Running A Modern Graphics Card In A 33 MHz PCI Slot

If you ever looked at a PCI to PCIe x16 adapter and wondered what’d happen if you were to stick a modern PCIe GPU in it, the answer apparently is ‘it works’ according to an attempt by [Circuit Rewind]. As long as you accept needing to supply external power with even a low-end GT 1030 card – as the PCI slot cannot provide enough power – and being limited to a single PCIe lane. This latter point isn’t so much of an issue as a single PCIe lane offers more bandwidth than the (shared) PCI bus anyway.

Despite the somewhat improvised setup, the GT 1030 card provided a decent 1080p experience in a range of games, after removing half of the 8 GB of system RAM before the configuration would work, probably due to VRAM mapping issues. Since the mainboard used also offered PCIe, the same card was run in a PCIe x4 slot, as well as in an x1 configuration, both with noticeably higher performance and putting the ‘why’ in ‘try’.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a RTX 3080 also booted fine with external power and only 4 GB system RAM installed. Despite the PCIe x1 link, the system was able to finish a 3D benchmark and play Doom 2016, but with only 4 GB of system RAM and an old Athlon quad-core CPU, it was a terrible experience. Perhaps the most fascinating lesson to learn from this is that PCI and PCIe are amazingly compatible with only a simple translation bridge, even if high-performance graphics aren’t quite what PCI was meant for. After all, that’s why we got cursed with AGP for many years.

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This Month’s World’s Largest Wind Turbine Goes Operational

A new wind turbine installed in the Taiwan Strait went online last week, as part of the Fujian offshore wind farm project by the China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG). The system is the MySE 16-260, designed by the Ming Yang Wind Power Group, one of the leading manufacturers of wind turbines in the world. The numbers are staggering, the 16MW generator is projected to provide 66 GWh (gigawatt-hours) to the power grid annually. And this is a hefty installation, with a 260 m rotor diameter ( three each 123 m blades ) sitting atop a 152 m tower. The location is both a blessing and a curse, being an area of the Pacific that experiences Beaufort level 7 winds ( near gale, whole trees in motion ) for more than 200 days per year. Understandably, the tower and support structures are beefy, designed to survive sustained winds of 287 km/h.

This 16 MW installation surpasses the previous record holder, announced this January — the Vestas V236-15.0MW turbine with 115.5 m blades, located in Denmark’s Østerild Wind Turbine Test Center. But wait … Ming Yang also announced in January their new 18 MW turbine with 140 m long blades.

We imagine that there will eventually be a natural plateau, where the cost of the next humongous installation approaches or exceeds that of multiple smaller ones. Or will these multi-megawatt turbine systems just keep leapfrogging each other, year after year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

3D-Printed RC Skid Steer Is Cute Construction Machinery Done Right

Skid steers are great fun if you get to drive one on a construction site. [ProfessorBoots] has long been a fan of the diminutive diggers, and decided to make a 3D-printed version for his own pleasure.

The build uses a chassis printed in several colors which adequately recreates the charms of a full-sized skid steer. The brains of the operation is an ESP32, which receives commands over WiFi for remote control. A pair of geared N20 brushed motors are driven from a small H-bridge controller, each one driving one side of the skid steer. A toothed belt was 3D printed to allow each motor to drive two wheels on one side. Meanwhile, a pair of servos are charged with both lifting and tilting the bucket. Yes, you heard correctly – you can actually pick up and carry objects around your desk with this thing.

It’s a neat build and could be your introduction into the world of RC construction machines. Video after the break.

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Workshop Dust Manifold Spreads The Suction Around

Let’s say you’re doing lots of woodwork now, and you’ve expanded your workshop with a few big tools. You’re probably noticing the sawdust piling up awfully quick. It would be ideal to have some kind of collection system, but you don’t want to buy a shop vac for every tool. This simple manifold from [Well Done Tips] is the perfect solution for you.

It’s a basic rig at heart, but nonetheless a useful one. It consists of a plywood frame with a shuttle that slides back and forth. The suction hose of your shop vac attaches to the shuttle. Meanwhile, the frame has a series of pipes leading to the dust extraction ports of your various tools around the shop. When you power up a tool, simply slide the manifold to the right position, and you’re good to go. Magnets will hold it in place so it doesn’t get jostled around while you work.

It’s a much cheaper solution than buying a huge dust extraction system that can draw from all your tools at once. If you’re just one person, that’s overkill anyway. This solution is just about sized perfectly for small home operators. Give it a go if you’re tired of sweeping up the mess and coughing your lungs out on the regular. Video after the break.

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A wooden spin coating machine sitting on a desk

Hackaday Prize 2023: Homebrew Spin Coater Makes Micrometer-Thin Layers

One of the great things about the Gearing Up challenge of the 2023 Hackaday Prize is that it lets you discover tools that you don’t encounter every day. We had never given much thought to spin coaters, for example, until we saw [Jeroen Delcour]’s neat homebrew example. As it turns out, spin coating has lots of applications in fields like optics, semiconductor manufacturing or even art projects, where a thin, even layer of a material is required on top of a flat substrate.

The basic idea behind a spin coater is simple: you dispense a few drops of a solution containing the material to be deposited on top of the thing you want to coat, then spin the thing around at a constant speed. The balance between the centripetal force and the liquid’s surface tension ensures that the liquid turns into a film with a consistent thickness all across the substrate. The solvent evaporates, and you’re left with a nice solid layer just a few microns thick.

[Jeroen] built his spin coater out of a brushless DC drone motor, a programmable motor controller, and an ESP32. A rotary pushbutton and an OLED form the user interface, allowing the user to select the speed and spin times. The electronics are all mounted inside a laser-cut wooden enclosure, with the motor sticking out the top, surrounded by a 3D-printed splash guard.

Professional spin coating equipment typically comes with a vacuum chuck to hold the sample in place, but [Jeroen] wasn’t too excited about implementing vacuum systems on a spinning platform and decided instead to simply clamp down the sample using screws in a laser-cut piece of acrylic. This works well enough, and is easy to customize for different sample sizes.

In the video embedded below, [Jeroen] experiments with applying a layer of silicone rubber onto a PCB. Spin coating is an essential step when you’re making your own semiconductor devices such as solar cells, though you might also need more complicated equipment such as an electron microscope. [Jeroen]’s spin coater is at least able to process much larger objects than one we saw earlier.

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Adding Two Axes Makes CNC Router More Than The Sum Of Its Parts

The problem with building automated systems is that it’s hard to look at any problem and not see it in terms of possible automation solutions. Come to think of it, that’s probably less of a bug and more of a feature, but it’s easy to go overboard and automate all the things, which quickly becomes counterproductive in terms of time and money.

If you’re clever, though, a tactical automation solution can increase your process efficiency without breaking the budget. That’s where [Christopher Helmke] seems to have landed with this two-axis add-on fixture for his CNC router. The rig is designed to solve the problem of the manual modification needed to turn off-the-shelf plastic crates into enclosures for his line of modular automation components, aspects of which we’ve featured before. The crates need holes drilled in them and cutouts created in their sides for displays and controls. It’s a job [Christopher] tackled before with a drill and a jigsaw, with predictable results.

To automate the job without going overboard, [Christopher] came up with a tilting turntable that fits under the bed of the CNC router and sticks through a hole in the spoil board. The turntable is a large, 3D printed herringbone gear driven by a stepper and pinion gear. A cheap bearing keeps costs down, while a quartet of planetary gears constrain the otherwise wobbly platform. The turntable also swivels 90 degrees on a herringbone sector gear; together, the setup adds pitch and roll axes to the machine that allow the spindle access to all five sides of the crates.

Was it worth the effort? Judging by the results in the video below, we’d say so, especially given the number of workpieces that [Christopher] has to process. Add in the budget-conscious construction that doesn’t sacrifice precision too much, and this one seems like a real automation win.

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ChatGPT, The Worst Summer Intern Ever

Back when I used to work in the pharma industry, I had the opportunity to hire summer interns. This was a long time ago, long enough that the fresh-faced college students who applied for the gig are probably now creeping up to retirement age. The idea, as I understood it, was to get someone to help me with my project, which at the time was standing up a distributed data capture system with a large number of nodes all running custom software that I wrote, reporting back to a central server running more of my code. It was more work than I could manage on my own, so management thought they’d take mercy on me and get me some help.

The experience didn’t turn out quite like I expected. The interns were both great kids, very smart, and I learned a lot from them. But two months is a very tight timeframe, and getting them up to speed took up most of that time. Add in the fact that they were expected to do a presentation on their specific project at the end of the summer, and the whole thing ended up being a lot more work for me than if I had just done the whole project myself.

I thought about my brief experience with interns recently with a project I needed a little help on. It’s nothing that hiring anyone would make sense to do, but still, having someone to outsource specific jobs to would be a blessing, especially now that it’s summer and there’s so much else to do. But this is the future, and the expertise and the combined wisdom of the Internet are but a few keystrokes away, right? Well, maybe, but as you’ll see, even the power of large language models has its limit, and trying to loop ChatGPT in as a low-effort summer intern leaves a lot to be desired.

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