A man sits in front of a wooden table. There is a black box with a number of knobs hand-labeled on blue painter's tape. A white breadboard with a number of wires protruding from it is visible on the box's left side. An oscilliscope is behind the black box and has a yellow waveform displaying on its screen.

A More Expressive Synth Via Flexure

Synthesizers can make some great music, but sometimes they feel a bit robotic in comparison to their analog counterparts. [Sound Werkshop] built a “minimum viable” expressive synth to overcome this challenge. (YouTube)

Dubbed “The Wiggler,” [Sound Werkshop]’s expressive synth centers on the idea of using a flexure as a means to control vibrato and volume. Side-to-side and vertical movement of the flexure is detected with a pair of linear hall effect sensors that feed into the Daisy Seed microcontroller to modify the patch.

The build itself is a large 3D printed base with room for the flexure and a couple of breadboards for prototyping the circuits. The keys are capacitive touch pads, and everything is currently held in place with hot glue. [Sound Werkshop] goes into detail in the video (below the break) on what the various knobs and switches do with an emphasis on how it was designed for ease of use.

If you want to learn more about flexures, be sure to checkout this Open Source Flexure Construction Kit.

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Arc Overhangs In PrusaSlicer Are A Simple Script Away

Interested in the new hotness of printing previously-impossible overhangs? You can now integrate Arc Overhangs into PrusaSlicer and give it a shot for yourself. Arc overhangs is a method of laying filament into a pattern of blossoming concentric rings instead of stringing filament bridges over empty space (or over supports).

These arcs are remarkably stable, and result in the ability to print overhangs that need to be seen to be believed. We covered this clever technique in the past and there are now two ways for the curious hacker to try it out with a minimum of hassle: either run the Python script on a G-code file via the command line, or integrate the functionality into PrusaSlicer directly by adding it as an automatic post-processing script. The project’s GitHub repository has directions for both methods.

Here’s how it works: the script looks for layers with a “bridge infill” tag (which PrusaSlicer helpfully creates) and replaces that G-code with that for arc overhangs. It is still a work in progress, so keep a few things in mind for best results. Arc overhangs generally work best when the extruded plastic cools as fast as possible. So it is recommended to extrude at the lowest reliable temperature, slowly, and with maximum cooling. It’s not fast, but it’s said to be faster than wrestling with supports and their removal.

A few things could use improvement. Currently the biggest issue is warping of the arc overhangs when new layers get printed on top of them. Do you have a solution or suggestion? Don’t keep it to yourself; discuss in the comments, or consider getting involved in the project.

Trying (and Failing) To Restore A 1970s CDC 10MB Hard Drive

One fun aspect of 1970s-era hard disk drives is that they are big, clunky and are fairly easy to repair without the need for a clean room. A less fun aspect is that they are 1970s-era HDDs and thus old and often broken. While repairing a CDC 10 MB HDD for the upcoming VCF East event, the folks over at [Usagi Electric], this led to quite a few struggles, even after a replacement 14″ platter was found to replace the crashed platter with.

These CDC HDDs are referred to as Hawk drives, and they make the associated 8-bit Centurion  TTL logic-based computers so much faster and easier to work with (for a 1970s system, of course). Despite the large size of the components involved and the simple, all through-hole nature of the PCBs, issues that cropped up ranged from corroded DIP switches, to head alignment sensors, a defective analog board and ultimately a reported bad read-write head.

Frustratingly, even after getting the platters to spin up and everything moving as intended, it would seem that the remaining problem is that of possibly bad read-write heads, as in plural. Whether it’s due to age, previous head crashes onto platters, or something else, assembling a working Hawk drive turned out to be somewhat more complicated than hoped.

We definitely hope that the bunnies can get a working Hawk together, as working 1970s HDDs like these are become pretty rare.

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Cat Feeder Depends On RFID To Keep The Peace At Dinnertime

Anyone with more than one cat can tell you that the joy mischief they bring into your life is much more than twice that of a single cat. And if those felines have different dietary needs, you can end up where [Benjamin Krejci] found himself, which resulted in this fancy RFID cat feeder.

For a little backstory, [Ben]’s furry friends [Luna] and [Fermi] have vastly different eating styles, with the former being a grazer and the latter more of a “disordered eater,” to put it politely. [Fermi] tends to eat until she vomits, which is fun, and muscles her pickier sister away from the bowl if there’s anything left in it. [Ben]’s idea was to leverage [Luna]’s existing RFID chip, which he figured would be a breeze. But the vet-inserted chip is designed to be read by a high-power reader directly in contact with the cat’s skin, which made reliably reading the chip a challenge.

Several round of design iteration resulted in the current configuration, with a large antenna coil poised above and behind the food dispenser. [Luna] has no choice but to put the back of her neck and shoulder blades almost directly in contact with the coil, which makes it easier to read the 134.2-kHz chip with a long-distance RFID module. If [Luna]’s chip is found, the lid on the food bowl opens gently and quietly, so as not to spook the mild-mannered cat. The lid stays open as long as [Luna] is in place thanks to some IR sensors, but as soon as she backs out, the lid comes down to keep [Fermi] from gorging herself.

Hats off to [Ben] for working through the problem and coming up with what looks like a fine solution. We suppose he could have tried something easier like weighing the two cats to distinguish between them, but this seems like a cleaner solution to us.

When One Cylinder Isn’t Enough: The Briggs And Stratton V8

The Briggs & Stratton single cylinder sidevalve engine is one that has been in production in one form or another for over a century, and which remains one of the simplest, most reliable, and easiest to maintain internal combustion engines there is. The little single-cylinder can be found on lawnmowers and other similar machinery everywhere, so it’s rather easy to find yourself in possession of more than one. [Lyckebo Mekaniska] evidently had no shortage of them, because he’s produced a V8 engine for a small lawn tractor using eight of them. A small air-cooled V8 sidevalve is something of a unique engine to be made in the 2020s, and the series of videos is definitely worth a watch from start to finish. We’ve been keeping an eye on this build for a while now, and we’ve embedded it below the break for your entertainment.

A CAD view of the V8 engine
Clearly a lot of CAD work has gone into this build.

For an engine which uses mass-produced engines for its construction, this one still relies heavily on parts machined from first principles. The cylinder blocks, valves, pistons, and crank rods are Briggs & Stratton, the rest is made in the workshop. It’s a design with the valves on the outside — so instead of the single camshaft you might expect from experience with OHV engines nestling in the V above the camshaft it has two camshafts at the bottom of the crankcase.

The crankcase is cast in sections first, followed by the machining of the crankshaft and camshafts, then the preparation of the cylinders.. The engine is assembled with a home made alternator on its flywheel and a conventional distributor from a donor vehicle. The lubrication system is another work of the machinist’s art, and the simple straight-through exhaust system is more at home on a drag racer than a lawnmower. Finally we see it running, and it sounds the business. Most recently he’s had to deal with a seizure and a replacement cylinder, but now it’s back together and he’s working on an improved cooling system.

All in all this is one heck of a build, and we wish we had some of those skills. We’re not sure whether he’ll mow the lawn with this thing, but one thing’s for sure, lawnmower hacking has quite a past.

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Supercon 2022: Selling Your Company And Not Your Soul

Haddington Dynamics is a particular company. After winning the 2018 Hackaday Prize with an open-source robotic arm, we’ve covered their micro-factories and suction cup end-effectors for making face shields during 2020. They’ve been laser-focused on their mission of creating a fantastic robot arm at a small price tag with open-source software and design. So how does a company with such a hacker ethos get bought by a much larger company, and why? They came to SuperCon 2022 to share their story in a panel discussion.

Haddington Dynamics started with two clever inventions: optical encoders that used analog values instead of digital values and an FPGA that allowed them to poll those encoders and respond rapidly. This allowed them to use cheaper motors and rely on the incredibly sensitive encoders to position them. After the Hackaday prize, they open-sourced the HD version of the robot and released the HDI version. But in 2020, they were bought by a group called Ocado. As to why the somewhat practical but not exciting answer is that they needed money. Employees needed to be paid, and they needed capital to keep the doors open.

So this leads to the next tricky question, how do you sell your company without changing it? The fine folks at Haddington Dynamics point out in their panel discussion that a company is a collection of people. The soul of that company is the collective soul of those people coming together. A company being bought can be akin to stopping working for yourself and going to work for someone else. Working alone, you have values and principles that you can easily stick to. But once you start working for someone else, they will value different things, and while the people that make up the company might not change, the company’s decisions might become unrecognizable.

As the panel points out, looking for a buyer with the same values is critical. Ocado was a great fit as their economic interests and culture matched Haddington’s. However, it’s not all roses, as Ocadao tends to be a very closed-source group. However, Haddington Dynamics still supports its open-source initiatives. It’s a fascinating look into a company’s life cycle and how they navigate the waters of open-source, funding, acquisitions, innovation, and invention. Despite the fairytale-like nature of inventing a revolutionary robot arm in your garage and winning many awards, it turns out there is quite a lot that happens after the happily ever after.

We look forward to seeing more of Haddington Dynamics and where they go next. Video after the break.

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A series of five cymbals sitting on white and black speckled carpet in front of a green loveseat. Each cymbal is assembled from four printed sections. Their colors from left to right are yellow and grey, red and black, black, teal and black, and white and black. A sixth, grey and black cymbal is sitting in the middle of the loveseat cushion.

Challenging The Limits Of 3D Printing With Cymbals

We’re big believers in 3D printing here at Hackaday, but it’s important to recognize that there are plenty of applications where additive manufacturing (at least, from a desktop machine) just isn’t suitable. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to see what happens if you try. For example, [The Drum Thing] wanted to test the limits of 3D printing by printing a set of cymbals.

[The Drum Thing] had a friend design a cymbal in CAD and then the printed quarters were glued together. In the name of science, they produced them in six different materials to compare performance. Each cymbal was played for a short period or until it failed, including some very interesting slow motion camera work showing the vibrations traveling through the cymbals.

As one might expect, bashing “wafer thin” pieces of printed plastic with a wooden drumstick didn’t work out well for most of the cymbals, although the TPU, carbon fiber, and nylon cymbals were did largely survive their time in the limelight. The other cymbals all failed, either shattering, cracking, or failing at the glue joints. Based on the video, it seems the same glue was used for all of the cymbals, so making sure to have a better match between material and adhesive could help with the glue failures.

Maybe future testing can involve playing these cymbals with a quadrotor?

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