Input Device Gets New Input Device

One of the nicest things about a trackpoint is that you don’t have to take your hands off the keyboard. One of the worst things about a trackpoint is its usual placement, which can force a weird hand position that can cause repetitive stress injury.

[notshitashi] has done an incredible job of adding a trackpoint to the Glove80 wireless split keyboard. It must have been really scary to drill holes in the palm rests of such a nice and not-cheap keyboard, but [notshitashi] soldiered on nonetheless, and the end result looks great.

Starting with a trackpoint module from Ali, [notshitashi] found that it didn’t fit the palm rest without being trimmed down, so they desoldered the business part from the main PCB and reattached it with wires. They had to go through a few of them to get it just right, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.

[notshitashi] calls this “a bit of a cheat and dirty hack” because the trackpoint module is wired and, therefore, a separate USB HID. Yes, the Glove80 has GPIO connectors in both halves, but the problem is that stock ZMK has yet to support pointing devices. We don’t care; this is quite the elegant hack anyway.

Want to jazz up your mechanical keyboard with a trackpoint? Here’s a handy guide. Or, you can perform a transplant.

Hackaday Prize 2023: A 3D Printed Vertical Wind Turbine

We feature a lot of off-grid power projects here at Hackaday, whether they’re a micropower harvester or something to power a whole house. Somewhere in the middle lies [esposcar90]’s 3D-printed vertical wind turbine, which it is claimed can deliver 100 watts from its diminutive tabletop package.

It’s designed to be part of a package with another turbine but makes a very acceptable stand-alone generator. The arms have large scoop-like 3D-printed vanes and drive a vertical shaft up the centre of the machine. This drives a set of satellite gears connected to a pair of DC permanent magnet motors, which do the work of generating. For different wind situations, there are even some differing STL gear choices to speed up the motors. The motors are 12V devices, so we’re guessing the output voltage will be in that ballpark. However, it’s not made entirely clear in the write-up.

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A modern recreation of von Guericke's electrostatic generator

Electrostatic Generator Project Starts With Molten Sulfur

Although the basic concept of electrostatic attraction has been known since ancient times, it was only in the 17th century that scientists began to systematically investigate electrostatics. One of the first to explore this new field was Otto von Guericke, who constructed an electrostatic generator to help with his experiments. [Markus Bindhammer] has reconstructed this machine, which formed the basis for later work by the likes of Wimshurst and Van de Graaff. [Markus] kept his machine in an almost period-correct fashion.

Von Guericke’s machine consists of a sulfur ball mounted on a spindle that allows it to be rotated and rubbed against a piece of cloth. By doing so, the ball gains a charge that can be used to attract small pieces of material. [Markus] built a neat wooden frame with faux-antique carved legs and installed a handle, a spindle, and a belt-drive system to rotate whatever’s mounted on the spindle at high speed.

A round-bottom flask containing sulfur being heated in an oil bathAll of this is beautifully documented in [Markus]’s video, but by far the most interesting part of his project is the process of manufacturing the sulfur ball. If you’ve always wanted one, here’s how to make one: first, melt some pieces of pure sulfur in a round-bottom flask using an oil bath. Then, turn on your vacuum pump to remove any air or water vapor trapped inside the liquid. Once the liquid is nice and clear, let it cool down and solidify very slowly; the sulfur ball can then be released from its container by breaking the glass with a hammer.

While it sounds simple, we can imagine it took a bit of experimenting to get all those steps just right. The end result is a simple but useful machine to demonstrate basic electrostatics, which [Markus] is planning to use in science lectures. There are lots of interesting experiments you can do with static electricity, including building a basic motor.

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Reviving An Old Lime-E Beta Rideshare E-Bicycle

What do you do when you come across a cheap electric bicycle on Facebook Marketplace from a seller who has a few hundred of the same ones available? If you’re someone like [Max Helmetag], you figure that it’s probably legit since nobody would be reselling hundreds of Lime ridesharing e-bikes. Thus, it makes for an excellent project to see how usable an old ridesharing bicycle is. According to the information on the e-bike’s frame, it was manufactured in 2017, and based on the plastic still covering parts of the bike, it had barely been used, if at all.

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High Temp Resin Means Faster Hot Foil Stamping

[This Designed That] does a lot of hot foil stamping. That’s the shiny embellishment you’ll see on wedding invitations and your fancier letterheads. They wanted a way to quickly see if the process is right for a given design, and how it might come together if so. Many of the designs involve letter forms, which they have tried milling out of brass in the past, but the process is fiddly and takes a while. Seeking a faster way to test designs, [This Designed That] turned to 3D printing.

They achieved good results with an Elegoo Mars Pro, but the the most important thing here is the resin needs to withstand at least 130 C, which is the max that [This Deigned That] usually runs it at. The answer was in Phrozen TR300 resin, which can handle temps up to 160 C.

In trials, the stamp heat measured roughly 30 C lower on average than the press, so [This Designed That] kept turning up the heat, but it just wasn’t conductive enough. So they started experimenting with ways to increase heat transfer. First they tried molding metal powder, but it didn’t work. After briefly flirting with electroplating them, [This Designed That] finally tried some aluminum tape, wrapped tight and burnished to the design.

Now the hot foil machine stamps perfectly at only 120 C — the lower end of the standard temperature that [This Designed That] typically runs the thing. They are chuffed at the results, and frankly, so are we. Be sure to check out the process video after the break.

Curious about hot foil stamping machines? Check out this retrofit job.

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Confluence Of Nerdery

You might find yourself, dear Hackaday reader, attracted to some pretty strange corners of the tech world. Who knows when that knowledge of stenography, ancient retrocomputing, and floppy disk internals will all combine to get someone falsely accused out of jail? Go read this story and come on back, but the short version is that [Bloop Museum] helped recover some 40+ year old court evidence off of some floppies to right an old wrong.

If you looked at the combination of extremely geeky topics, you’d say it’s unlikely to find anyone well versed in any one of them, and you’d say that the chances of anyone knowing enough in each these fringe domains to be helpful is exceedingly low. But I’m absolutely sure that the folks at [Bloop Museum] had some more to throw into the mix if they were called for. Or better yet, they might know exactly the right geeks to call in.

And that’s the other heartwarming part of the story. When [Bloop Museum] didn’t know everything about old stenography formats, they knew the right people to reach out to – the Plover open stenography project. Who is going to know more? Nobody! Together, the nerd community is an unstoppable resource.

So remember, when you’re hanging out with your geek friends, to keep a running catalog of everyone’s interests. Because you never know when you’re going to need an expert in re-gilding frames, or relocating bee hives, or restoring 1930’s radio sets. Or decoding obscure data formats to get someone out of jail.

Hackaday Halloween

We’re running the 2023 Halloween Hackfest and it’s your chance to document your Halloween projects, and win fame, fortune, or at least one of three $150 DigiKey gift certificates, plus some Arduino schwag courtesy of the contest’s sponsors! You’ve got until the end of October, so get on it!

Exploring Ground-Effect With A Quadcopter

The ground-effect (GE) refers to the almost mystical property where the interaction of the airflow around an aircraft’s wing and the ground massively increases efficiency due to the reduction of lift-dependent drag, perhaps best demonstrated by the Soviet Lun-class “ekranoplans” of the 1980s and 90s. Interestingly, this principle also applies to rotary aircraft, which led the [rctestflight] YouTube channel to wonder what would happen if a quadcopter were to be adapted for GE.

As noted on the Wikipedia entry for Ground-effect vehicle (GEV), it’s essential to have some kind of forward motion. With a rotorcraft like a helicopter or quadcopter this motion is already provided by the spinning propeller, which makes it noticeably easier to get the aircraft into the ground-effect. operating mode. Following the notion that the GE becomes noticeable at an altitude that’s dependent on the length of the aircraft’s wings, this got translated into putting the largest propellers available on the custom inverted-prop (to put them lower to the ground) quadcopter, to see what effect this would have on the quadcopter’s performance. As demonstrated by the recorded current drawn (each time with a fully charged battery), bigger is indeed better, and the GE effect is indeed very noticeable for a quadcopter.

Getting a usable GEV out of the basic inverted-prop quadcopter required some more lateral thinking, however, as it was not very easy to control this low to the ground. Here following design cues from skirtless hovercraft designs helped a lot, essentially drawing on the Coandă effect. Although this improved performance, at this point the quadcopter had been fitted with a fifth propeller for propulsion and was skidding about more like a skirtless hovercraft and less of a quadcopter.

Although great for scaring the living daylights out of unsuspecting water-based wildlife, what this unfortunately demonstrates is that GEVs are still hard, no matter which form they take. At the very least it does make for an excellent introduction into various aspects of aerodynamics.

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