Lasers, Mirrors, and Sensors Combine in an Optical Bench Game

Who would have thought you could make a game out of an optical bench? [Chris Mitchell] did, and while we were skeptical at first, his laser Light Bender game has some potential. Just watch your eyes.

The premise is simple: direct the beam of a colored laser to the correct target before time runs out. [Chris] used laser-cut acrylic for his playfield, which has nine square cutouts arranged in a grid. Red, green, and blue laser pointers line the bottom of the grid, with photosensors and RGB LEDs lining the grid on the other three sides. Play starts with a random LED lighting up in one of the three colors, acting as a target. The corresponding color laser comes on, and the player has to insert mirrors or pass-through blocks in the grid to create a path to the target. The faster you hit the CdS cell, the higher your score. It’s simple, but it looks really engaging. We can imagine all sorts of upgrades, like lighting up two different targets at once, or adding a beamsplitter block to hit two targets with the same color. Filters and polarizers could add to the optical fun too.

We like builds that are just for fun, especially when they’re well-crafted and have a slight air of danger. The balloon-busting killbots project we featured recently comes to mind.

Continue reading “Lasers, Mirrors, and Sensors Combine in an Optical Bench Game”

Cordless Tool Battery Pack Turned into Portable Bench Supply

Say what you want about the current crop of mass-marketed consumer-grade cordless tools, but they’ve got one thing going for them — they’re cheap. Cheap enough, in fact, that they offer a lot of hacking opportunities, like this portable bench power supply that rides atop a Ryobi battery.

Like many of the more common bench supply builds we’ve seen,  [Pat K]’s more portable project relies on the ubiquitous DPS5005 power supply module, obtained from the usual sources. [Pat K] doesn’t get into specifics on performance, but supplied with 18 volts from a Ryobi One+ battery, the DC-DC programmable module should be able to do up to about 16 volts. Mating the battery to the supply is easy with the 3D-printed case, which has a socket for the battery that mimics the sockets on tools from the Ryobi line. It’s simple and effective, as well as neatly executed. The files for the case are on Thingiverse; sadly, only an STL file is included, so if you want to support another brand’s batteries, you’ll have to roll your own.

Check out some of the other power supplies we’ve featured that use the DPS5005 and its cousins, like this nice bench unit. We’ve also covered some of the more hackable aspects of this module, such as an open-source firmware replacement.

Servos Do the Plucking in this MIDI Music Box

It started with a cheap, punch-card programmable manual music box. Thirty-one hobby servos later, it ended as an automated MIDI music box, with a short pit stop as a keyboard-driven MIDI device.

If you think you’ve seen the music box in [mitexela]’s video below before, you’re right. [Martin], musician, inventor, and father of the marvelous marble music machine, took an interest in these music boxes and their programming a while back. Like [Martin], [mitexela] started his music box project with punch card programming, but he quickly grew tired of the bothersome process, even after automating production with a laser cutter. He decided to do away with the punch cards completely and devised a method to pluck all 30 notes using a few large handfuls of hobby servos. One servo, converted to continuous rotation, spins the drum, with the rest linked to small laser-cut acrylic plectrums via stiff brass wire. The fingers imitate the punched holes passing over the drum and pluck the notes according to MIDI messages. The whole thing can draw quite a bit of current, so in addition to a beefy power supply, [mitexelea] optimized the code to minimize power requirements. This had the happy consequence of reducing the latency enough to allow the music box to be played from a MIDI keyboard in real time.

A lot of work went into this one, but [mitexela] isn’t resting on his laurels; he has a full slate of improvements that he wants to tackle, not least of which is SD card support for MIDI files to turn this into a jukebox. We’re looking forward to the updates.

Continue reading “Servos Do the Plucking in this MIDI Music Box”

Mechanisms: Cable Ties

Zip ties, Ty-Raps, cable ties; call them what you will, but it’s hard to imagine doing without these ubiquitous and useful devices. Along with duct tape and hot glue, they’re part of the triumvirate of fasteners used to solve nasty problems quickly and cheaply. They’re next up on the list of mechanisms we find fascinating, and as it turns out, there’s more to these devices than meets the eye.

Continue reading “Mechanisms: Cable Ties”

Rotary Electric Gun Might Not Put Your Eye Out, Kid

This one is clearly from the “it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye” file, and it’s a bit of a departure from [Make It Extreme]’s usual focus on building tools for the shop. But what’s the point of having a well-equipped shop if you don’t build cool things, like this unique homebrew electric gun?

When we hear “electric gun” around here, we naturally think of the rail guns and coil guns we feature on a regular basis, which use stored electric charge to accelerate a projectile using electromagnetic forces. This gun is much simpler than that, using purely mechanical means to accelerate the projectiles. The heart of the unit is a machined aluminum spiral from an old scroll compressor, which uses interleaved orbiting spirals to compress gasses. This scroll was cut down to reduce its mass and fixed to a complex shaft assembly allowing it to spin up to tremendous speed with a powerful electric motor. A hopper feeds the marble-sized ammo into the eye of the scroll, which spits it out at high speed. Lacking a barrel, the gun can only spew rounds in the general direction of the target, but it makes up for inaccuracy with an impressive rate of fire — 100 rounds downrange in two seconds. It’s pretty powerful, too, judging by the divots in the sheet steel target in the video below.

Like all of [Make It Extreme]’s build, a lot of effort went into this, and it shows. Their other fun builds of dubious safety include these electromagnetic wall climbers and these “Go Go Gadget” legs.

Continue reading “Rotary Electric Gun Might Not Put Your Eye Out, Kid”

Traction Control Gets More Power to the Road for Tot-Sized Lamborghini

We’ve all heard the complaints from oldsters: “Cars used to be so simple that all you needed to fix them was a couple of wrenches and a rag. Now, you need a computer science degree to even pop the hood!” It’s true to some extent, but such complexity is the cost of progress in the name of safety and efficiency. And now it seems this complexity is coming way down-market, with this traction control system for a Power Wheels Lamborghini.

While not exactly an entry-level model from the Power Wheels line of toddler transportation, the pint-sized Lamborghini Aventador [Jason] bought for his son had a few issues. Straight from the factory, its 6-volt drivetrain was a little anemic, with little of the neck-snapping acceleration characteristic of an electric drive. [Jason] opted to replace the existing 6-volt drive with a 12-volt motor and battery while keeping the original 6-volt controller in place. The resulting rat’s nest of relays was unsightly but sufficient to see a four-fold increase in top speed.

With all that raw power sent to only one wheel, though, the Lambo was prone to spinouts. [Jason] countered this with a traction control system using optical encoders on each of the rear wheels. A NodeMCU senses speed differences between the wheels and controls the motor through an H-bridge to limit slipping. As a bonus, a smartphone app can connect to the Node for in-flight telemetry. Check out the build and the car being put through its paces by the young [Mr. Steal Your Girl] in the video below.

The Power Wheels platform is infinitely hackable – from repairs to restorations to enhancements of questionable sanity, it seems like there’s nothing you can’t do with these little electric vehicles.

Continue reading “Traction Control Gets More Power to the Road for Tot-Sized Lamborghini”

This Big, Bright Seven-Segment Display is 3D-Printable

Seven-segment LED displays have been around forever, it seems, and the design is pretty optimized by now. Off-the-shelf units are readily available in all sorts of sizes and colors, but if you want a really big display, you might have to roll your own. Scaling up the size doesn’t necessarily mean you have to scale up the complexity, though, if this light-pipeless jumbo seven-segment LED display is any indication.

It’s clear that [Fran Blanche] has a thing for collecting and building oddball numeric displays, like this cathode ray tube Nixie knockoff or her Apollo DSKY electroluminescent display. Her plus-size seven-segment display is far less complicated than either of those, and that’s by design; [Fran] wanted something that was 3D-printable as a single part, rather than an assembly with light pipes and diffusers. To that end, the display is just a pair of X-shaped dividers stacked on top of each other behind the display’s face. They dividers form six triangular compartments and a diamond shaped one, with each compartment opening into a segment-shaped window. One LED goes in each triangular compartment, while the double-sized diamond space gets two. That’s it — the LEDs light up the inside of each compartment to turn on the appropriate segments. Watch it in action below.

The display still needs some tweaking, but it’s big and bright and has a large acceptance angle. What’s more, it’s scalable — imagine a display the size of a sheet of plywood using LED light bulbs. We’re looking forward to [Fran]’s improvements and her next display project, which appears to use hot glue as a light pipe.

Continue reading “This Big, Bright Seven-Segment Display is 3D-Printable”