DIY Cryogel Sustains Live Cells

We like to think our readers are on the cutting edge. With the advent of CRISPR kits at home and DIY bio blooming in workshops across the world, we wanted to share a video which may be ahead of its time. [The Thought Emporium] has just shown us a way to store eukaryotic cells at room temperature. His technique is based on a paper published in Nature which he links to from the YouTube page, but you can see his video after the break.

Eukaryotic cells, the kind we are made of, have been transported at low temperatures with techniques like active refrigeration, liquid nitrogen, and dry ice but those come with a host of problems like cost, convenience, and portability. Storing the cells with cryogel has been shown to reliably keep the cells stable for up to a week at a time and [The Thought Emporium] made some in his homemade freeze-dryer which he’s shown us before. The result looks like a potato chip, but is probably less nutrious than astronaut ice cream.

If cell transport doesn’t tickle your fancy, cryogel is fascinating by itself as a durable, lightweight insulator similar to Aerogel. You can make Aerogel at home too.
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Vintage Sewing Machine to Computerized Embroidery Machine

It is February of 2018. Do you remember what you were doing in December of 2012? If you’re [juppiter], you were starting your CNC Embroidery Machine which would not be completed for more than half of a decade. Results speak for themselves, but this may be the last time we see a first-generation Raspberry Pi without calling it retro.

The heart of the build is a vintage Borletti sewing machine, and if you like machinery porn, you’re going to enjoy the video after the break. The brains of the machine are an Arduino UNO filled with GRBL goodness and the Pi which is running CherryPy. For muscles, there are three Postep25 stepper drivers and corresponding NEMA 17 stepper motors.

The first two axes are for an X-Y table responsible for moving the fabric through the machine. The third axis is the flywheel. The rigidity of the fabric frame comes from its brass construction which may have been soldered at the kitchen table and supervised by a big orange cat. A rigid frame is the first ingredient in reliable results, but belt tension can’t be understated. His belt tensioning trick may not be new to you, but it was new to some of us. Italian translation may be necessary.

The skills brought together for this build were vast. There was structural soldering, part machining, a microcontroller, and motion control. The first time we heard from [juppiter] was December 2012, and it was the result of a Portable CNC Mill which likely had some influence on this creation. Between then, he also shared his quarter-gobbling arcade cabinet with us.

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Zen and the Art of Foam Core

Some of our pastimes are so deeply meditative that we lose ourselves for hours. Our hands seem to perform every step, and sequence like a pianist might recite her favorite song. If [Eric Strebel]’s voice and videos are any indications, working with foam core can have that effect.

Foam core is a staple of art stores, hobby stores, and office supply stores. It comes in different colors, but the universal trait is a sheet of foam sandwiched between a couple of layers of paper. This composition makes a versatile material which [Eric] demonstrates well in his advanced tutorial making a compound surface and later on a speaker mockup.

After the break, you can catch a couple of beginner tutorials which explain the differences between a slapdash foam core model, and one which will draw appreciation. Proper tools and thoughtful planning might be the biggest takeaways from the first two videos unless you count the Zen narration. The advanced videos, linked above, show some ingenious ways to use foam core like offset scoring, adjustable super-structures, and paper transfers.

Each video is less than ten minutes long, so if you just started your coffee break, you can complete a video right now. Or look at another 2D material turned into amazingness with a papercraft strandbeest, then step up your game with another look at vinyl cutters.
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A Freeze Dryer You Can Build in Your Garage

What do trail mix, astronaut ice-cream, and cryogel have in common? This may sound like the introduction to a corny riddle, but they are all things you can make in your garage with a homemade freeze dryer. [The Thought Emporium] built his own freeze dryer with minimum fuss and only a few exotic components like a vacuum pump and a high-quality pressure gauge. The video is also posted after the break which contains a list for the parts and where they can be purchased.

Freeze drying uses a process called cryodesiccation or lyophilization. Below a certain pressure, water skips the liquid phase and goes directly to a gas, so frozen items can transition from ice to dry without a soggy step. When you jump the liquid phase, objects hold their shape when they were frozen, and since no heat is used, you don’t carmelize your sugars.

A freeze-dryer like this has three parts. The first is the pump which doesn’t need any explanation. Next to the pump there must be a water trap. This chilly compartment recondenses the water vapor, so it doesn’t get inside the pump or saturate the things you’re trying to dry. Lastly, there is the drying chamber where your items are placed to have their moisture taken out.

Astronaut ice cream has been made on Hackaday before. [The Thought Emporium] has also been seen including a piece on making your own graphene.

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Indexing Chuck Not Required

Becoming accomplished with a lathe is a powerful skillset, but it’s only half of the journey. Being clever comes later, and it’s the second part of the course. Patience is in there somewhere too, but let’s focus on being clever. [TimNummy] wants a knobbed bolt with critical parameters, so he makes his own. After the break, there is a sixty-second summary of the linked video.

Making stock hardware is a beginner’s tasks, so custom hardware requires ingenuity or expensive machinery. Adding finger notches to a bolthead is arbitrary with an indexing chuck, but one isn’t available. Instead, hex stock becomes a jig, and the flat sides are utilized to hold the workpiece at six intermittent angles. We can’t argue with the results which look like a part that would cost a pretty penny.

Using material found in the workshop is what being clever is all about. Hex brass stock comes with tight tolerances on the sides and angles so why not take advantage of that?

[TimNummy] can be seen on HaD for his Jeep dome light hack and an over-engineered mailbox flag. Did you miss [Quinn Dunki]’s piece on bootstrapping precision machine tools? Go check that out!

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Long-Range RFID Leaflets

Pick a card, any card. [Andrew Quitmeyer] and [Madeline Schwartzman] make sure that any card you pick will match their NYC art installation. “Replantment” is an interactive art installation which invites guests to view full-size leaf molds casts from around the world.

A receipt file with leaf images is kept out of range in this art installation. When a viewer selects one, and carries it to the viewing area, an RFID reader tells an Arduino which tag has been detected. Solid-state relays control two recycled clothing conveyors draped with clear curtains. The simple units used to be back-and-forth control but through dead-reckoning, they can present any leaf mold cast front-and-center.

Clothing conveyors from the last century weren’t this smart before, and it begs the question about inventory automation in small businesses or businesses with limited space.

We haven’t seen much long-range RFID, probably because of cost. Ordinary tags have been read at a distance with this portable reader though, and NFC has been transmitted across a room, sort of.

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Digital Mouse Trap

Plenty of PC games rely on the mouse for input, and browser games are no exception. Unfortunately though, this isn’t always the most intuitive controller. [Nathan Ramanathan] combined a couple hacks to get the controller he wanted for playing browser games like Agar and Slither. No rodents were harmed in this project.

The games he wanted to dominate were top-down view so there was no need to move the mouse far from the center of the screen. For a more intuitive interface, a Wii nunchuck with its integrated joystick was selected. Nunchucks were notoriously hackable. An Arduino converted the nunchuck’s data into mouse movements. Inside the computer, Autohotkey kept the mouse pointer reined in where it was useful. Autohotkey was a scripting tool for executing keyboard and mouse macros.

The result was a joystick which controlled these browser games exactly the way you would expect a joystick to control a game. Mouse functionality, including standard and fast scrolling, was an added bonus so games like Minecraft aren’t left behind. The ergonomics of the nunchuck make us wonder why it hasn’t been seen in more wearable hacks.

Custom game controllers are no stranger to Hackaday readers. We’ve seen them built from LEGO blocks, automobiles, and even a decorative rug.

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