Digikey Tips Its Hat To Kicad With Its Own Library

Digikey might wow us with their expansive stock, but now they’re wowing us with a personal gesture. The US-based electronics vendor is nodding its head in approval to KiCad users with its very own parts library. What’s more, [Chris Gammell] walks us through the main features and thought process behind its inception.

With all the work that’s going into this library, it’s nice to see features showing that Digikey took a thorough look at KiCad and how it fits into the current state of open-source PCBA design. First off, this library follows a slightly different design pattern from most other KiCad libraries in that it’s an atomic parts library. What that means is that every symbol is linked to a specific manufacturer part number and, hence, gets linked to a specific footprint. While this style mirrors EagleCad’s; KiCad libraries usually separate symbols from footprints so that symbols can be reused and parts can be more easily swapped in BOMs. There’s no “best” practice here, so the folks at Digikey thought they’d expose the second option.

Next off, the library is already almost 1000 parts strong and set to grow. These aren’t just the complete line of Yageo’s resistor inventory though. They actually started cultivating their library from the parts in Seeed Studio’s open parts library. These are components that hobbyists might actually use since some assembly services have a workflow that moves faster with designs that use these parts. Lastly, since all parts have specific vendor part numbers, BOM upload to an online cart is more convenient, making it slightly easier for Digikey to cha-ching us for parts.

Yes, naysayers might still cry “profit” or “capitalism” at the root of this new library, but from the effort that’s gone into this project, it’s a warm gesture from Digikey that hits plenty of positive personal notes for hobbyists. Finally, we can still benefit from plenty of the work that’s gone into this project — even if we don’t use it as intended. The permissive license lets us snag the symbols and reuse them however we like. (In fact, for the sharp-eyed legal specialists, they actually explicitly nullified the clause stating that derivative projects need not be licensed with a creative-commons license.)

With maturing community support from big vendors like Digikey, we’re even hungrier to get our hands on KiCad V.

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Papercraft-Inspired Snake-bot Slithers like a Real One

Blend the Japanese folding technique of Kirigami with an elastomer actuator, and what have you got? A locomoting snake robot that can huff around its own girth with no strings attached! That’s exactly what researchers at the Wyss Institute and Harvard School of Applied Sciences did to build their Kirigami Crawler.

Expanding and contracting propel this crawler forward. As the actuator expands, the hatched pattern on the plastic skin flares out; and when it contracts, the skin retracts to a smoother form. The flared hatch pattern acts like a cluster of little hooks, snagging multiple contact points into the ground. When the skin retracts, these hooks fold back inside while giving the body a slight push forward in the process. It’s a clever tactic, and almost identical to the way real-world snakes propel themselves. In fact, after iterating on a few skin patterns, they found that a trapezoidal pattern, which most closely resembles that of snakeskin, can cover ground fastest.

We’re thrilled to see such authentic biomimicry come to us without any extreme tooling or special molds. Still not satisfied with your share of crawling robots for one day? Have a peek into the past, and indulge yourself with a sine-wave locomotion.

Thanks for the tip, [Olivia]!

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Laser-Cut Mecanum Wheel for the Budget Roboticist

For the budding roboticist, omniwheels might be the next step in design patterns from your everyday “getting-started” robot kits. These wheels consist of tiny rollers that sit on the perimeter of the wheel and enable the wheel to freely slide laterally. With independent motor control of each wheel, a platform can freely locomote sideways by sliding on the rollers. You might think: “a wheel made of wheels? That sounds pricey…”–and you’d be right! Fear not, though; the folks at [Incubhacker] in Belgium have you covered with a laser-cut design that’s one-click away from landing on your workbench.

For anyone who’s tried to reliably mate flat laser-cut parts at an angle, we can tell you it’s no easy feat. The design here triumphs as both simple and reliable. Not only do they solve this problem elegantly, they also manage to create a design that will bear the load of a robot chassis that will travel with it. Laser-cut designs also usually suffer from a poor range of material options. Here the actual rollers need a bit more grip than what the plywood can provide. They also solve this problem effectively as well too, relying on heat-shrink tubing to provide the traction expected from a conventional wheel.

In the video below, [Incubhacker] takes you through the step-by process of making your own come to life. We’ve certainly seen some impressive laser-cut omniwheels in the past, but we like the simplicity of design combined with the composition of parts that probably already live on our workbenches.

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Emboss Your own Seals with a Laser Cutter

Parchment might be a thing of the past, but for those of us who still use paper an embossed seal can give everything from your official documents to your love letters a bold new feeling of authenticity. As far as getting your own seals made, plenty of folks will settle for having a 3rd party make them a seal, but not us. [Jason] shows us just how simple it is to raster our own seals with a laser cutter.

As far as the process goes, there are no tricks outside the typical workflow for raster engraving. Here, [Jason] simply creates a positive and (mirrored) negative seal pattern for each side of the seal embosser. The pattern is set for raster engraving, and the notched outline will be vector cut. From here, he simply exports the design, and the laser handles the rest.

This hack turned out so cleanly it almost seems like it could got into professional use–and it already is! Some extra Google-fu told us that it’s actually a fairly standard technique across the embossing industry for making embossing seals. Nevertheless, we couldn’t share our excitement for just how accessible this technique can be to anyone within reach of some time on a laser cutter.

[Jason] is using Delrin as his material to capture the design, which cuts cleanly and nicely handles the stress of being squished against your legal documents a couple hundred times. We’ve had our fair share of love on these pages for this engineering plastic. If you’re looking to get a closer look at this material, have a go at our materials-to-know debrief and then get yourself equipped with some design principles so that you’re ready to throw dozens of designs at it.

It’s not the first time the crafting and hacking communities intermingle and start sharing tools. In fact, if you’ve got yourself a vinyl cutter kicking around, why not have a go at churning out a few pcb stencils?

Thanks for the tip, [Doug]!

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R.O.B. Gets a Proper RC Resurrection

More than 30 years ago, Nintendo’s R.O.B graced toy shelves, helping usher in an age of video games that is here to stay. For the few of us lucky to own one of these relics, we’ll find that R.O.B’s internal mechanisms that drive the arms and neck movements are just begging to be modified. That’s exactly what [Kenny Storm] did, installing a few continuous-rotation servos to give R.O.B a new mobile life of its own.

The original R.O.B featured a surprisingly intricate gearbox configuration embedded inside the shoulders for both up-and-down shoulder movement and hand-pinching. (For a more detailed investigation on the internals of the original hardware, have a look at this teardown.) This hack is sparsely documented, but from what we can gather, the mobile R.O.B uses all three existing degrees of freedom that the original supported while furthermore adding mobility with continuous rotation servos.

Glancing at the dates from this forum post, this find is almost 8 years old. Age is never a dealbreaker here, though, as the sheer quaintness of this hack will surely stand the test of time. Watching R.O.B take up a presence with mobility on this desk hearkens back to our childhood mysticism of unboxing this companion with our Nintendo when we were children. Finally (shameless plug!), if you’re just as excited as the author at the chance of seeing R.O.B back on your shelf with at-home-manufacturing techniques, have a go at printing my 1:1 scale R.O.B head replica.

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Laser Rotary Adapter Gets You Rolling

Laser cutters are becoming more garage-accessible with overseas imports, but plenty of us still need to drop in on the college campus or makerspace to get our cuts. Having a laser onsite is a nice touch, but having a rotary axis is almost unheard of. These nifty add-ons enable your laser to cut and engrave radially symmetric parts. Their pricetags usually fall in the hundred-to-thousand dollar price range, so while that might stop us there’s nothing holding us back from building our own!

That’s exactly what both [Cesar] and [Russ] did with two homebrew designs built from scraps, and the results look comparable to the professional default. The design itself is simple, yet dead clever. The carriage straps directly onto the x-axis such that its motion is rigidly connected to it. The wheels on the bottom play a dual role. First, they let the carriage slide smoothly with the y-axis motion. They also support the object-to-be-engraved and convert the wheel rotation from the y-axis movement into rotation of the object. There’s one drawback here in that the diameter of the object-to-be-engraved affects the angle of rotation, but we’ve never been ashamed to do a little work with θ = s/r.

[Cesar] gets the credit for putting this hack out for the world to see, but [Russ] also get’s a big thanks for putting out a downloadable file of his carriage. It’s a testament to how sharing a thought can inspire us to iterate on better designs that they world can enjoy.

Rolling fourth-axes aren’t anything new on these pages, but they’re certainly rare! If your hungry for more rolling axis goodness, have a look at [Perry’s] router modifications.

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Software Design Patterns for Real Hardware

Here on Hackaday, we’re generally designers of hacks that live in the real world. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that some of the most interesting feats are at the mercy of what’s possible in software, not hardware. Without the right software, no 3D printer could print and no quadcopter could fly. The source code that drives these machines may take months of refinement to flesh out their structure. In a nutshell, these software packages are complicated, and they don’t happen overnight.

So how do they happen; better yet: how could we make that happen? How do we write software that’s flexible enough to coexist peacefully on all sorts of hardware variations?

What separates the big open-source software projects like ROS, LinuxCNC, and Multiwii from the occastional hackathon code are the underlying principles that govern how they’re written. In object-oriented programming, these principles are called design patterns. In the next couple posts, I’m going to crack the lid on a few of these. What’s more, I’ll package them into real-world examples so that we can see these patterns interact with real hardware. The next time you pop open the source code for a big open source hardware project, I hope you can tease out some of these patterns in the code. Better yet, I hope you carry these patterns into your next robot and machine project. Let’s get started.

For readability, all of the examples run in Python3. The snippets below are truncated for brevity, but the real examples in the repository will work if you’ve got a similar hardware setup.

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