We Would Not Want To Be Stormtroopers Right Now

Humanity is another step closer to a fantasy-accurate lightsaber thanks to Hackaday alumnus [James Hobson] at Hacksmith. Their proto-saber cuts through (cosplay) stormtrooper armor, (foam) walls, and a (legit!) 1/4″ (6.35mm) steel plate. For so many reasons, we want to focus on the blade and handle. (Video, embedded below.)

The blade is a plasma stream designed for glassworking and burns a propane/oxygen mix with almost no residue, but the “blade” stays in a tight cylinder shape. With a custom PCB hosting a mixing controller, the blade extends and retracts like in the movies. The handle is not a technical marvel; it is an artistic wonder and if you want to see some machining eye-candy, check out the first video after the break. The second video demonstrates just how much damage you can do with a 4000° Fahrenheit tube of portable plasma.

You won’t be dueling anyone just yet, since there is no magnetic field shaping the blade like the ones [Lucas] envisioned. Unfortunately, you can’t block anything more substantial than a balloon sword since solid material will pass right through it, but it will suffer a mighty burn in the process. Lightsabers are a fantasy weapon, but the collective passion of nerds have made it as real as ever, and the Guinness folks give credibility to this build.

Continue reading “We Would Not Want To Be Stormtroopers Right Now”

Hello, Holograms

Holograms are tricky to describe because science-fiction gives the name to any three-dimensional image. The science-fact versions are not as flashy, but they are still darn cool. Legitimate holograms are images stored on a photographic medium, and they retain a picture of the subject from certain angles. In other words, when [Justin Atkin] makes a hologram of a model building, (video, embedded below) you can see the east side of the belfry, but when you reorient, you see the west side, or the roof if you point down. Holography is different from stereoscopy, which shows you a 3D image using two cameras. With a stereoscopic image, you cannot tilt it and see a new part of the subject, so there is a niche for each method.

There are a couple of different methods for making a hologram at home. First, you probably want a DIY hologram kit since it will come with the exposure plate and a known-good light source. Far be it for us to tell you you can’t buy plates and a laser pointer to take the path less traveled. Next, you need something that will not move, so we’re afraid you cannot immortalize your rambunctious kitty. The last necessity is a stable platform since you will perform a long-exposure shot, and even breathing on the setup can ruin the image. Different colors come from the coherent light source, so getting the “Rainbow Holograms” advertised in the video is a matter of mixing lights. Since you can buy red, green, and blue laser pointers for a pittance, you can do color remixes to your content.

Another type of hologram appears on things like trading cards as those wildly off-color (chromatic, not distasteful) images of super-heroes or abstract shapes. They’re a different variety, which can be printed en-masse, unlike the one-off [Justin] shows us how to make.

If you’re yearning for volumetric displays, we are happy to point you to this beauty capable of showing a jaw-dropping 3D model or this full-color blocky duck.

Continue reading “Hello, Holograms”

Spider Silk, Spider Silk, Made Using A Strain Of Yeast

Companies spend thousands developing a project for the market, hoping their investment will return big. Investing like this happens every day and won’t shock anyone. What may surprise you is someone who spends more than a decade and thousands of their own dollars to make an open-source version of a highly-marketable product. In this case, we’re talking about genetically modified yeast that produces spider silk. If that sounds like a lead-in to some Spiderman jokes and sci-fi references, you are correct on both accounts. [Justin Atkin] had some geneticist work under his belt when he started, so he planned to follow familiar procedures like extracting black widow DNA, isolating and copying the silk genes, and pasting them into a yeast strain. Easy peasy, right? Naturally, good science doesn’t happen overnight.

There are a few contenders for the strongest spider silk among which the golden silk orb-weaver gets the most attention, but the black widow’s webbing is nearly as strong, and [Justin] is happy to wear black widow inspired bling, whereas the golden orb-weaver looks like it crawled out of Starship Troopers. His first attempt to extract DNA starts with a vial of preserved nightmare fuel spider specimens because that is a thing you can just go online and buy. Sadly, they were candied in alcohol, and that obliterates DNA, so he moved to dried specimens from breeders, which also failed to produce results, and those were just the landmark hangups.

Continue reading “Spider Silk, Spider Silk, Made Using A Strain Of Yeast”

Hardware Store Hydroponics

Science fiction movies often portray horticulture in the future, be it terrestrial or aboard spacecraft, with hydroponic gardens overflowing with leafy greens and brightly colored fruit. There is no soil, just clear water that hints at future-people creating a utopia of plant strains untethered from their earthly roots.

This star-faring food production method is not fiction if you forego the polycarbonate tubing, neon accent lights, and gardening robots. For his 2020 Hackaday Prize entry, [AVR] shares how he creates a bed for sixteen plants with parts sourced at a nearby home-improvement store. It may lack the visual pizzaz of the Hollywood versions, but it will grow soil-less crops on a hacker budget.

The starting point for this build is a sturdy wooden base. The PVC tubing and fence parts on top are light, but the water inside them will get heavy, and if you grow large plants, they become surprisingly heavy. Speaking of water, the sub-category of hydroponics this falls under is Nutrient Film Technique, or NFT, which uses a shallow stream of water laden with all the nutrients for plant growth. The square fence posts provide a flat top for mounting mesh cups where the plants grow and a flat bottom where the stream continuously flows. A basin and pump keep the plants refreshed and fed until they are ready for harvest.

Skylight In Any Room

Despite a glut of introvert memes, humans need sunlight. If vitamin D isn’t your concern, the sun is a powerful heater, and it helps plants grow. Sadly for [mime], their house is not positioned well to capture all those yummy sunbeams. Luckily for us, their entry into the 2020 Hackaday Prize is their sun-tracking apparatus that redirects those powerful rays throughout the house. It uses a couple of mirrors to redirect the light around their shed and into the house. For those who work in a dim office, no amount of work is too great for a peek of natural sunlight.

Movie spoiler alert: We saw this trick in the 1985 movie Legend and it was enough to vanquish the Lord of Darkness.

This project started in 2014 and sat on hiatus for more than five years, but it is back and prime for improvements fueled by half-a-decade of experience. The parts that aren’t likely to change are the threaded struts that adjust the positioning mirror’s angle, the driving motors, and power circuitry. Their first plan was to build a solar-powered controller with an Arduino, DC motors, and sun telemetry data, but now they’re leaning toward stepper motors and a computer in the house with a long cable. They are a finalist this year, so we will keep our eyes peeled for further development.

Sunshine In A Bag

Ultraviolet (UV) curing lamps are crucial if you have a resin 3D printer or work with UV adhesives. Some folks line an old Amazon shipping box with foil and drop a spotlight somewhere inside. Other folks toss their work under the all-natural light source, Sol. Both options have portability and reliability problems, but [AudreyObscura] has it covered with a reflective mat lined with UV strip lights. This HackadayPrize2020 finalist exemplifies the ideal that good ideas are often simple, and this has a remarkably short bill of materials.

Foil bubble insulation is the medium because it provides structure and reflectivity, but it doesn’t cooperate with the LED strip’s adhesive. [AudreyObscura] demonstrates that masking tape as an interfacing layer makes everyone play nicely. A fine example of an experienced maker, their design covers bundling wires and insulating connections to keep everything tidy and isolated. With different arrangements, this can form a tunnel lit from above, a chimney lit from the walls, or you can drape it over some scaffolding.

If you need something a little less portable for your own shop you might consider a mirror-filled chamber. One nice touch to add is a turntable to help make sure the entire part is cured without any missing areas.

Continue reading “Sunshine In A Bag”

Seek And Ye Shall Command

If we count all the screens in our lives, it takes a hot minute. Some of them are touchscreens, some need a mouse or keyboard, but we are accustomed to all the input devices. Not everyone can use the various methods, like cerebral palsy patients who rely on eye-tracking hardware. Traditionally, that only works on the connected computer, so switching from a chair-mounted screen to a tablet on the desk is not an option. To give folks the ability to control different computers effortlessly [Zack Freedman] is developing a head-mounted eye-tracker that is not tied to one computer. In a way, this is like a KVM switch, but way more futuristic. [Tony Stark] would be proud.

An infrared detector on the headset identifies compatible screens in line of sight and synchs up with its associated HID dongle. A headset-mounted color camera tracks the head position in relation to the screen while an IR camera scans the eye to calculate where the user is focusing. All the technology here is proven, but this new recipe could be a game-changer to anyone who has trouble with the traditional keyboard, mouse, and touchscreen. Maybe QR codes could assist the screen identification and orientation like how a Wii remote and sensor bar work together.