Basic Acrylic Bending, No Special Tools Needed

Acrylic sheets are relatively inexpensive, pretty, and can be heat-shaped very effectively. There are blades and tools made specifically for cutting, heating, and bending acrylic but [Marija] shows that even without them acrylic can be cut and bent with a bit of care and patience.

Acrylic sheets are brittle and crack easily, but a hacksaw is a good way to cut it by hand. After cutting, [Marija] uses a small portable gas stove at its lowest setting to provide gentle heat until the acrylic becomes soft, then it can be formed into different shapes using common shop and household items. It’s a process that requires patience and practice, so she shares some useful tips:

  • Remove the protective film after cutting, but before heat forming. Otherwise the film will be much harder to remove.
  • Heating too aggressively will result in bubbles that ruin the acrylic.
  • Uneven heating will result in a bad bend, or “hot spots” which can result in bubbles as mentioned above.
  • This heating method naturally softens a wide area, but it’s still possible to get straight and flat bends by using wood forms and letting the acrylic cool before moving it.

[Marija] used this method of heating and bending acrylic to complete an earlier lamp project of hers that we featured in the past. Acrylic might laser-cut beautifully, and there may be inexpensive tools for heating and bending it, but it’s always nice to have some tried and true techniques that don’t require anything special.

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These Tips Make Assembling A Few Hundred PCBs Easier

There are a few common lessons that get repeated by anyone who takes on the task of assembling a few hundred PCBs, but there are also unique insights to be had. [DominoTree] shared his takeaways after making a couple hundred electronic badges for DEFCON 26 (that’s the one before the one that just wrapped up, if anyone’s keeping track.) [DominoTree] assembled over 200 Telephreak badges and by the end of it he had quite a list of improvements he wished he had made during the design phase.

Some tips are clearly sensible, such as adding proper debug and programming interfaces, or baking an efficient test cycle into the firmware. Others are not quite so obvious, for example “add a few holes to your board.” Holes can be useful in unexpected ways and cost essentially zero. Even if the board isn’t going to be mounted to anything, a few holes can provide a way to attach jigs or other hardware like test fixtures.

[DominoTree] ended up having to attach multiple jumper wires to reprogram boards after assembly, and assures us that “doing this a bunch of times really sucked.”
Other advice is more generic but no less important, as with “eliminate as many steps as possible.” Almost anything adds up to a significant chunk of time when repeated hundreds of times. To the basement hacker, something such as pre-cut and pre-tinned wires might seem like a shameful indulgence. But cutting, stripping, tinning, then hand-soldering a wire adds up to significant time and effort by iteration number four hundred (that’s two power wires per badge) even if one isn’t staring down a looming deadline.

[DominoTree] also followed up with additional advice on making assembly easier. Our own [Brian Benchoff] has also shared his observations on the experience of developing and assembling a large number of Hackaday Superconference badges, including what it took to keep things moving along when inevitable problems surfaced.

You don’t need to be making batches of hundreds for these lessons to pay off, so keep them in mind and practice them on your next project.

DIY Watertight Junction Box For Serious Outdoor Sealing

Thingiverse user [The-Mechanic] shared a design for 3D printed enclosures that are made to house wire and cable junctions, which can then be rendered weatherproof by injecting them with a suitable caulking compound and allowing it to cure. It’s a cross between an enclosure and potted electronics. It’s also a one-way trip, because the result is sealed up like a pharaoh’s tomb. On the upside, it’s cheap, accessible, and easily customized.

The way it works is this: wires go through end caps which snap onto the main body, holding the junction inside. Sealant is then pumped in via the hole on the side, then the hole is plugged. Afterwards, all there is to do is wait until the sealant cures. [The-Mechanic] has a couple of companion designs, as well. For tubes of sealant that have threaded tops, one can more effectively save the contents of the tube for later with this design for screw-on caps. There are also 3D printed nozzles in a variety of designs.

One thing to keep in mind about silicone-based sealants is that thick gobs of it can take a really, really long time to cure fully. A thick gob of the stuff will tend to firm up on the outside but leave the inside gooey. If that will be a problem, maybe take a cue from Oogoo and mix in a bit of corn starch with the silicone sealant. The resulting mixture will be thicker, but it’ll cure throughout with no problems.

One-Motor Domino Laying Machine Works For Tips

[Gzumwalt] did things a little differently with his Pink and Green Domino Machine II, a 3D printed device that drops dominoes in a neat row ready for toppling over. Unlike his earlier version, this one holds dominoes laying flat in a hopper that’s accessible from the top for easy loading. The previous unit had an elegance to it, but it was more limited with respect to how many dominoes it could hold at a time. This new version solves that problem while also showing off a slick mechanism that gracefully slides a domino from the bottom of the hopper, then gently positions it standing on end before opening a rear door to let it out as it moves to the next position. One of the interesting things [gzumwalt] discovered when designing this device was that there isn’t really a “standard” size of domino. That’s one of the reasons the demo uses 3D printed blocks.

Pulling this off with a single small DC motor is a remarkable achievement; the mechanism even stably ejects a positioned domino from the rear without halting its forward motion in the process. An animation of how the mechanism works is embedded below, be sure to check it out!

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(Mis)use This Part To Attach 3D Printed Stuff To A Shaft

Interfacing a shaft to a 3D printed gear doesn’t have to be tricky. [Tlalexander] demonstrated a solution that uses one half of a spider coupling (or jaw coupling) to create an effective modular attachment. The picture above (and this older link) shows everything you need to know: the bottom of the coupling is mounted to the shaft, and a corresponding opening is modeled into the the 3D printed part. Slide the two together, and the result is a far sturdier solution than trying to mate a 3D printed gear directly to a motor shaft with a friction fit or a screw. This solution isn’t necessarily limited to attaching gears either, any suitable 3D printed part could be interfaced to a shaft in this way.

These couplings are readily available, and fortunately for hobbyists, come in sizes specifically designed for common stepper motors like NEMA 17 and NEMA 23. Ironically, these couplings are often used when building custom 3D printers for those same reasons. With this method interfacing anything at all to a motor shaft becomes mostly a matter of modeling a matching hole out of the part to be 3D printed. One coupling even provides two such attachments, since only one of the two sides is used.

The image up top is from [Tlalexander]’s Rover image gallery, which contains a ton of fantastic pictures of the work that went into the gearboxes, a major part of the Rover’s design that we’ve seen in the past.

Stack Of Plant Saucers, Transformed Into Low Cost Solar Shield

For serious data collection with weather sensors, a solar shield is crucial. The shield protects temperature and humidity sensors from direct sunlight, as well as rain and other inclement weather, without interfering with their operation. [Mare] managed to create an economical and effective shield for under three euros in materials.

It began with a stack of plastic saucers intended for the bottom of plant pots. Each of these is a lot like a small plate, but with high sides that made them perfect for this application. [Mare] cut the bottom of each saucer out with a small CNC machine, but the cut isn’t critical and a hand tool could also be used.

Three threaded rods, nuts, and some plastic spacers between each saucer yields the assembly you see here. When mounted correctly, the sensors on the inside are protected from direct exposure to the elements while still allowing airflow. As a result, the readings are more accurate and stable, and the sensors last longer.

The top of the shield is the perfect place to mount a UV and ambient light sensor board, and [Mare] has a low-cost DIY solution for that too. The sensor board is covered by a clear glass dish on top that protects the board without interfering with readings, and an o-ring seals the gap.

3D printing is fantastic for creating useful components, and has been instrumental in past weather station builds, but projects like these show not everything needs to be (nor should be) 3D printed.

Lithophanes Ditch The Monochrome With A Color Layer

3D printed lithophanes are great, if a bit monochromatic. [Thomas Brooks] (with help from [Jason Preuss]) changed all that with a tool for creating color lithophanes but there’s a catch: you’ll need a printer capable of creating multi-color prints to do it.

A video (embedded below) begins with an intro but walks through the entire process starting around the 1:26 mark. The lithophane is printed as a single piece and looks like most other 3D printed lithophanes from the front, but the back is different. The back (which is the bottom printed layer) is made of up multiple STL files, one for each color, and together creates something that acts as a color filter. When lit from behind, light passes through everything and results in an image that pops with color in ways that lithophanes normally do not.

The demo print was created with a printer equipped with a Palette 2, an aftermarket device that splices together filament from different spools to create multicolored prints, but we think a Prusa printer with an MMU (multi material upgrade) should also do the trick.

[Thomas] already has a lot of ideas on how to improve the process, but these early results are promising. Need a gift? Lithophanes plus LED strips make great lamps, and adding a cheap clock movement adds that little extra something.

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