Used Soda Stream Cylinder Becomes DIY Canned Air

Soda Stream machines use a cylinder of compressed CO2 to carbonate beverages, and cylinders that are “empty” for the machine’s purposes in fact still have a small amount of gas left in them. User [Graldur] shared a clever design for using up those last gasps from a cylinder by turning it into a makeshift compressed air gun, the kind that can blow crumbs or dust out of inconvenient spots like the inside of a keyboard. It’s 3D printed in PETG with a single seal printed in Ninjaflex.

[Graldur]’s 3D printed assembly screws onto the top of an “empty” cylinder and when the bottom ring is depressed like a trigger, the valve is opened slightly and the escaping gas is diverted through a narrow hole in the front. As a result, it can be used just as you would a can of compressed air. The gas outlet even accommodates the narrow plastic tubes from WD-40 cans (or disposable compressed air cans, for that matter) if more precision is required.

The design is intended for use with nearly-empty cylinders, but even so, [Graldur] also points out that it has been designed such that it can never fully actuate the cylinder’s release valve no matter how hard one presses, so don’t modify things carelessly. We also notice the design keeps the user’s hand and fingers well away from the business end of things.

This device also reminds of somewhat of a past experiment which used 3D printing to create serviceable (albeit low pressure) 3D printed compressed air tanks in custom shapes.

3D Printed Tooling Punches Above Its Weight With Added Hardware

Reddit user [thetelltalehart] has been making brake press tooling with 3D printed PLA, and recently shared an interesting picture of a hybrid brake press punch, shown here on the right, in blue.

Printed in PLA, with 80% infill and 12 walls, the tool (right) failed at 5 tons.

In a press, material such as sheet metal is formed into a shape by forcing the material around the tooling. Some types of tooling can be 3D printed, and it turns out that printed tools are not only fast and economical, but can be surprisingly resilient. You can see such tools in action in our earlier coverage of this approach here and here.

[Thetelltalehart]’s previous work was printed at 80% infill and 12 walls, and failed at 5 tons. The new hybrid tool adds some common hardware that has the effect of reinforcing the tool for very little added expense or complexity. The new tool made it up to 7 tons before failure. It’s a clever idea, and an apparently effective one.

The goal with these 3D printed tools is twofold: doing short-run work, and reducing costly rework when developing “real” tooling. Having to re-cut a tool because it isn’t quite right in some way is expensive and costly, and it’s much easier and cheaper to go through that process with 3D printing instead of metal.

See The Damage 250-Pound Combat Robots Get

Combat robots have been a thing for a while, but we don’t normally get a close look at the end results of the sort of damage they can both take and deal out. [Raymond Ma] spent time helping out with season four of BattleBots and wrote about the experience, as well as showed several pictures of the kind of damage 250-pound robots can inflict upon each other. We’ve embedded a few of them here, but we encourage you to read [Raymond]’s writeup and see the rest for yourself.

The filming for a season of BattleBots is done in a relatively short amount of time, which means the pacing and repair work tends to be more fast and furious than slow and thoughtful. [Raymond] says that it isn’t uncommon for bots, near the end of filming, to be held together with last-minute welds, wrong-sized parts, and sets of firmly-crossed fingers. This isn’t because the bots themselves are poorly designed or made; it’s because they can get absolutely wrecked by the forces at play.

Combat robotics has been around for as long as people have been able to give a power tool some wheels and point it towards an opponent. Flying bots are even getting into the scene nowadays, with DroneClash leveraging the explosive growth of the drone industry to take the action into the air.

Don’t Scrape Magnet Wire, Do This Instead

[Tom] doesn’t much like breadboarding. He prefers to wire up prototypes with perfboard and solder point-to-point with enameled magnet wire. That may sound troublesome to some of you, but [Tom] has come up with a few tips to make prototyping with perfboard and magnet wire easier and more effective, and the biggest tip is about how to manage stripping all that magnet wire.

Push the tip of the magnet wire a small distance into the molten solder and hold it there for a few moments. The solder will bubble away the enamel and tin the copper underneath in the process.

Magnet wire is a thin, solid-core conductor that has a clear coating of enamel. This enamel acts as an electrical insulator. The usual way to strip away the enamel and reveal the shiny copper underneath is to scrape it off, but that would get tiresome when working with a lot of connections. [Tom] prefers to “boil it away” with a blob of molten solder on an iron’s tip.

Begin by melting a small amount of solder on the iron, then push the tip of the magnet wire a small distance into the molten solder and hold it there for a few moments. The enamel will bubble away and the solder will tin the copper underneath in the process. The trick is to use fresh solder, and to clean the tip in between applications. You can see him demonstrate this around the 1:00 mark in the video embedded below.

Once the tip of the magnet wire is tinned, it can be soldered as needed. Magnet wire bends well and holds its shape nicely, so routing it and cutting to size isn’t too difficult. [Tom] also suggests a good hands-free PCB holder, and points out that 0603 sized SMT resistors fit nicely between a perfboard’s 0.1″ pads.

Perfboard (and veroboard) have been standbys of prototyping for a long time, but there are still attempts at improving them, usually by allowing one to combine through-hole and surface-mount devices on the same board, but you can see [Tom] demonstrate using magnet wire on plain old perfboard in the video below.

Continue reading “Don’t Scrape Magnet Wire, Do This Instead”

3D Printering: Getting Started Is (Still) Harder Than It Needs To Be

Stop me if this sounds familiar. You are interested in 3D printing but lacked a clear idea of what was involved. Every time you looked into it, it returned to the back burner because after spending your limited free time researching, it still looked like a part time job just to get up to speed on the basics. If this is you, then you’re exactly the reason I say the following: despite 3D printing being more accessible than ever, getting started remains harder than it needs to be. It’s a shame, because there are smart, but busy, people just waiting for that to change.

A highly technical friend and colleague of mine had, off and on, been interested in 3D printing for some time. He had questions, but also didn’t have a very good understanding of the basics because it’s clumsy and time-consuming to research something when one doesn’t even know the right terms.

I told him to video call me. Using my phone I showed him the everyday process, from downloading a model to watching the first layer get put down by the printer. He had researched getting started before, but our call was honestly the first time he had ever seen a 3D printer’s actual workflow, showing hands-on what was involved from beginning to end. It took less than twenty minutes to give him a context into which he could fit everything else, and from where he felt comfortable seeking more information. I found out later, when I politely inquired whether he had found our talk useful, that he had ordered a Prusa MK3S printer later that same day.

It got me thinking. What from our call was important and useful, but not available elsewhere? And why not?

Continue reading “3D Printering: Getting Started Is (Still) Harder Than It Needs To Be”

Lighting Up A Tiny Train Needs Tiny Tools

A tiny toy train that [voidnill] illuminated with a small LED strip fragment demonstrates several challenges that come with both modifying existing products, and working with small things in general. One is that it is hard in general to work around existing design choices and materials when modifying something. The second is that problems are magnified with everything is so small.

[voidnill]’s plentiful photos illustrate everything from drilling out small rivets and tapping the holes for screws to installing a tiny switch, LED strip, and button cells as a power supply. When things are so small, some of the usual solutions don’t apply. For example, cyanoacrylate glue may seem like a good idea for mounting small plastic parts, but CA glue easily wicks into components like the tiny power switch and gums up the insides, rendering it useless.

[voidnill] uses lots of careful cutting and patience to get everything done, and demonstrates the importance of quality tools. The LED strip fragment is driven by three small button cells, and while tape does a serviceable job as a battery holder, [voidnill] believes a 3D printed custom frame for the cells would really do the trick.

The kind of work that goes into making or modifying small things really puts into perspective the amount of effort behind projects like this coffee table with an N-gauge model railway inside it.

Gorgeous Clock, And Not A Line Of Code In Sight

[Harry] dropped us a note to let us know about his completed CMOS clock project, and we’re delighted that he did because it’s gorgeous. It’s a digital clock satisfyingly assembled entirely from hardware logic, without a single line of code. There are three main parts to this kind of digital clock: ensuring a stable time base, allowing for setting the time, and turning the counter outputs into a numerical display.

Keeping accurate time is done with a 32.768 kHz crystal, and using CMOS logic to divide that down to a 1 Hz square wave. From there, keeping track of hours and minutes and seconds is mostly a matter of having counters reset and carry at the appropriate times. Setting the clock is done by diverting the 1 Hz signal so that it directly increments either the hours or minutes counter. The counter values are always shown “live” on six 7-segment displays, which makes it all human-readable.

The whole thing is tastefully enclosed in a glass dome which looks great, but [Harry] helpfully warns prospective makers that such things have an unfortunate side effect of being a fingerprint magnet. Schematics and design files are provided for those who want a closer look.

This clock uses a crystal and divider, but there’s another method for keeping accurate time and that’s to base it off the alternating current frequency of power from the grid. Not a bad method, albeit one that depends on being plugged into the wall.