Retro Unit Converter Is A Neat Little Gadget

These days, unit conversions aren’t something we have to worry about so much. If you’re sitting at a computer, you can usually just tap away in your browser to get a quick conversion done, or you can ask your smartphone for an answer. [HackMakeMod] wanted a bespoke device for this, though, and built a tiny little retro-styled unit converter.

It’s a straightforward build that uses a handful of familiar components. An ESP8266 D1 Mini development board is the heart of the operation, running off a small battery harvested from a disposable vape pen. It runs a 0.96 inch OLED display which has a menu system for selecting from a whole bunch of different unit conversions. Navigating the menu is done via a rotary encoder with an integrated push button. Everything’s wrapped up in a neat 3D printed enclosure that was given a nice worn, weathered finish after printing.

[HackMadeMod] also clearly thought about usability, too. Turning the encoder dial faster ramps up the numbers exponentially so you’re not stuck jogging for ages when you need to enter a bigger figure.

It’s not something a lot of us would have a use case for, given that smartphones are always there and probably faster to use. However, it is a tidy little gadget, and a well-presented one at that. Video after the break.

Continue reading “Retro Unit Converter Is A Neat Little Gadget”

Do We Need A New Hardware Description Language?

When you think about hardware description languages, you probably think of Verilog or VHDL. There are others, of course, but those are the two elephants in the room. Do we need another one? [Veryl-lang] thinks so. The Veryl language is sort of Verilog meets Rust. What makes Veryl interesting is that it transpiles to normal SystemVerilog, so it will — probably — work with your existing tool chains.

That means you can define your logic Veryl, have it output SystemVerilog, and then use that Verilog in your vendor’s (or an open source) Verilog tool. The output is supposed to be human-readable Verilog, too, so you don’t have to transport opaque blocks of gibberish.

Continue reading “Do We Need A New Hardware Description Language?”

TOPS, The DIY Robot Dog, Has Great Moves

We love [Aaed Musa]’s TOPS (Traverser of Planar Surfaces) which is a robot dog with custom-made actuators. The DIY is very strong with this project, and the 3D-printed parts alone took a whopping three weeks to print!

There’s additional detail on the electronics and design of TOPS in the build log of the project’s page, so check it out because there are all sorts of nice design details, like the feet being cast with a silicone outer layer for better traction. We’ve previously covered [Aaed]’s DIY robotic actuator design which we’re delighted to see is put to excellent use in the finished robot.

Of course, a robot’s hardware and physical design is only part of the battle. In fact, [Aaed] says the software side of things was probably the biggest overall challenge. It takes a lot of work to make walking happen, and the process has in fact been a huge learning experience. [Aaed] already has plenty of ideas for a potential TOPS V2.

[Aaed]’s website has video tours of all stages of design and construction of TOPS, and there’s a GitHub repository for all the design details. To see it all in action, check out the short video rounding up the finished robot, embedded here just under the page break.

Continue reading “TOPS, The DIY Robot Dog, Has Great Moves”

Folding Solar Panel Is Underpowered

If you hang out on certain kinds of sites, you can find huge-capacity USB drives and high-power yet tiny solar panels, all at shockingly low prices. Of course, the USB drives just think they are huge, and the solar panels don’t deliver the kind of power they claim. That seems to be the case with [Big Clive’s] latest folding solar panel purchase. The nice thing about the Internet is you can satisfy your urge to tear things open to see what’s inside of them vicariously instead of having to buy a lot of junk yourself. Thanks [Clive]!

The picture on the website didn’t match the actual product, which was the first sign, of course. The panel’s output in full sun was around 2.5 watts instead of the claimed 10 watts. He’s also seen sellers claim they are between 20 and 80-watt panels. But the interesting bits are when [Clive] decides to rip the panel into pieces and analyze the controller board.

Continue reading “Folding Solar Panel Is Underpowered”

Glow Plug Turned Metal-Capable 3D Printer Hotend

At this point, most readers will be familiar with fused deposition modeling (FDM) 3D printers, and how a plastic filament is pushed through a heater and deposited as liquid through a nozzle. Most of us also know that there are a huge variety of materials that can be FDM printed, but there’s one which perhaps evades us: you can’t load a spool of metal wire into your printer and print in metal, or at least you can’t yet. It’s something [Rotoforge] is working on, with a project to make a hot end that can melt metal. Their starting point is a ceramic diesel engine glow plug, from which they expect 1300 C (2372 F).

The video below the break deals with the process of converting the glow plug, which mostly means stripping off the metal parts which make it a glow plug, and then delicately EDM drilling a hole through its ceramic tip. The video is well worth a watch for the in-depth examination of how they evolved the means to do this.

Sadly they aren’t at the point of printing metal with this thing, but we think the current progress is impressive enough to have a good chance of working. Definitely one to watch.

Previous metal 3D printers we’ve featured have often used a MIG welder.

Continue reading “Glow Plug Turned Metal-Capable 3D Printer Hotend”

Hackaday Podcast Episode 262: Wheelchair Hacking, Big Little Science At Home, Arya Talks PCBs

Join Hackaday Editors Elliot Williams and Tom Nardi as they go over their favorite hacks and stories from the past week.  This episode starts off with an update on Hackaday Europe 2024, which is now less than a month away, and from there dives into wheelchairs with subscription plans, using classic woodworking techniques to improve your 3D printer’s slicer, and a compendium of building systems. You’ll hear about tools for finding patterns in hex dumps, a lusciously documented gadget for sniffing utility meters, a rare connector that works with both HDMI and DisplayPort, and a low-stress shortwave radio kit with an eye-watering price tag. Finally, they’ll take a close look at a pair of articles that promise to up your KiCAD game.

Check out the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download in DRM-free MP3.

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast Episode 262: Wheelchair Hacking, Big Little Science At Home, Arya Talks PCBs”

The Perils Of Return Path Gaps

The radio frequency world is full of mysteries, some of which seem to take a lifetime to master. And even then, it seems like there’s always something more to learn, and some new subtlety that can turn a good design on paper into a nightmare of unwanted interference and unexpected consequences in the real world.

As [Ken Wyatt] aptly demonstrates in the video below, where you put gaps in return paths on a PCB is one way to really screw things up. His demo system is simple: a pair of insulated wires running from the center pins on BNC jacks and running along the surface of a piece of copper-clad board to simulate a PCB trace. The end of each wire is connected to the board’s ground plane through a 50 ohm resistor, with one wire running over a narrow slot cut into the board. A harmonics-rich signal is fed into each trace while an H-field EMC probe connected to a spectrum analyzer is run along the length of the trace.

With the trace running over the solid ground plane, the harmonics are plentiful, as expected, but they fall off very quickly away from the trace. But over on the trace with the gapped return trace it’s a far different story. The harmonics are still there, but they’re about 5 dBmV higher in the vicinity of the gap. [Ken] also uses the probe to show just how far from the signal trace the return path extends to get around the gap. And even worse, the gap makes it so that harmonics are detectable on the unpowered trace. He also uses a current probe to show how common-mode current will radiate from a long conductor attached to the backplane, and that it’s about 20 dB higher with the gapped trace.

Hats off to [Ken] for this simple explanation and vivid reminder to watch return paths on clock traces and other high-frequency signals. Need an EMC probe to check your work? A bit of rigid coax and an SDR are all you needContinue reading “The Perils Of Return Path Gaps”