Printable Carbide Opens Up Interesting Possibilities

Sandvik, a large company headquartered in Sweden, has apparently been producing cemented carbide for a long time — according to them, since 1932. The material is known for being highly wear-resistant. Now the company says they have a process to 3D print the material. You can see a video about the new material, below.

If you haven’t encountered this material, it is essentially fine carbide particles bound in metal. You’ll find the material widely used in cutting tools. The slogan “Freedom of Design has Never Been Harder” is both clever and confusing, but we took their point.

The process is more or less like other metal binder technology. A powder of tungsten carbide and cobalt mixed with glue creates a green body which you still need to fire to get to the finished part.

What kind of things can you make? Here’s a quote from one of Sandvik’s engineers:

For instance, in wire drawing, productivity is usually limited by how fast the wire can be drawn with maintained quality, which in turn depends on the temperature in the wire drawing die. People have been trying to solve this problem for decades, but it’s been extremely difficult. A 3D printed, cooled wire nib is the answer to this riddle. It took a mere four days to produce, from the first basic sketch to the fully sintered product – thanks to our materials and proprietary process.

Don’t plan on loading up your Ender 3 with cemented carbide filament. This is, after all, a metal material. However, 3D printing can offer geometries that would be difficult to obtain with traditional methods. So even if you have to turn to a professional 3D printing shop, it is good to know you can create in this ultra-hard material.

Printing in metal has a different set of issues than using plastics. If you really want your current printer to do metal, it can, but you’ll have to cheat a bit. Or try electroplating.

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This Week In Security: OpenSSH, Git, And Sort-of NGINX 0-day

OpenSSH has minted their 9.0 release, and it includes a pair of security changes. Unlike most of the releases we cover here, this one has security hardening to prevent issues, not emergency fixes for current ones. First up, the venerable scp/rcp protocol has been removed. Your scp commands will now use SFTP under the hood. The more interesting security change is the new default key exchange, the NTRU algorithm. NTRU is thought to be quantum-hard.
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Mini DarkTower Clone Restores Your Childhood

Remember DarkTower? No? Well, it’s a really cool combination board game, RPG, and computer game from 1981. Orson Welles pimped it on TV and explained it thusly: “collect three keys, lay siege to the tower, and defeat the enemy within”. The Tower itself was a battery-powered computer on lazy Susan that showed numbers on a couple of 7-segment displays, pictures via three carousels, and had a 12-button keypad. Thanks to a lawsuit, few copies remain, and even fewer of them are in working condition.

Working copies of DarkTower go for hundreds online, but who can afford such an extravagance when these 40+ year old towers are prone to battery leakage and loose connections? Certainly not [Mighty Studios], who was hoping to give the gift of DarkTower to a friend and decided to build a mini reproduction instead. Fortunately for us, the project is completely open source. You can check out the build video below, which has plenty of links, including one that goes to the code.

In this day and age, it doesn’t take much to reproduce the internals of the Tower. [Mighty Studios] pulled it off with a Feather S2, a 320 x 420 TFT LCD screen, a speaker, and a couple of momentary buttons. The screen can show all the pictures, (which were only displayed one at a time in the original game anyway), any necessary numbers, and all the requisite menu options.

[Mighty Studios] got mighty lucky when it came to the case, as [Stinkevil] had already created a dice tower version and put it on Thingiverse. After a bit of tweaking and some hole-punching, [Mighty Studios] had a mini tower scaled to the Feather S2 with just enough room to stuff in all the components and wires. Between a PDF of the original rule book and someone’s Java version of the game, [Mighty Studios] had plenty to use as a guide for programming in the rule set before mailing it off to their friend. We have to admit, we’re pretty jealous.

Don’t want to amass an army and conquer evil forces? There are all types of board games you could emulate with a microcontroller.

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This DIY UPDI Programmer Is Nice And Cheap

[Daumemo] likes experimenting with DIY electronics, and like many people, eventually ran across an AVR microcontroller with a Unified Program and Debug Interface (UPDI). One option is of course to purchase an UPDI programmer, but an even better solution was to make a DIY USB version from nice, cheap parts.

Programming an Attiny404 over the UPDI interface.

UPDI is an interface for external programming and on-chip debugging of microcontrollers, and [Daumemo]’s solution is based on the jtag2updi project. It combines an Arduino Nano (in this case, a clone) with a single resistor, a single capacitor, and a six pin angled header (with a cleverly bent pin) to enable programming UPDI devices over a USB connection. [Daumemo] is happy to report that the device works just fine in both Microchip Studio with AVRDUDE, or PlatformIO.

Is an Arduino Nano a bit overpowered in this role? Maybe, but the price is certainly right. There’s no need for a custom PCB either, since everything can be soldered direct to the Nano board. A matching 3D printed enclosure is about all that’s needed to make a robust and reliable DIY USB UPDI programmer out of a handful of parts, and that sounds good to us.

On the other hand, if you do find yourself making custom PCBs, you may be interested in another of [Daumemo]’s DIY projects: a printable structure to turn a rotary tool into a PCB drill press.