Flexure PCB Actuators Made Before Your Very Eyes

When we see something from [Carl Bugeja], we expect to see flexible PCBs and magnets being pushed to do unexpected things. His latest video in which he designs a set of PCB actuators using flexure joints certainly doesn’t fail to please.

His intent is to create a simple actuator in which a magnet is placed over a coil, and moves upward within the confines of he flexure which surrounds it. And rather than try individual designs one after the other he’s created a huge all-in-one test array of different flexure actuators, each having a slightly different design and construction to whichever one is next to it. There are plenty of magnet flips as he tests them, and using this approach he’s quickly able to eliminate the designs which work less well.

To give an idea how these actuators might be best used, he tried them in a few applications. Their lifting force is relatively tiny, but he found them possibly suitable for a haptic feedback device. Of particular interest is that as the structure is a PCB it’s relatively straightforward to run a line to the magnet and turn it into a touch sensor. The idea of an all in one sensor and haptic feedback component is rather appealing, we think.

If you’ve not seen Carl’s work before, we’ve encountered him many times over the years.

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Supremely-tough Glass Performs Under Pressure

There’s some nifty research from the University of Bayreuth, together with partners in China and the U.S., on creating supremely tough aluminosilicate glass that boasts an unusual structure. The image above represents regular glass structure on the left, and the paracrystalline structure on the right.

Aluminosilicate, which contains silicon, aluminum, boron and oxygen, is a type of oxide glass. Oxide glasses are a group to which borosilicate and other common glasses belong. Structurally speaking, these glasses all have a relatively disordered internal structure. They’re known for their clarity, but not especially their durability. Continue reading “Supremely-tough Glass Performs Under Pressure”

Squid-Con Brings Joy To All

While we’re always happy to see accessibility aids come into fruition, most of them focus on daily tasks, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But what about having some fun? That’s the idea behind [Akaki Kuumeri]’s accessibly-awesome Joy-Con controller, the Squid-Con, which provides access to every button with just one hand. It even has tripod and AMPS mounts.

The joysticks themselves are controlled with the thumb and pinky, although some of [Akaki]’s beta testers changed it up a bit. That’s okay, because it’s designed to be comfortable in a variety of positions for either hand. As for the ABXY buttons, those are actuated using 3D-printed arms that connect to a central piece which [Akaki] calls the turbine.

But perhaps the coolest part of this project is the flexures that actuate the shoulder buttons (L, R, zL, and zR) on the controllers. It’s a series of four arms that are actuated by bringing the fingers back toward the palm. If all of this sounds confusing, just check out the video after the break.

We love flexures around here, and we’ve seen them in everything from cat feeding calendars to 6-DOF positioners to completely new kinds of joysticks.

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Hackaday Prize 2023: Ubo Project: Building For Builders

The Ubo Pod by [Mehrdad Majzoobi] is a very highly polished extension pack and enclosure for the Raspberry Pi 4, which shows you how far you can go to turn a bare PCB into something that rivals the hardware offerings from Google and others. Gadgets like the Sonos speakers and Amazon or Google’s covert listening devices (aka Echo, Alexa, or whatever they’re branded as) are fun to play with. Still, the difficulty of hacking custom applications into them and god-forbid adding one’s own extension hardware, makes them fairly closed ecosystems. Add in the concerns of privacy and data security; they look less and less attractive the closer you look. Luckily the Raspberry Pi and its friends have improved the accessibility to the point where it’s positively easy to create whatever you want with whatever hardware you need, and to that end we think [Mehrdad] has done a splendid job.

The custom top PCB sits below the wooden top surface, hosting a central LCD display with push buttons located around it. Also sitting atop are some IR transmitters and receivers as well as RGB LEDs for the ring lighting. This top PCB acts as a RPi hat, and plugs into an RPi4 below, which then attaches to a side board via some PCB-mounted connectors, matching up with the USB and audio connectors. This board seems to act purely as an interconnect and form-factor adaptor allowing interfaces to be presented more conveniently without needing wires. This makes for a very clean construction. Extensive use of resin printing is shown, with lots of nice details of how to solve problems such as LED diffusion and bleeding. Overall, a very slick and well-executed project, that is giving us a few ideas for our own projects.

This type of project is commonplace on these fair pages, like this DIY smart speaker for example. With the supply of pi being still a little difficult to deal with, could you roll your own or get an alternative? What about just using your old mobile phone?

Impossible WiFi On An Ancient Mac Portable

The Macintosh Portable was possibly one of the coolest computing devices to be seen with back at the end of the 1980s, providing as it did a Mac in a slightly nicer version of the hefty luggable portables of the day than the PC world could offer. Inside was a mere 68000, but it ran Mac OS system 6 and looked light years ahead of any comparable PC in doing so.

Back in 1989 it wasn’t even the norm for a computer to have built-in Ethernet, and WiFi was still a gleam in the eye of some Dutch engineers, so how has [Joshua Stein] managed to get his Mac Portable on a wireless network here in 2023? The answer contains a few surprises.

When seeing a WiFi upgrade for a classic retrocomputer the usual expectation is that it’s done by emulating a modem connection to the Internet over a serial port. But this wireless network card is a bit different, it’s a real network card capable of being used for much more than just connecting to the Internet.

We have to admit to not knowing that there were SCSI Ethernet interfaces back in the day, and it’s one of these that he’s created. He’s building on a decade’s work in producing disk emulators for the SCSI bus, and he’s taken the code for a Raspberry Pi Pico version and adapted the SCSI driver part to interface with the onboard WiFi on a Pico W. Altogether it’s a beautiful piece of work, and you can color us impressed.

Making Electricity At The South Pole

In case you’ve ever wondered how the South Pole research stations are powered, then a recent blog post, South Pole Electrical Infrastructure by anonymous IT engineer [brr] is for you. Among the many issues covered, let’s look at how the electricity is made and, spoiler alert, how the specially formulated AN8 fuel blend is transported to the generators.

The main source of power is a trio of Caterpillar 3512B diesel generator sets, de-rated to 750 kW each due to the high altitude and the special fuel mixture. Unsurprisingly, all the fuel must be imported to Antarctica, a horribly inefficient endeavor. Fuel arrives initially at McMurdo Station harbor by tanker ship. From there, it can be sent to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in one of two ways. The Lockheed LC-130 is a modified C-130 Hercules cargo plane developed in the 1950s specifically to support polar operations. It is the least efficient method, consuming 1.33 kg to transport 1 kg of fuel. Alternatively, fuel can be dragged by tractors via the South Pole Overland Traverse (SPoT), a 1600 km highway over compacted snow and ice. The trek takes about 40 days and only consumes 0.56 kg of fuel for every 1 kg, which is much better than air.

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Smart Garbage Trucks Help With Street Maintenance

If you’ve ever had trouble with a footpath, bus stop, or other piece of urban infrastructure, you probably know the hassles of dealing with a local council. It can be incredibly difficult just to track down the right avenue to report issues, let alone get them sorted in a timely fashion.

In the suburban streets of one Australian city, though, that’s changing somewhat. New smart garbage trucks are becoming instruments of infrastructure surveillance, serving a dual purpose that could reshape urban management. Naturally, though, this new technology raises issues around ethics and privacy.

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