Self-Watering Planters Reuse Household Jars

Self-watering planters are low-maintenance, and common DIY projects. What we like most about [Tommy]’s design is that it reuses empty jars to create self-watering planters. After all, jars are fantastic at reliably holding water, so why not put them to work? Incorporating jars as part of the design means fewer worries about leakage, but it also means less 3D printing is needed overall.

A wick (in this case, a piece of string) takes care of moving water from jar to the soil.

[Tommy]’s planter screws onto the threads of a jar’s neck. Getting water to the plant is helped by a small piece of string, which acts as a wick between the soil at the top and the water in the jar at the bottom. This design works best with small plants, but on the plus side there are no moving parts or other complexities. Got a 3D printer? Models for the planter are available here.

The biggest challenge for this design is that not all jar threads are alike, so planters made in this way are not completely interchangeable across all different types of jars. Fortunately, [Tommy] provides the OpenSCAD code he used to generate his design, which he created with the help of an industry guide on how to measure the finish (or threads) of jars and lids.

If you find yourself needing to further customize your own version to fit a particular container’s threads, there’s no need to start from scratch. Unsurprisingly, threads and lids are highly standardized so chances are there exists a calculator, tool, or existing model for exactly what you need.

Original Controller Ports In Custom Case Means Retro Gaming In Style

Some careful measuring and a little extra effort can be all that separates what looks like a hack job from a slick end product, and that is apparent in [Eric Sorensen]’s classy retrogaming rig, complete with ports for original console controllers.

Neatly housing these components in a case makes all the difference.

[Eric] likes his vintage gaming, and was terrifically pleased with MiSTer, an open-source project that recreates various classic computers, game consoles and arcade machines using modern FPGA-based hardware. Of course, what makes retro gaming even better is using a platform’s genuine original controllers, which just takes a little extra hardware and wiring.

But [Eric] found that all the required accessories and peripherals started to look awfully cluttered. He solved this issue by packing everything carefully into a specialty PC case called the Checkmate A1500 Plus, which gives off a strong 80s design vibe. As a bonus, the front panels are all removable and that’s where [Eric] decided to house the custom controller ports.

First [Eric] carefully measured each controller connector to create CAD models, then designed matching front panels to house the connectors and 3D printed them. Once that was done, post-processing the panels was a long process of apply Bondo, sand, paint, and repeat as needed. The results looks fantastic, and this project is a prime example of how aesthetics and finish can matter.

Find yourself in a similar situation? [Tom Nardi] has shown us all that 3D prints don’t have to look 3D-printed, and careful application of paint and primer can really put the ‘pro’ in prototyping.

Off-Grid Van Build Uses 3D Scanning For Smarter Planning

Folks who refurbish and rebuild vans into off-grid campers (especially with the ability to work in them remotely) put a fantastic amount of planning and work into their projects. [Rob] meticulously documented his finished van conversion and while he does a ton of clever work, we especially liked how he shows modern tools like photogrammetry can improve the process.

Photogrammetry helped turn a bunch of photos from different angles into a textured 3D model with accurate dimensions.

[Rob] used a camera and photogrammetry software to 3D scan the van inside and out. The resulting model means that CAD tools can better assist with the layout and design phase. This is an immense help, because as [Rob] points out, an empty van is anything but a hollow box on wheels. Every surface is curved, none of the sides are identical, and there frankly isn’t a right angle to be found anywhere. When every little scrap of space counts, it’s important to have an accurate reference.

Of course, mapping the work are was just the beginning. It took six months, but he turned a Volkswagen Crafter cargo van into a slick off-grid camper capable of remote work. The full series of videos is on his site, but you can also watch the video highlights, embedded below.

The photogrammetry was done with Meshroom, and if you’d like to know more, we’ve previously explained different 3D scanning methods and how they can help with design work like this.

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One-Piece Tank Chassis Pushes Print-in-Place To New Heights

What’s better than 3D printing a tank chassis with working tracks? How about 3D printing the entire thing, moving parts and all, as a single piece? That’s [3D Honza]’s PiPBOT-1, and it’s the culmination of a whole lot of design work.

The design prints flat, then folds up into its final form.

[3D Honza] has been sharing progress pictures and videos on his Twitter account, and just recently released the first version of his design. Version 1.0 is just the mechanics, but he’s already at work on version 2.0 which includes the ability to attach servos to drive the treads. At this writing, the design is currently downloadable directly from his site and includes CAD files, which is great to see.

One part of the design we’d like to draw your attention to is the chunky hinge that doubles as a kind of axial structure making up the body. This allows the tank to print in an unfolded state with the treads and wheels flat on the print bed. After printing, the tank gets folded up a bit like a taco to attain its final form. It’s a clever layout that allows the unit to be printed according to a filament-based 3D printer’s strengths, printing as a single piece that transforms into a small tank chassis, complete with working treads, in a few seconds.

When it comes to vehicles and bots, whether to choose wheels or tracks is a serious question our own Lewin Day has explained thoroughly. And for those of you who choose tracks, this design is great for small devices but don’t forget it’s always possible to go bigger when it comes to 3D-printed tanks.

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LED Driver Circuit For Safety Hat Sucks Single AAA Cell Dry

[Petteri Aimonen] created an omnidirectional LED safety light to cling to his child’s winter hat in an effort to increase visibility during the dark winter months, but the design is also great example of how to use the Microchip MCP1640 — a regulated DC-DC step-up power supply that can run the LEDs off a single AAA cell. The chip also provides a few neat tricks, like single-button on/off functionality that fully disconnects the load, consuming only 1 µA in standby.

[Petteri]’s design delivers 3 mA to each of eight surface-mount LEDs (which he says is actually a bit too bright) for a total of about 20 hours from one alkaline AAA cell. The single-layer PCB is encased in a clear acrylic and polycarbonate enclosure to resist moisture. A transistor and a few passives allow a SPST switch to act as an on/off switch: a short press turns the unit on, and a long press of about a second turns it back off.

One side effect is that the “off” functionality will no longer work once the AAA cell drained too badly, but [Petteri] optimistically points out that this could be considered a feature: when the unit can no longer be turned off, it’s time to replace the battery!

The usual way to suck a battery dry is to use a Joule Thief, and while this design also lights LEDs, it offers more features and could be adapted for other uses easily. Interested? [Petteri] offers the schematic, KiCAD file for the PCB, and SVG drawing of the enclosure for download near the bottom of the project page.

Weatherproof Raspberry Pi Camera Enclosure, In A Pinch

The Raspberry Pi is the foundation of many IoT camera projects, but enclosures are often something left up to the user. [Mare] found that a serviceable outdoor enclosure could be made with a trip to the hardware store and inexpensive microscopy supplies.

A suitably-sized plastic junction box is a good starting point, but it takes more than that to make a functional enclosure.

The main component of the enclosure is a small plastic junction box, but it takes more than a box to make a functional outdoor enclosure. First of all, cable should be run into the box with the help of a cable fitting, and this fitting should be pointed toward the ground when the enclosure is mounted. This helps any moisture drip away with gravity, instead of pooling inconveniently.

All wire connections should be kept inside the enclosure, but if that’s not possible, we have seen outdoor-sealed wire junctions with the help of some 3D-printing and silicone sealant. That may help if cable splices are unavoidable.

The other main design concern is providing a window through which the camera can see. [Mare] found that the small Raspberry Pi camera board can be accommodated by drilling a hole into the side of the box, cleaning up the edges, and securing a cover slip  (or clover glass) to the outside with an adhesive. Cover slips are extremely thin pieces of glass used to make microscope slides; ridiculously cheap, and probably already in a citizen scientist’s parts bin. They are also fragile, but if the device doesn’t expect a lot of stress it will do the job nicely.

[Mare] uses the Raspberry Pi and camera as part of Telraam, an open-source project providing a fully-automated traffic counting service that keeps anonymized counts of vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle activity. Usually such a device is mounted indoors and aimed at a window, but this enclosure method is an option should one need to mount a camera outdoors. There’s good value in using a Raspberry Pi as a DIY security camera, after all.

Make Your Own Pot And Encoder Knobs, Without Reinventing Them

Rotary potentiometers, switches, and encoders all share a basic design: adjustment is done via a shaft onto which a knob is attached, and knobs are sold separately. That doesn’t mean one knob fits all; there are actually a few different standards. But just because knobs are inexpensive and easily obtained doesn’t mean it’s not worth making your own.

A simple and effective indicator can be easily printed in a contrasting color.

Why bother 3D printing your own knobs instead of buying them? For one thing, making them means one can rest assured that every knob matches aesthetically. The ability to add custom or nonstandard markings are another bonus. Finally, there’s no need to re-invent the wheel, because [Tommy]’s guide to making your own knobs has it all figured out, with the OpenSCAD script to match.

By default, [Tommy]’s script will generate a knob with three shims (for interfacing to a splined shaft) when pot_knob(); is called. The number of shims can be adjusted by modifying potKnobDefaultShimCount. To give the knob a flat side (to interface with D-shafts), change flatted = false to flatted = true. And for adding a screw insert suitable for a set screw? Change tightenerDiameter = 0 from zero to the diameter desired.

The script is quite comprehensive and has sensible defaults, but it does require a bit of knowledge about OpenSCAD itself to use effectively. We have covered the basics of OpenSCAD in the past, and if you’re ready for a resource that will help you truly master it, here’s where to look.