Metal 3D Printing Gets Really Fast (and Really Ugly)

The secret to cranking out a furniture-sized metal frame in minutes is Liquid Metal Printing (LMP), demonstrated by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They’ve demonstrated printing aluminum frames for tables and chairs, which are perfectly solid and able to withstand post-processing like drilling and milling.

The system heats aluminum in a graphite crucible, and the molten metal is gravity-fed through a ceramic nozzle and deposited into a bed of tiny 100-micron glass beads. The beads act as both print bed and support structure, allowing the metal to cool quickly without really affecting the surface. Molten aluminum is a harsh material to work with, so both the ceramic nozzle material and the glass beads to fill the print bed were selected after a lot of testing.

This printing method is fast and scalable, but sacrifices resolution. Ideally, the team would love to make a system capable of melting down recycled aluminum to print parts with. That would really be something new and interesting when it comes to manufacturing.

The look of the printed metal honestly reminds us a little of CandyFab from [Windell Oskay] and [Lenore Edman] at Evil Mad Scientist, which was a 3D printer before hobbyist 3D printers or kits were really a thing. CandyFab worked differently — it used hot air to melt sugar together one layer at a time — but the end result has a similar sort of look to it. Might not be pretty, but hey, looks aren’t everything.

(Update: see it in action in this video, which is also embedded just below. Thanks [CityZen] for sharing in the comments!)

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A Badge For AI-Free Content – 100% Human!

These days, just about anyone with a pulse can fall on a keyboard and make an AI image generator spurt out some kind of vaguely visual content. A lot of it is crap. Some of it’s confusing. But most of all, creators hate it when their hand-crafted works are compared with these digital extrusions from mathematical slop. Enter the “not by AI” badge.

Screenshot from

Basically, it’s exactly what it sounds like. A sleek, modern badge that you slap on your artwork to tell people that you did this, not an AI. There are pre-baked versions for writers (“written by human”), visual artists (“painted by human”), and musicians (“produced by human”). The idea is that these badges would help people identify human-generated content and steer away from AI content if they’re trying to avoid it.

It’s not just intended to be added to individual artworks. Websites that have “at least 90%” of content created by humans are invited to host the badge, along with apps, too. This directive reveals an immediate flaw—the badge would easily confuse someone if they read the 10% of content by AI on a site wearing the badge. There’s also nothing stopping people from slapping the badge on AI-generated content and simply lying to people.

You might take a more cynical view if you dig deeper, though. The company is charging for various things, such as a monthly fee for businesses that want to display the badges.

We’ve talked about this before when we asked a simple question—how do you convince people your artwork was made by a human? We’re not sure we’ve yet found the answer, but this badge program is at least trying to do something about the issue. Share your human thoughts in the comments below.

Star Wars-Inspired Cosplay Prop Uses Old Vintage Camera

Lots of people make replica lightsabers from Star Wars or tricorders from Star Trek. Not so many people have tried to recreate the binoculars from The Last Jedi, but [The Smugglers Room] whipped up a pretty rad pair from old parts.

It’s more of an inspired build rather than screen-accurate, but they’re still pretty neat. A Bell & Howell camera was the basis for the binoculars used in the film, in fact, and this build starts with the same tri-lens model. Found vintage objects are often used in sci-fi with some modifications, but more commonly in lower-budget productions. Star Wars can do it too, though, it seems.

Turning them into binoculars requires the construction of a viewfinder, which was made out of hand-cut Sintra PVC foam board. Lots of leather wrap had to be removed from the camera, too, which offered a happy accident—it left a heavily-weathered aluminum surface that looked great for a Star Wars prop. A few random controls were then added to disguise the camera as an advanced pair of futuristic binoculars. LED lighting was also installed internally to make the build glow as if it actually contained some powered sci-fi optics. It also got a hand-made leather strap for that rugged aesthetic so fitting for the film.

It’s not a functional build; we’d love to see someone build a set of AR or rangefinder binoculars that still look the part. However, this would be a great addition to any Poe Dameron costume you might have planned for the next upcoming Comic Con.

Here’s our question, though. Does it suck you out of your suspension of disbelief when filmmakers use found objects as the basis for props? Or is it a neat thing when you spot such an example? Video after the break.

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Back To Basics With A 555 Deep Dive

Many of us could sit down at the bench and whip up a 555 circuit from memory. It’s really not that hard, which is a bit strange considering how flexible the ubiquitous chip is, and how many ways it can be wired up. But when was the last time you sat down and really thought about what goes on inside that little fleck of silicon?

If it’s been a while, then [DiodeGoneWild]’s back-to-basics exploration of the 555 is worth a look. At first glance, this is just a quick blinkenlights build, which is completely the point of the exercise. By focusing on the simplest 555 circuits, [Diode] can show just what each pin on the chip does, using an outsized schematic that reflects exactly what’s going on with the breadboarded circuit. Most of the demos use the timer chip in free-running mode, but circuits using bistable and monostable modes sneak in at the end too.

Yes, this is basic stuff, but there’s a lot of value in looking at things like this with a fresh set of eyes. We’re impressed by [DiodeGoneWild]’s presentation; while most 555 tutorials focus on component selection and which pins to connect to what, this one takes the time to tell you why each component makes sense, and how the values affect the final result.

Curious about how the 555 came about? We’ve got the inside scoop on that.

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Enthusiast Seeks Keycap Designer For Alphasmart NEO

If you were an American kid in the 1990s, chances are good that you may have been issued a little word processing machine by your school called an Alphasmart. These purpose-built machines created by an offshoot of Apple engineers were way cheaper than the average laptop at the time, and far more prepared to be handed over to the average child. The salesmen used to drop-kick them at trade shows to demonstrate their toughness.

Today, these machines are revered by writers, especially those who participate in NaNoWriMo, a yearly event in which people attempt to write the first draft of a novel during the month of November.

The Alphasmart NEO, NEO2, and Dana models are of particular note because they each have a really nice scissor-switch membrane keyboard. Yeah, that’s right. A really nice membrane keyboard.

The problem is that things wear out with time. As you may have guessed, Alphasmart is no longer around, and so they can’t offer replacement keycaps. Can you help by creating a 3D model? [E.F. Nordmed] and many others would sure appreciate it.

You may remember the Alphasmart NEO from these very pages. We sure do love them for distraction-free writing.

Wireless All The Things!

Neither Tom Nardi nor I are exactly young anymore, and we can both remember a time when joysticks were actually connected with wires to the computer or console, for instance. Back then, even though wireless options were on the market, you’d still want the wired version if it was a reaction-speed game, because wireless links just used to be too slow.

Somehow, in the intervening years, and although we never even really noticed the transition as such, everything has become wireless. And that includes our own hacker projects. Sure, the ESP8266 and other WiFi-capable chips made a big difference, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for the nRF24 chipset, which made at least point-to-point wireless affordable and easy. Others will feel the same about ZigBee, but the point stands: nothing has wires anymore, except to charge back up.

The reason? As this experiment comparing the latency of many different wireless connections bears out, wireless data links have just gotten that good, to the point that the latency in the radio is on par with what you’d get over USB. And the relevant software ecosystems have made it easier to go wireless as well. Except for the extra power requirement, and for cases where you need to move a lot of data, there’s almost no reason that any of your devices need wires anymore.

Are you with us? Will you throw down your chains and go wireless?

WoWMIPS: A MIPS Emulator For Windows Applications

When Windows NT originally launched it had ports to a wide variety of platforms, ranging from Intel’s x86 and i860 to DEC’s Alpha as well as the MIPS architecture. Running Windows applications written for many of these platforms is a bit tricky these days, which [x86matthew] saw as a good reason to write a MIPS emulator. This isn’t just any old emulator, though. It maps 32-bit Windows applications targeted at the MIPS R4000 CPU to an x86 CPU instead. Since both platforms run in a little-endian, 32-bit mode, this theoretically should be a walk in the park.

The use of the Windows PE executable format is also the same, so the first task was to figure out how to load the MIPS PE binary in a way that made sense for an x86 platform. This involved some reverse-engineering of the MIPS ntdll.dll file to figure out how relocations on that platform were handled. Following this, the mapping of the instructions of the R4000 CPU to the (CISC) x86 ISA was pretty easy. Only Floating Point Unit (FPU) support was left as a future challenge. Memory access was left as direct access, meaning no sandboxing or isolation, for simplicity’s sake.

The final task was mapping the native API calls, which call almost directly into the underlying host Windows OS’s API, with a bit of glue logic. With all of this done, Windows NT applications originally written for 1990s MIPS ran just fine on a modern-day x86_64 PC running Windows — as long as you don’t need an FPU (for now).