When working with grain-of-dust surface-mount components, one of the tools which makes a huge difference is a vacuum pickup pen. Instead of trying to move the part with tweezers and succeeding only in flicking it into the middle distance, a tiny rubber suction cup with a vacuum feed allows you to pick it up and place it exactly where it is required. Unfortunately, good vacuum pickup tools come at a price, and very cheap ones aren’t worth the expenditure.
This is where [TDG (Béla)]’s SMD vacuum pickup tool comes in. The problem with the cheap tools is only that their manual vacuum is ineffectual, they come with the required array of probes with the suction cups. The solution is to take a small vacuum pump with a low voltage motor and attach it with a 3D printed adapter to the business end of a cheap vacuum tool and make a useful tool the result.
There’s a short video of the tool in action that we’ve placed below the break. It’s a bit noisy, but it’s obvious that it performs well. Control is via an air hole in the side of the 3D print, place a finger over it and the full suction is directed to the tip. The result is simpler and cheaper than previous contenders in the budget vacuum pickup stakes.
We always love when people take the trouble to show information in new, creative ways — after all, there’s a reason that r/dataisbeautiful exists. But we were particularly taken by this version of the periodic table of the elements, distorted to represent the relative abundance on Earth of the 90 elements that make up almost everything. The table is also color-coded to indicate basically how fast we’re using each element relative to its abundance. The chart also indicates which elements are “conflict resources,” basically stuff people fight over, and which elements go into making smartphones. That last bit we thought was incomplete; we’d have sworn at least some boron would be somewhere in a phone. Still, it’s an interesting way to look at the elements, and reminds us of another way to enumerate the elements.
It’s wildfire season in the western part of North America again, and while this year hasn’t been anywhere near as bad as last year — so far — there’s still a lot of activity in our neck of the woods. And wouldn’t you know it, some people seem to feel like a wildfire is a perfect time to put up a drone. It hardly seems necessary to say that this is A Really Bad Idea™, but for some reason, people still keep doing it. Don’t misunderstand — we absolutely get how cool it is to see firefighting aircraft do their thing. The skill these pilots show as they maneuver their planes, which are sometimes as large as passenger jets, within a hundred meters of the treetops is breathtaking. But operating a drone in the same airspace is just stupid. Not only is it likely to get you in trouble with the law, but there’s a fair chance that the people whose property and lives are being saved by these heroic pilots won’t look kindly on your antics.
In the “old” days, people were used to the idea that radio communication isn’t always perfect. AM radio had cracks and pops and if you had to make a call with a radiophone, you expected it to be unreliable and maybe even impossible at a given time. Modern technology, satellites, and a host of other things have changed and now radio is usually super reliable and high-fidelity. Usually. However, a magnitude 7.9 solar flare this week reminded radio users in Africa and the Middle East that radio isn’t always going to get through. At least for about an hour.
It happened at around 10 AM GMT when that part of the world was facing the sun. Apparently, a coronal mass ejection accompanied the flare, so more electromagnetic disruption may be on its way.
The culprit seems to be an unusually active sunspot which is expected to die down soon. Interestingly, there is also a coronal hole in the sun where the solar wind blows at a higher than usual rate. Want to keep abreast of the solar weather? There’s a website for that.
If you have more than one pet, you may know how hard it is to tell how much each furry friend is eating. If you introduce prescription foods, then this minor annoyance can have a major impact on your pet’s health. Facing this dilemma, [tomasdiazwahl] set out to make a pet feeder that feeds his pets exactly what they need when they approach the feeder.
Using the ever-popular Arduino Uno, the feeder is connected to a platform that uses load cells to detect the pet’s weight. The weight data is then used to identify which animal is looking for food. Once the pet is identified, the correct food bowl opens. It seems this prototype only has one food chamber to keep unauthorized pets from eating the special food, but the basic idea should be extensible to two or more chambers. While some existing solutions read the pet’s microchip or NFC collars to determine who’s at the feeder, [tomasdiazwahl] decided against these given the fickleness of trying to reliably get a reader at the correct position relative to the pet. As long as you don’t have multiple pets with the same weight, it should work just fine.
This project has a nice mix of woodworking, 3D printing, and electronics showing what can be accomplished when you aren’t afraid to mix techniques. We also really appreciate that [Tomasdiazwahl] spent the extra time to include a testing procedure and safety mechanism into the project. Designing a device to improve your pet’s health shouldn’t come with a safety risk!
A common trope in bank heist B-movies is someone effortlessly bypassing a safe’s combination lock. Typically, the hero or villain will turn the dial while listening to the internal machinery, then deduce the combination based on sounds made by the lock. In real life, high-quality combination locks are not vulnerable to such simple attacks, but cheap ones can often be bypassed with a minimum of effort. Some are so simple that this process can even be automated, as [Mew463] has shown by building a machine that can open a Master combination lock in less than a minute.
The operating principle is based on research by Samy Kamkar from a couple of years ago. For certain types of Master locks, the combination can be found by applying a small amount of pressure on the shackle and searching for locations on the dial where its movement becomes heavier. A simple algorithm can then be used to completely determine the first and third numbers, and find a list of just eight candidates for the second number.
[Mew463]’s machine automates this process by turning the dial with a stepper motor and pulling on the shackle using a servo and a rack-and-pinion system. A magnetic encoder is mounted on the stepper motor to determine when the motor stalls, while the servo has its internal position encoder brought out as a means of detecting how far the shackle has moved. All of this is controlled by an Arduino Nano mounted on a custom PCB together with a TMC2208 stepper driver.
The machine does its job smoothly and quickly, as you can see in the (silent) video embedded below. All design files are available on the project’s GitHub page, so if you’ve got a drawer full of these locks without combinations, here’s your chance to make them sort-of-useful again. After all, these locks’ vulnerabilities have a long history, and we’ve even seen automated crackers before.
[Trichl] has created a tiny GPS logger, called ‘TickTag’, designed as an inexpensive location tracking option for animal studies. The low cost, tiny form factor, and large power density of the LiPo battery give it the ability to track large populations of small animals, including dogs and bats.
The TickTag is capable of getting 10,000 GPS fixes from its 30 mAh cell. Each unit is equipped with an L70B-M39 GPS module controlled by an Atmel ATtiny1626 microcontroller and sports a tiny AXE610124 10-pin connection header for programming and communication. GPS data is stored on a 128 kB EEPROM chip with each GPS location fix using 25 bits for latitude, 26 bits for longitude, and 29 bits for a timestamp. Add it all up and you get 10 bytes per GPS data point (25+26+29=80), giving the 10k GPS fix upper bound.
To record higher quality data and extend battery life, the TickTag can be programmed to record GPS location data using variable frequency intervals or when geofencing bounds have been crossed.