The modified servo being calibrated on the left half of the screen, with some graphs of its operation being shown on the right half.

Servo Surgery Teaches Us DIY Encoder Implants

Today, we shall talk about how [Adam Bäckström] took a DS3225 servo and rebuilt it to improve its accuracy, then built a high-precision robot arm with those modified servos to show just how much of an improvement he’s got – up to 36 times better positional accuracy. If this brings a déjà vu feeling, that’s because we’ve covered his servo modifications before, but now, there’s more. In a year’s time since the last video came out, [Adam] has taken it to the next level, showing us how the modification is made, and how we ourselves can do it, in a newly released video embedded below.

After ordering replacement controller PCBs designed by [Adam] (assembled by your PCBA service of choice), you disassemble the servo, carefully setting the gearbox aside for now. Gutting the stock control board is the obvious next step, but from there, you don’t just drop the new PCB in – there’s more to getting a perfect servo than this, you have to add extra sensing, too. First, you have to print a spacer and a cover for the control board, as well as a new base for the motor. You also have to print (or perhaps, laser-cut) two flat encoder disks, one black and one white, the white one being eccentric. It only escalates from here!

Continue reading “Servo Surgery Teaches Us DIY Encoder Implants”

A Tshwatch on a table

TshWatch Helps You Learn More About Yourself

TshWatch is a project by [Ivan / @pikot] that he’s been working on for the past two years. [Ivan] explains that he aims to create a tool meant to help you understand your body’s state. Noticing when you’re stressed, when you haven’t moved for too long, when your body’s temperature is elevated compared to average values – and later, processing patterns in yourself that you might not be consciously aware of. These are far-reaching goals that commercial products only strive towards.

At a glance it might look like a fitness tracker-like watch, but it’s a sensor-packed logging and measurement wearable – with a beautiful E-Ink screen and a nice orange wristband, equipped with the specific features he needs, capturing the data he’d like to have captured and sending it to a server he owns, and teaching him a whole new world of hardware – the lessons that he shares with us. He takes us through the design process over these two years – now on the fifth revision, with first three revisions breadboarded, the fourth getting its own PCBs and E-Ink along with a, and the fifth now in the works, having received some CAD assistance for battery placement planning. At our request, he has shared some pictures of the recent PCBs, too!

Continue reading “TshWatch Helps You Learn More About Yourself”

Hackaday Links Column Banner

Hackaday Links: April 3, 2022

It’s that time of year again — the 2022 Hackaday Prize has officially launched, and we’re excited to see what it turns out. This year’s theme is “Sustainability, Resilience, and Circularity,” and just in time, too; if the last couple of years has taught us anything, it’s that we’ve got a lot of failure points built into the systems that run our world. As broken as things are, it’s tempting to just curl up in a ball and pretend everything’s fine, but that’s not how hackers respond to adversity. We need to control what we can control, and there’s plenty of work to be done. From sustainable energy ideas to ways to reduce the amount of stuff we throw away, from breathing new life into old equipment to building communities that can take care of themselves, there’s plenty of work to be done. So get over to the Hackaday Prize page, check out the launch summit video if you need some inspiration, and get hacking. And hurry up — things are only going to get better if people like us make it happen.

Continue reading “Hackaday Links: April 3, 2022”

Is Your Device Actually USB 3.0, Or Is The Connector Just Blue?

Discount (or even grey market) electronics can be economical ways to get a job done, but one usually pays in other ways. [Majenko] ran into this when a need to capture some HDMI video output ended up with rather less than was expected.

Faced with two similar choices of discount HDMI capture device, [Majenko] opted for the fancier-looking USB 3.0 version over the cheaper USB 2.0 version, reasoning that the higher bandwidth available to a USB 3.0 version would avoiding the kind of compression necessary to shove high resolution HDMI video over a more limited USB 2.0 connection.

The device worked fine, but [Majenko] quickly noticed compression artifacts, and interrogating the “USB 3.0” device with lsusb -t revealed it was not running at the expected speeds. A peek at the connector itself revealed a sad truth: the device wasn’t USB 3.0 at all — it didn’t even have the right number of pins!

A normal USB 3.0 connector is blue inside, and has both sets of pins for backward compatibility (five in the rear, four in the front) like the one shown here.

A USB 3.0 connection requires five conductors, and the connectors are blue in color. Backward compatibility is typically provided by including four additional conductors, as shown in the image here. The connector on [Majenko]’s “USB 3.0” HDMI capture device clearly shows it is not USB 3.0, it’s just colored blue.

Most of us are willing to deal with the occasional glitch or dud in exchange for low prices, but when something isn’t (and never could be) what it is sold as, that’s something else. [Majenko] certainly knows that as well as anyone, having picked apart a defective power bank module to uncover a pretty serious flaw.

Flashing TI Chips With An ESP

Texas Instruments is best known to the general public for building obsolete calculators and selling them at extraordinary prices to students, but they also build some interesting (and reasonably-priced) microcontrollers as well. While not as ubiquitous as Atmel and the Arduino platform, they can still be found in plenty of consumer electronics and reprogrammed, and [Aaron] aka [atc1441] demonstrates how to modify them with an ESP32 as an intermediary.

Specifically, the TI chips in this build revolve around the 8051-core  microcontrollers, which [Aaron] has found in small e-paper price tags and other RF hardware. He’s using an ESP32 to reprogram the TI chips, and leveraging a web server on the ESP in order to be able to re-flash them over WiFi. Some of the e-paper displays have built-in header pins which makes connecting them to the ESP fairly easy, and once that’s out of the way [Aaron] also provides an entire software library for interacting with these microcontrollers through the browser interface.

Right now the project supports the CC2430, CC2510 and CC1110 variants, but [Aaron] plans to add support for more in the future. It’s a fairly comprehensive build, and much better than buying the proprietary TI programmer, so if you have some of these e-paper displays laying around the barrier to entry has been dramatically lowered. If you don’t have this specific type of display laying around, we’ve seen similar teardowns and repurposing of other e-paper devices in the past as well.

Continue reading “Flashing TI Chips With An ESP”

Don’t Tune Your 3D Printer To Middle ‘C’ After All

Layer shift caused by the belt being way too loose.

3D printer belt tension seems like a simple thing to deal with — you set the tension and then check it’s good now and then. If it gets really loose, then the teeth can slip and you’ll get some shifts in the print, ruining it, but its an easy fix. But, we hear you ask, how do you determine what the correct tension is? Well, here’s [Lost in Tech] with a video showing some measurement techniques and analysis of a typical 3D printer, (video, embedded below) using nothing more special than a set of luggage scales. A simple theory suggested was that a tighter belt tension would result in increased radial load on the stepper motor bearings, which in turn, due to friction, would result in an increase in temperature of the motor.  After setting a few tension values on one of the belts, it was noted that tension values at the upper end of the range, resulted in a measured increased in temperature of two degrees celcius, and a large increase in noise. This can’t be good for the motor.

Continue reading “Don’t Tune Your 3D Printer To Middle ‘C’ After All”

Using Statistics Instead Of Sensors

Statistics often gets a bad rap in mathematics circles for being less than concrete at best, and being downright misleading at worst. While these sentiments might ring true for things like political polling, it hides the fact that statistical methods can be put to good use in engineering systems with fantastic results. [Mark Smith], for example, has been working on an espresso machine which can make the perfect shot of coffee, and turned to one of the tools in the statistics toolbox in order to solve a problem rather than adding another sensor to his complex coffee-brewing machine.

To make espresso, steam is generated which is then forced through finely ground coffee. [Mark] found that his espresso machine was often pouring too much or too little coffee, and in order to improve his machine’s accuracy in this area he turned to the linear regression parameter R2, also known as the coefficient of determination. By using a machine learning algorithm tuned to this value, which assesses predictable variation in a data set, a computer can more easily tell when the coffee begins pouring out of the portafilter and into the espresso cup based on the pressure and water flow in the machine itself rather than using some other input such as the weight of the cup.

We have seen in the past how seriously [Mark] takes his coffee-making, and this is another step in a series of improvements he has made to his equipment. In this iteration, he has additionally produced a simulation in JupyterLab to better assist him in modeling the system and making even more accurate predictions. It’s quite a bit more effort than adding sensors, but since his espresso machine already included quite a bit of computing power it’s not too big a leap for him to make.