What did you do for Pi Day? Play with your Raspberry Pi 400? Eat some pizza or other typically round objects and recite all nine digits you’ve got memorized? That’s about where we were at this year. But not [bornach], no. [bornach] went all out and built a spigot that spews digits of Pi well past the first nine decimal places.
This clever spigot sculpture implements the spigot algorithm for generating digits of Pi one-by-one in a stream on to a chain of 8×8 matrices, and does so using a Raspberry Pi (of course). The point of the spigot algorithm is to store as few numbers as possible at any given time by reusing variables. We love the way the digits materialize on the matrix, almost as if they are ink being activated by water. Be sure to check out the build and demo video after the break.
That 10k pot on the top really does control the spigot — since the Pi has no ADC, [bornach] is using the potentiometer to charge a capacitor and using the time it takes to reach the threshold to decide whether the faucet is open or closed. There are a couple of hacks at play here, including the Popsicle-stick LED matrix bracing and the HAT [bornach] fashioned so the daisy-chained 8×8 LED modules could interface with the Pi.
Good coffee is nice to have, sure, but frankly, caffeine is caffeine and we’ll take it any way we can get it. That includes freeze-dried, if that’s all you’ve got. We won’t judge anyone for their taste in caffeinated beverages, and to call this coffee dispenser ‘totally useless’ is just patently untrue. It clearly has a use, and even if you don’t like freeze-dried coffee, you could sacrifice one jar worth of Nescafe and fill it with Skittles or anything else that will fit in the little collector basket.
In this machine, the cup is the trigger — the 3D-printed plate underneath activates a micro switch embedded in the scrap wood base, and this triggers a micro:bit around back to actuate the stepper motor that twirls the collector basket around. Although [smogdog] has provided all the files, you’d have to come up with your own connector to suspend the thing over the cup and carve your own base.
We love it when we can see what a machine is doing, so not only is it useful, it’s beautiful. And it worked, at least for a little while. For some reason, it keeps burning out stepper motors. Check it out in proof-of-concept action after the break.
If you’ve ever had surgery, you know firsthand how important it is to keep the wound from getting infected. There are special conductive sutures that sense changes in wound status via electrical signal and relay the information to a computer or smart phone. As awesome as those sound, they’re a first-world solution that is far too pricey for places that need it most — developing countries. And surgical wounds in developing countries are about four times more likely to get infected than those in the US.
Beets, and other fruits and vegetables like blackberries, plums, and blueberries are natural indicators of pH. They have a compound called anthocyanin that gives them both their pigment and this cool property. Beets are perfect because they change color at a pH of nine — the same pH level of infected human skin, which is normally around five.
[Dasia] experimented with several types of suture thread to see which ones would absorb the beet juice in the first place. She settled on a cotton-polyester blend that is braided. While it probably helps absorb the beet juice, it would also give bacteria several places to hide. Another problem is that many surgeries involve cutting muscle, too, and by the time a deeper infection would show up on the sutures, it would be pretty late in the game. But if these color-changing sutures can be made to be cost-effective, safe for skin, and of course, keep wounds together, this solution is way better than nothing at all and definitely worth producing. You can see [Dasia] talk about her project in the video below.
Want to know more about natural pH indicators? Sure you do.
According to Ford’s press release, their goal is to reach 100% sustainable materials in all their vehicles, not just the diesel-drinking Super Duty. Their research team found ten other Fords whose existing fuel-line clips could instead be made sustainably, and the company plans to implement the recycled plastic clips on all future models.
There are all sorts of positives at play here: the recycled clips cost 10% less to make and end up weighing 7% less than traditionally-made clips, all the while managing to be more chemical and moisture resistant.
And so much plastic will be kept out of landfills, especially once this idea takes off and more manufacturers get involved with HP or form other partnerships. One of the sources of Ford’s plastic is Smile Direct Club, which has 60 printers cranking out over 40,000 dental aligners every day.
What’s the coolest-looking way to ease the repetitive stress of typing without quitting altogether? Move nothing but your fingers, and move them as little as possible without any stretching or reaching. We’ve been fans of the weirdly wonderful DataHand keyboard since we first laid eyes on one, but [Ben Gruver] has actually been using these out-of-production keyboards for years as a daily driver. And what do we do when we love something scarce? Make our own, improved version like [Ben] has done, with the lalboard.
Something that won’t be changing is the fantastic optical key switch design that uses an IR LED and phototransistor to capture key presses, and tiny square magnets to return the key to the home position and deliver what we’re quite sure is a satisfying clack.
The absolute coolest part of this keyboard is that it’s so adjustable. Every key cluster can be adjusted in 6 directions, which includes the ability to dial in different heights for each finger if that’s what works best. Once that’s all figured out, then it’s time to print some perfect permanent standoffs. Want to make one of these sci-fi clackers for yourself? [Ben] has the BOM, some printing instructions and tips, and a guide to making the copper tape PCBs over on GitHub. Check it out in action after the break as [Ben] rewrites Kafka’s Metamorphosis at 120 WPM.
Interested in learning more about the original DataHand keyboard? Here’s our take.
And the emphasis is on empty extinguisher. Part of the deal involves twisting the gauge off, and we wouldn’t want you to get blasted in the face with any last gasps of high-powered firefighting foam. In order to make the thing re-pressurizable, [liquidhandwash] stripped all the rubber from a tire valve and removed the core temporarily so it could be soldered into the fitting where the gauge was. The handy hose is from a large can of WD-40, which is also where the label came from — since it’s no longer a fire extinguisher, it needs to stop bearing resemblance to one, so [liquidhandwash] removed the sticker, painted it blue, and glued the cut-open can to the outside.
To use it, [liquidhandwash] fills it up about halfway and then pressurizes it through the tire valve with a bike pump or compressor. (We think we’d go with bike pump.) Since [liquidhandwash] goes through so much lubricant, now, they can just buy it by the gallon and keep refilling the extinguisher.
Why doesn’t this kind of stuff ever happen to us? One lucky day back in high school, [Dave Sieg] stumbled upon a room full of new equipment and a guy standing there scratching his head. [Dave]’s curiosity about this fledgling television studio was rewarded when that guy asked [Dave] if he wanted to help set it up. From that point on, [Dave] had the video bug. The rest is analog television history.
Today, [Dave] is the proud owner and maintainer of two Scanimate machines — the first R&D prototype, and the last one of only eight ever produced. The Scanimate is essentially an analog synthesizer for video signals, and they made it possible to move words and pictures around on a screen much more easily than ever before. Any animated logo or graphics seen on TV from the mid-1970s to the mid-80s was likely done with one of these huge machines, and we would jump quite high at the chance to fiddle with one of them.
Analog television signals were continuously variable, and much like an analog music synthesizer, the changes imposed on the signal are immediately discernible. In the first video below, [Dave] introduces the Scanimate and plays around with the Viceland logo a bit.
Stick around for the second and third videos where he superimposes the Scanimate’s output on to the video he’s making, all the while twiddling knobs to add oscillators and thoroughly explaining what’s going on. If you’ve ever played around with Lissajous patterns on an oscilloscope, you’ll really have a feel for what’s happening here. In the fourth video, [Dave] dives deeper and dissects the analog circuits that make up this fantastic piece of equipment.