A Pin Pusher To Make Life Easier

Picture the scene: you’ve whipped up an amazing new gadget, your crowdfunding campaign has gone well, and you’ve got a couple hundred orders to fill. Having not quite hit the big time, you’re preparing to tackle the production largely yourself. Parts begin to flood in, and you’ve got tube after tube of ICs ready to populate your shiny new PCBs? After the third time, you’re sick and tired of fighting with those irksome little pins. Enter [Stuart] with the answer.

It’s a simple tool, attractively presented. Two pieces of laser cut acrylic are assembled in a perpendicular fashion, creating a vertical surface which can be used to press pins out of IC tubes. [Stuart]’s example has rubber feet, though we could easily see this built into a work surface as well.

The build highlights two universal truths. One, that laser cutters are capable of producing elegant, visually attractive items almost effortlessly, something we can’t say about the garden variety 3D printer. Secondly, all it takes is a few little jigs and tools to make any production process much easier. This is something that’s easy to see in the many factories all over the world – special single-purpose devices that make a weird, tricky task almost effortless.

In DIY production lines, testing is important too – so why not check out this home-spun test jig?

Automatic DIY Wire Stripper

Breadboards are a great way to get started with electronics, they can remove the need for soldering which saves time for beginners who are still getting to grips with the basics of electricity, and they allow quick and easy changes to be made without the risk of melting components. However, they do require the stripping of a lot of hook up wires. While these are readily available off-the-shelf, [Stuart] decided a better solution was in order.

The project starts with a set of standard hand-operated wire strippers. A lasercut acrylic frame is then built, with a series of motors and gears to handle the transport of the wire to be stripped and to open and close the jaws of the wire strippers. Wire is fed in, stripped, fed further, stripped again, and then finally cut. The process then begins anew.

The machine is quite pleasant to watch in action, with a series of motors and limit switches helping to control the mechanism. It’s a great way to populate kits that require plenty of hookup wire without having to resort to the more common pressed-on jumper terminals that dominate the post-Arduino era. For context’s sake, this build is from the distant past, circa 2009. Plans to recreate it are available on Thingiverse. Video after the break.

Given this is the future, perhaps you’d prefer your wires laser-stripped instead?

[Thanks to Nikolai for the tip!]

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A Faster Grave Digger For Your Child

Children love speed, but so few of those electric ride on toys deliver it. What’s a kid to do? Well, if [PoppaFixit]’s your dad, you’re in luck.

This project starts with an unusually cool Power Wheels toy, based on the famous Grave Digger monster truck. During the modification process, it was quickly realised that the original motor controller wasn’t going to cut the mustard. With only basic on/off control, it gave a very jerky ride and was harsh on the transmission components, too. [PoppaFixit] decided to upgrade to an off-the-shelf 24 V motor controller to give the car more finesse as well as speed. The controller came with a replacement set of pedals, both accelerator and brake, to replace the stock units. On the motor side, a couple of beefier Traxxas units were substituted for the weedy originals.

Acceleration is now much improved, not just due to the added power, but because the variable throttle allows the driver to avoid wheelspin on hard launches. It also makes the car much more comfortable and safe to drive, thanks to the added controllability. Another way to tell the project was a success is the look of pure joy on the new owner’s face!

This was a fairly basic install, very accessible to the novice. These sort of electric vehicle hop-ups are commonplace enough that there are a wide variety of suppliers who sell easy-to-use kits for this sort of work. For that reason, we’ve seen plenty of hacks of this sort – like this modified scooter, or these Power Wheels set up for racing.

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Basic Sequencer for your Synth Rack

Sequencers are useful for bringing regular structure to your music, particularly if you enjoy noodling around with rackmount synthesizers. [little-scale] is here to share an ADC Binary Gate sequencer for your setup.

In a quest for ever greater minimalism, the build relies on a barebones ATMega328p without an external oscillator. Instead, the chip’s internal RC oscillator is used instead. It’s possible to still use this with the Arduino IDE, as [little-scale] shares here.

The music production begins with a clock input signal, which is patched in from elsewhere in the rack synth. The sequencing is controlled with potentiometers. There are four potentiometers, and four corresponding output channels.  The pots are all read with the onboard analog to digital converters, and the position transformed into an 8-bit value, from 0 to 255. Our best understanding is that the 8-bit number is then used as the sequence to follow. For example, if the potentiometer is set to 255, which is 11111111 in binary, the sequencer will trigger on every beat. If instead the potentiometer was turned to around 2/3rds of the maximum, and the ADC reads a value of 170, in binary this is 10101010 which would trigger on every second beat.

It’s an interesting way to sequence several channels with the bare minimum of input devices. While it may not be the most intuitive system, it really suits the knob-and-dial noodling so relished by rackmount fanatics. Be sure to check out the video below for [little-scale]’s rackmount sounds and impressively pretty videography.  Never before did breadboards look so good.

New to rack mount synths? Check this one out.




Cheap and Easy Helmet Lights for the Kids

Bikes are a great way to get around and get exercise at the same time, and are widely popular with human children due to the fact that they’re generally not allowed to drive. However, riding on or next to the road can be dangerous, particularly at night, when even adults on bikes are hard to see. It’s far worse for the youngest children, who can be incredibly small and difficult to spot. [Patrick]’s children enjoy riding, but it can get a little sketchy at night, so he developed a solution.

The project relies on cheap, commonly available LED strip lights. Rather than any fancy addressable strips, these are just simple strings of LEDs with current limiting resistors already fitted in a convenient, adhesive backed format. This makes the job as easy as peeling off the backing tape, sticking the strips to the helmet, and providing a power source. In clsasic entry-level hack style, everything’s running off a single 9V battery. Is it as versatile as a rechargable lithium pack with integrated controller? No, but it’s a swift way to get a project off the ground.

The trick here isn’t so much the hardware side of things – there’s nothing fancy about a battery and some LEDs. The key here is that [Patrick] identified that his children are small and difficult to see, thus it made sense to fit helmet lights rather then more typical bike lights to make them more visible to surrounding traffic.

For something at the other end of the spectrum, check out this amazingly professional LED bike light.

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Order Drinks With Your Mind

Barbots are a popular project around these parts. With a few pumps and a microcontroller or two, it’s possible to build something that can approximate mixing a drink. If you’ve got the patience and attention to detail, you can probably even get it to the point where it doesn’t just end up as a leaking wet mess on your mantlepiece. [Robert] has taken his build a step further by adding mind control.

To achieve this feat, a Mindflex EEG headset is pressed into service. This picks up brainwaves from the user, and processes them into two output values of concentration and meditation. Through some careful hacking, it’s possible to retrieve these values. [Robert] sends the values over Bluetooth to the barbot controller for processing. Concentration values over a certain threshold are used to cycle through the drink selection, while meditation values are used to confirm the order. Once it’s made, a voice command to “hit me” will see the drink served.

It’s a tidy build that adds a bit of fun to an already cool project. We’d love to see this taken up several levels of complexity to the point where you can directly order the drink you want, just by the power of thought. If your university-grade research project is at that level, be sure to let us know. Else, if you’re interested in how the barbot came to be, check out [Robert]’s earlier work.


Screw Drive Tank is Radio Controlled, 3D Printed

Screw drives are something that we don’t see a lot of – they’ve got an interesting set of attributes making them useful on soft ground, but woe betide you if your local transport department catches you trying to belt one of these up the freeway. After a long development period, [Ivan] has finally perfected his screw drive tank.

This is something that’s been in the works for a long time. It’s a primarily 3D-printed build, showing just how easy it is to build complex machines from scratch in this day and age of rapid prototyping. Over time, [Ivan] has experimented with different screw shapes and taken feedback from his audience on how to improve the craft. With some changes to the gearing and drive layout, the tank returned to the beach, with great success. Powered by twin brushless motors and controlled by off-the-shelf RC gear, the tank has no trouble scooting about the sand.

The project shows the value in iterative design, with [Ivan] taking time to lay out all the parts which have changed since the last revision. It’s a project that is now a five-part series, and we can’t wait to see where it goes next. There’s every chance an amphibious version could be in the works. For something on the larger scale, check out this screw drive tractor set to conquer Canada.

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