circuit to keep the output clean. A Raspberry Pi is pressed into service, running a Python program to read a GPIO pin activated by the reed switch, counting pulses to determine the speed of pedalling.
The trigger control used in the Xbox 360 controller is a potentiometer that creates varying voltages depending on its position, allowing it to act as an analog accelerator input. 0 volts corresponds to no input, while the trigger reads 3.3 volts when fully depressed. The Raspberry Pi emulates this with its PWM output, paired with a low-pass filter to create the relevant voltage to inject into the trigger input on a generic Xbox 360 controller.
While it’s a lot less practical than simply using a regular controller, the pedal controls do allow you to get a great workout while playing Grand Theft Auto. Some of the more intense chase missions should be a great way to get your heart rate up, and that’s got to be a good thing.
Ironically, though, the system only works for cars and motorbikes in game. The bicycles in Grand Theft Auto are controlled by mashing the A button instead. Alternatively, you might consider a similar system for playing Mario Kart on the Nintendo Switch. Video after the break.
We often use 3D printing to replicate items we might otherwise make with traditional machining methods. Fraunhofer’s new door hinge for a sports car takes a different tack: it tries to be better than the equivalent machined part. The company claims that the new part is half the cost and weighs 35% less than the normal hinge.
Using tools in their 3D Spark software, the team analyzed different factors that led to manufacturing cost. Some of these were specific to the part while others were specific to the process. For example, orienting the part to minimize support and maximize the quantity that fit on the build surface.
Many of us hardware-oriented types find it hard to walk past a lonely-looking discarded item of consumer electronics without thinking “If only I could lug that back to the car and take it home to play with” and [phooky] from NYC Resistor is no stranger to this sentiment. An old Epson WF-2540 inkjet printer was disassembled for its important ‘nutrients,’ you know, the good stuff like funky motors, encoders and switches. But what do you do with the control panel? After all, they’re usually very specific to the needs of the device they control, and don’t usually offer up much scope for reuse.
[phooky] doesn’t usually bother with them, but this time decided to have a crack at it for fun. Inside, nothing out of the ordinary, with a large single-sided PCB for the key switches and LEDs, and a small PCB hosting the LCD display. The easy part was to figure out how the keyboard scanning was done, which turned out to be pretty simple, it just uses some 74-series shift register devices to scan the columns and clock out the row lines. A Raspberry Pi Pico module was pressed into service to scan the keyboard and enable a keyboard map to be created, by pure brute-force. No need to trace the circuit.
Things got interesting when [phooky] started looking into the LCD interface, based on the Epson E02A46EA chip (good luck finding a datasheet for that one!) and quickly realised that documentation simply wasn’t available, and it would be necessary to do things the hard way. Poking around the lines from the main CPU (an Epson E01A9CA , whatever that is) the display clock was identified, as well as some control signals, and three lines for the RGB channels. By throwing a Saleae data capture into some ROM exploring software, the display configuration was determined to be a standard 320×120 unit.
The PIO unit of the RP2040 was used to generate the video waveforms and push the pixels out to the LCD controller, allowing the RP2040 board to be wired inside the case permanently, converting the control panel into a USB device ready for action!
Want to know a little more about reverse engineering junk (or not) items and repurposing them to your will? Checkout this hacking piece from a couple of weeks back. For something a little more advanced, you could try your hand at a spot of car ECU hacking.
The build relies on an electrolyzer, splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen gas which is stored in a small tank. This gas can then be released and combusted in a burning stream, creating a weapon with a vague resemblance to a movie-spec lightsaber. With the hydrogen torch burning at temperatures of thousands of degrees, it’s hot enough to melt steel just like in the films.
While the concept of operation is simple, actually building such a device in a handheld size is incredibly difficult. [Alex] highlights key features such as the flashback arrestor that stops the gas tank exploding, and the output nozzle that was carefully designed to produce a surprisingly long and stable flame.
The resulting device only burns for 30 seconds, so you’ve only got a short period of time to do what you need to do. However, unlike previous designs we’ve seen, it doesn’t use any external gas bottles and is entirely self-contained, marking an important step forward in this technology. Video after the break.
We’re Makers. By definition, we make things. Some of us prefer to build from scraps, while others like to make their own IC’s in their garage. [Make With Miles] on the other hand prefers one of the oldest types of making around: woodworking. And in this build, he goes a step further by using a very old Japanese method of woodworking called Kumiko to build a Stratocaster style electric guitar. The results are absolutely stunning as you can see in the video below.
Inspired by a challenge put forth by [The Modern Maker Podcast] to build a woodworking project that ties into another hobby that isn’t related to woodworking, [Miles] knocked it out of the park by including several art forms in this one-off Strat.
The centerpiece of this guitar build is the Kumiko style of construction used within the body. Kumiko is a Japanese method of assembling wood without the use of fasteners. Developed around 600-700AD, Kumiko is as much a construction method as an art form. [Miles] went further by filling the Kumiko framework with blackened epoxy resin which was then sanded and polished. Decals bring the headstock into the motif, but the attention to details goes much, much further. Be sure to watch the video so you can get an appreciation for the high level of workmanship that this young man displays.
That’s right- [Miles] isn’t a maker with decades of experience. In fact in 2017, one of his YouTube videos was “12 yr Old Builds a Row Boat!!!” [Miles], our hats are off to you and we look forward to seeing your art progress, for you truly have commanded the attention of the maker community that you are so rightfully part of.
Every winter, millions of tons of rock salt is sprinkled across roads in the US, mostly in the Midwest and Northeast regions. It’s a cheap and effective way to prevent accidents. Rock salt is chemically the same as the stuff that sits next to the pepper, except it isn’t as finely ground, and it doesn’t have sodium or potassium iodine added to it to prevent goiters. Both table salt and rock salt melt ice by lowering the freezing point of water. So does sugar.
Much of what we salt the Earth with every winter comes from underground networks of salt crystal that formed when various ancient seas dried up. As natural as it may be, rock salt is bad for the environment. For one thing, chloride is forever, and can’t easily be decoupled from the soil and water it taints when it washes away. Rock salt also corrodes concrete, makes its way into the groundwater, and is bad for pets. Worst of all, its efficacy drops along with the temperature. At 15° F (-9° C), rock salt loses more than 86% of its melting power.
All this salt is not great for cars, either — it’s bad for the paint and eats up the frame. In the saltiest parts of the US, aka The Salt Belt, cars only last a handful of years before they become Flintstones mobiles. Well, not really, but salt is terrible for the brake lines and most of the undercarriage. Consumer woes aside, there’s a real environmental impact to manufacturing all these disposable cars to meet the demand.
But the problem is that we need to use salt, or at something like it. Even though millions of people are staying home a whole lot more, the trucking industry still relies on salted highways and local roads. So if you like stocked grocery stores and stuff arriving from the Bezos Barn in a timely fashion, you can see the problem. So what are the alternatives? Are there any?
Laser cutters and 3D printers are game-changing tools to have in the workshop. They make rapid prototyping or repairs to existing projects a breeze as they can churn out new parts with high precision in a very short amount of time. The flip side of that, though, is that they can require quite a bit of maintenance. [Timo] has learned this lesson over his years-long saga owning a laser cutter, although he has attempted to remedy most of the problems on his own, this time by building a Z-axis table on his own rather than buying an expensive commercial offering.
The Z-axis table is especially important for lasers because a precise distance from the lens to the workpiece is needed to ensure the beams’s focal point is correctly positioned. Ensuring this distance is uniform over the entire bed can be a project all on its own. For this build, [Timo] started by building a simple table that allowed all four corners to be adjusted, but quickly moved on to a belt-driven solution that uses a stepper motor in order to adjust the entire workspace. The key to the build was learning about his specific laser’s focal distance which he found experimentally by cutting a slot in an angled piece of wood and measuring the height where the cut was the cleanest.