Try NopSCADlib For Your Next OpenSCAD Project

Most readers of this site are familiar by now with the OpenSCAD 3D modeling software, where you can write code to create 3D models. You may have even used OpenSCAD to output some STL files for your 3D printer. But for years now, [nophead] has been pushing OpenSCAD further than most, creating some complex utility and parts libraries to help with modeling, and a suite of Python scripts that generate printable STLs, laser-ready DXFs, bills of material, and human-readable assembly instructions complete with PNG imagery of exploded-view sub-assemblies.

Recently [nophead] tidied all of this OpenSCAD infrastructure up and released it on GitHub as NopSCADlib. You can find out more by browsing through the example projects and README file in the repository, and by reading the announcement blog post on the HydraRaptor blog. Some functionality highlights include:

  • a large parts library full of motors, buttons, smooth rod, et cetera
  • many utility functions to help with chamfers, fillets, precision holes, sub-assemblies, and BOM generation
  • Python scripts to automate the output of STLs, DXFs, and BOMs
  • automatic creation of documentation from Markdown embedded in your OpenSCAD files
  • automatic rendering of exploded subassemblies

All that’s missing is a nice Makefile to tie it all together! Try it out for your next project if you – like us – get giddy at the thought of putting your 3D projects into version control before “compiling” them into the real world.

We’ve discussed some complex OpenSCAD before: Mastering OpenSCAD Workflow, and An OpenSCAD Mini-ITX Computer Case.

Knitting Software Automatically Converts 3D Models Into Machine-knit Stuffies

We’ve seen our fair share of interesting knitting hacks here at Hackaday. There has been a lot of creative space explored while mashing computers into knitting machines and vice versa, but for the most part the resulting knit goods all tend to be a bit… two-dimensional. The mechanical reality of knitting and hobbyist-level knitting machines just tends to lend itself to working with a simple grid of pixels in a flat plane.

However, a team at the [Carnegie Mellon Textiles Lab] have been taking the world of computer-controlled knitting from two dimensions to three, with software that can create knitting patterns for most any 3D model you feed it. Think of it like your standard 3D printing slicer software, except instead of simple layers of thermoplastics it generates complex multi-dimensional chains of knits and purls with yarn and 100% stuffing infill.

The details are discussed and very well illustrated in their paper entitled Automatic Machine Knitting of 3D Meshes and a video (unfortunately not embeddable) shows the software interface in action, along with some of the stuffing process and the final adorable (ok they’re a little creepy too) stuffed shapes.

Since the publication of their paper, [the Textiles Lab] has also released an open-source version of their autoknit software on GitHub. Although the compilation and installation steps look non-trivial, the actual interface seems approachable by a dedicated hobbyist. Anyone comfortable with 3D slicer software should be able to load a model, define the two seams necessary to close the shape, which will need to be manually sewn after stuffing, and output the knitting machine code.

Previous knits: the Knit Universe, Bike-driven Scarf Knitter, Knitted Circuit Board.

Soft Silicone Pneumatics Are 3D-printed In A Tub Of Gel

We’ve seen our fair share of soft silicone robots around here. Typically they are produced through a casting process, where molds are printed and then filled with liquid silicone to form the robot parts. These parts are subsequently removed from the molds and made to wiggle, grip, and swim through the use of pneumatic or hydraulic pumps and valves. MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab has found a way to print the parts directly instead, by extruding silicone, layer by layer, into a gel-filled tank.

The Self-Assembly Lab’s site is unfortunately light on details, but there is a related academic paper (behind a paywall, alas) that documents the process. From the abstract, it seems the printing process is intended for more general purpose printing needs, and is able to print any “photo or chemically cured” material, including two-part mixtures. Additionally, because of the gel-filled tank, the material need not be deposited in flat layers like a traditional 3D-printer. More interesting shapes and material properties could be created by using the full 3d-volume to do 3D extrusion paths.

To see some of the creative shapes and mechanisms developed by MIT using this process, check out the two aesthetically pleasing videos of pulsating soft white silicone shapes after the break.

Continue reading “Soft Silicone Pneumatics Are 3D-printed In A Tub Of Gel”

Alice Evans: Brucellosis, Or Why We Pasteurize Milk

It’s easy to forget how much illness and death was caused by our food and drink just one hundred years ago. Our modern food systems, backed by sound research and decent regulation, have elevated food safety to the point where outbreaks of illness are big news. If you get sick from a burger, or a nice tall glass of milk, it’s no longer a mystery what happened. Instead we ask why, and “who screwed up?”

In the early 20th century though, many food-borne illnesses were still a mystery, and microbiology was a scientific endeavor that was just getting started. Alice Catherine Evans was an unlikely figure to make a dent in this world at the time, but through her research at the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA), and later at the Hygienic Laboratory (now the National Institute of Health) she had a huge impact on the field of bacteriology, the dairy industry, and consumer safety. Continue reading “Alice Evans: Brucellosis, Or Why We Pasteurize Milk”

Low-energy ESP8266-based Board Sleeps Like A Log Until Triggered

Given the popularity of hacking and repurposing Amazon Dash buttons, there appears to be a real need amongst tinkerers for a simple “do something interesting on the internet when a button is pressed” device. If you have this need but don’t feel like fighting to bend a Dash device to your will, take a look at [Kevin Darrah]’s trigBoard instead.

The trigBoard is a battery-powered, ESP8266-based board that includes some clever circuitry to help it barely sip power (less than one microamp!) while waiting to be triggered by a digital input. This input could be a magnetic reed switch, push button, or similar, and you can configure the board for either normally open or normally closed switches.

The clever hardware bits that allow for such low power consumption are explained in [Kevin]’s YouTube video, which we’ve also embedded after the break. To summarize: the EPS8266 spends most of it’s time completely unpowered. A Texas Instruments TPL5111 power timer chip burns 35 nanoamps and wakes the ESP8266 up every hour to check on the battery. This chip also has a manual wake pin, and it’s this pin – along with more power-saving circuitry – that’s used to trigger actions based on the external input.

Apparently the microcontroller can somehow distinguish between being woken up for a battery check versus a button press, so you needn’t worry about accidentally sending yourself an alert every hour. The default firmware is set up to use Pushbullet to send notifications, but of course you could do anything an EPS8266 is capable of. The code is available on the project’s wiki page.

The board also includes a standard micro-JST connector for a LiPo battery, and can charge said battery through a micro-USB port. The trigBoard’s full schematic is on the wiki, and pre-built devices are available on Tindie.

[Kevin]’s hardware walkthrough video is embedded after the break.

Continue reading “Low-energy ESP8266-based Board Sleeps Like A Log Until Triggered”

Pint-sized Jacob’s Ladder Packs 10,000 Volts In A Pickle Jar

File this one away for your mad scientist costume next Halloween: [bitluni]’s Pocket Jacob’s Ladder is the perfect high voltage accessory for those folks with five dollars in parts, a 3D printer, and very big pockets.

[bitluni]’s video shows you all the parts you’ll need and guides you through the very simple build process. For parts, you’ll require a cheap and readily-available high-voltage transformer, a battery holder, some silver wire for the conductors, and a few other minor bits like solder and a power switch.

Once the electronics are soldered together, they’re stuffed inside a 3d printed case that [bitluni] designed with FreeCAD. The FreeCAD and STL files are all available on Thingiverse. We’re not sure what type of jar [bitluni] used to enclose the electrodes. If your jar isn’t a match, you’ll have to get familiar with FreeCAD or start from scratch with your favorite CAD package.

Either way, we enjoy the slight nod toward electrical safety and the reuse of household objects for project enclosures.

If you’re interested in a Jacob’s Ladder with significantly higher voltage we’ve got you covered, or we’ve also written about another tiny portable Jacob’s Ladder.

The full video is embedded after the break.

Continue reading “Pint-sized Jacob’s Ladder Packs 10,000 Volts In A Pickle Jar”

Short Length Of Wire Turns STM32 Microcontroller Into Good-enough Wireless UART Blaster

Hackaday regular [befinitiv] wrote into the tip line to let us know about a hack you might enjoy, wireless UART output from a bare STM32 microcontroller. Desiring the full printf debugging experience, but constrained both by available space and expense, [befinitiv] was inspired to improvise by a similar hack that used the STM32 to send Morse code over standard FM frequencies.

In this case, [befinitiv]’s solution is both more useful and slightly more legal, as the software uses the 27 MHz ISM band to blast out ASK modulated serial data through a simple wire antenna attached to one of the microcontroller’s pins. The broadcast can then be picked up by an RTL-SDR receiver and interpreted back into a stream of data by GNU Radio.

The software for the STM32 and the GNU Radio Companion graph are both available on Bitbucket. The blog post goes into some detail explaining how the transmitter works and what all the GNU Radio components are doing to claw the serial data back from the ether.

[cover image cc by-sa licensed by Adam Greig, randomskk on Flickr]