TuneShroom Is An Artistic Mushroom-Themed MIDI Controller

Most MIDI controllers are modelled after traditional instruments, like pianos, flutes, or guitars. [Oliver Child] went in a different direction for the TuneShroom, instead modelling his DIY controller after the terrifying, unclassifiable living organism we call the mushroom.

The project was a fun way for [Oliver] to try creating a project with an artistic PCB design, and it worked out well in that regard. He penned a circuit board in the shape of a toadstool, with conductive pads serving as capacitive touch points to activate various notes.

The design is based around the Sparkfun Pro Micro, but it’s not programmed in Arduino. [Oliver] wanted to make full use of the ATmega32U4 microcontroller and have freedom to use the pins at will, so instead the project was programmed with a patched version of LUFA to handle the USB side of things. MIDI data is naturally piped out over this interface to an attached computer.

Files are on Github for the curious. Alternatively, contemplate turning an entire saxophone into a MIDI controller in your spare time. Video after the break.

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There’s Hope For That Cheap Lathe Yet!

There may be few cases where the maxim that “you get what you pay for” rings true, than a lathe. The less you spend on a lathe, the closer you get to a lathe-shaped object and the further from, well, a lathe. [Camden Bowen] has bought a cheap lathe, and he’s not content with a lathe-shaped object, so he takes us in the video below through a set of upgrades for it. In the process he makes a much nicer lathe for an entirely reasonable sum.

First up are the bearings, in this case a set of ball races which aren’t really appropriate for taking lateral force. After a lot of effort and a tiny bit of damage he manages to remove the old bearings and get the new ones in place, though their slightly different dimensions means he has to replace a spacer with a temporary 3D printed item which he’ll turn in metal later. We learn quite a bit about cheap lathe tools and tool alignment along the way, and he ends up buying a better tool post to solve some of its problems. We were always not very good at grinding HSS edges, too.

At the end of it all he has a much better lathe, upping cost from $774 to $1062 which is still pretty good for what he has. Worth a look, if you too have a lathe-shaped object.

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Streaming Deck Removes Need For Dedicated Hardware

Streaming content online has never been more popular than it is now, from YouTube to Twitch there are all kinds of creators around with interesting streams across a wide spectrum of interests. With that gold rush comes plenty of people selling figurative shovels as well, with audio mixing gear, high-quality web cams, and dedicated devices for controlling all of this technology. Often these devices take the form of a tablet-like device, but [Lenochxd] thinks that any tablet ought to be able to perform this task without needing dedicated, often proprietary, hardware.

The solution offered here is called WebDeck, an application written in Flask that turns essentially any device with a broswer into a stream control device. Of course it helps to have a touch screen as well, but an abundance of tablets and smartphones in the world makes this a non-issue. With the software running on the host computer, the streamer can control various aspects of that computer remotely by scanning a QR code which opens a browser window with all of the controls accessible from within. It has support for VLC, OBS Studio, and Spotify as well which covers the bases for plenty of streaming needs.

Currently the host software only runs on Windows, but [Lenochxd] hopes to have MacOS and Linux versions available soon. We’re always in favor of any device that uses existing technology and also avoids proprietary hardware and software. Hopefully that’s a recipe to avoid planned obsolescence and unnecessary production. If you prefer a version with a little bit of tactile feedback, though, we’ve seen other decks which add physical buttons for quick control of the stream.

Internet Radio Built In Charming Cassette-Like Form Factor

You can listen to plenty of broadcast radio these days. There’s a lot of choice too, with stations on AM, FM, and digital broadcasts to boot. However, if you want the broadest possible choice, you want an internet radio. If that’s your bag, why not build a fun one like [indoorgeek’s] latest design?

The build is based around a PCB and 3D-printed components that roughly ape the design of a cassette tape. It even replicates the typical center window of a cassette tape by using a transparent OLED screen, which displays the user interface. In a neat way, the graphics on the display are designed to line up with those on the PCB, which looks excellent.

An ESP32 is the heart of the operation, which is responsible for streaming audio over the Internet via its WiFi connection. It’s powered by a small lithium-polymer battery, and hooked up with a MAX98357 Class D amplifier driven via the chip’s I2S hardware. Audio is played out over a small speaker salvaged from an old smartphone.

While it’s obviously possible to play whatever you like on a smartphone these days, sometimes it’s fun to have simple devices that just do a single job. Plus, we can’t deny this project looks really neat. Video after the break.

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3D printed test jig to determine the yield point of a centrally loaded 3D printed beam.

One Object To Print, But So Many Settings!

When working with an FDM 3D printer your first prints are likely trinkets where strength is less relevant than surface quality. Later on when attempting more structural prints, the settings become very important, and quite frankly rather bewildering. A few attempts have been made over the years to determine in quantifiable terms, how these settings affect results and here is another such experiment, this time from Youtuber 3DPrinterAcademy looking specifically at the effect of wall count, infill density and the infill pattern upon the strength of a simple beam when subjected to a midpoint load.

A tray of 3D printing infill patterns available in mainstream slicers
Modern slicers can produce many infill patterns, but the effect on real world results are not obvious

When setting up a print, many people will stick to the same few profiles, with a little variety in wall count and infill density, but generally keep things consistent. This works well, up to a point, and that point is when you want to print something significantly different in size, structure or function. The slicer software is usually very helpful in explaining the effect of tweaking the numbers upon how the print is formed, but not too great at explaining the result of this in real life, since it can’t know your application. As far as the slicer is concerned your object is a shape that will be turned into slices, internal spaces, outlines and support structures. It doesn’t know whether you’re making a keyfob or a bearing holder, and cannot help you get the settings right for each application. Perhaps upcoming AI applications will be trained upon all these experimental results and be fed back into the slicing software, but for now, we’ll just have to go with experience and experiment. Continue reading “One Object To Print, But So Many Settings!”

A Smarter Solar Water Heater

Installing solar power at a home is a great way to reduce electricity bills, especially as the cost of solar panels and their associated electronics continue to plummet. Not every utility allows selling solar back to the grid, though, so if you’re like [Rogan] who lives in South Africa you’ll need to come up with some clever tricks to use the solar energy each day while it’s available to keep from wasting any. He’s devised this system for his water heater that takes care of some of this excess incoming energy.

A normal water heater, at least one based on electric resistive heaters, attempts to maintain a small range of temperatures within the insulated tank. If the temperature drops due to use or loss to the environment, the heaters turn on to bring the temperature back up. This automation system does essentially the same thing, but allows a much wider range of temperatures depending on the time of day. Essentially, it allows the water heater to get much hotter during times when solar energy is available, and lets it drop to lower values before running the heater on utility electricity during times when it isn’t. Using a combination ESP32 and ATtiny to both control the heater and report its temperature, all that’s left is to program Home Assistant to get the new system to interact with the solar system’s battery charge state and available incoming solar energy.

While it’s an elegantly simple system that also affords ample hot water for morning showers, large efficiency gains like this can be low-hanging fruit to even more home energy savings than solar alone provides on paper. Effectively the water heater becomes another type of battery in [Rogan]’s home, capable of storing energy at least for the day in the form of hot water. There are a few other ways of storing excess renewable energy as well, although they might require more resources than are typically available at home.