Saving Fuel With Advanced Sensors And An Arduino

When [Robot Cantina] isn’t busy tweaking the 420cc Big Block engine in their Honda Insight, they’re probably working on some other completely far out automotive atrocity. In the video below the break, you’ll see them take the concept of a ‘lean burn’ system from the Insight and graft hack it into their 1997 Saturn coupe.

What’s a lean burn system? Simply put, it tricks the car into burning less fuel when it’s cruising under a light load to improve the vehicle’s average mileage. The Saturn’s electronics aren’t sophisticated enough to implement a lean burn system simply, and so [Robot Cantina] did what any of us might have done: hacked it in with an Arduino.

The video does a wonderful job going into the details, but essentially by using an oxygen sensor with finer resolution (wide-band) and then outputting the appropriate narrow band signal to the ECU, [Robot Cantina] can fine tune the air/fuel ratio with nothing more than a potentiometer, and the car’s ECU is none the wiser. What were the results? Well… they weren’t as expected, which means more experimentation, more parts, and hopefully, more videos. We love seeing the scientific method put to fun use!

People are ever in the quest to try interesting new (and sometimes old) ideas, such as this hot rod hacked to run with a lawnmower carburetor.

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Industrial Robot Repurposed To Make S’Mores

It’s summer time in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means campfires for cooking hot dogs, keeping the mosquitoes away, and of course, making s’mores. For our far-flung friends, that’s a fire roasted marshmallow and a square of chocolate smashed between two graham crackers. So called because when you’re done, you’ll want s’more. It’s an easy enough recipe that any child can tell you how to make it. But what if you’re not a child? What if you don’t even have hands, because you’re an industrial robot? This is the challenge that [Excessive Overkill] has taken on in the video below the break.

Starting with a Fanuc S-420 i W industrial robot built in 1997, [Excessive Overkill] painstakingly taught his own personal robot how to make S’Mores. Hacking the microwave with pneumatic cylinders to get the door open was a nice touch, and so are the vacuum grippers at the business end of the S’More-bot.

We know, we said you were supposed to make them on a campfire — but who wants to risk cooking their vintage robotic arm just to melt some chocolate?

There’s a lot of story behind this hack, and [Excessive Overkill] explains how they acquired, transported, and three phase powered an out of date industrial robot in another of their videos. Of course, this is Hackaday so it’s a subject that’s come up before in the reverse engineering of an industrial robot that we covered some time back.

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Cool Face Mask Turns Into Over-Engineered Headache

Seeing his wife try to use a cool face mask to get through the pain of a migraine headache, [Sparks and Code] started thinking of ways to improve the situation. The desire to save her from these debilitating bouts of pain drove him to make an actively cooled mask, all the while creating his own headache of an over-engineered mess.

Void spaces inside the printed mask are filled with chilled water.

Instead of having to put the face mask into the refrigerator to get it cold, [Sparks and Code] wanted to build a mask that he could circulate chilled water through. With a large enough ice-filled reservoir, he figured the mask should be able to stay at a soothing temperature for hours, reducing the need for trips to the fridge.

[Sparks and Code] started out by using photogrammetry to get a 3D model of his wife’s face. Lack of a compatible computer and CUDA-enabled GPU meant using Google Cloud to do the heavy lifting. When they started making the face mask, things got complicated. And then came the unnecessary electronics. Then the overly complicated  and completely unnecessary instrumentation. The… genetic algorithms? Yes. Those too.

We won’t spoil the ending — but suffice it to say, [Sparks and Code] learned a cold, hard lesson: simpler is better! Then again, sometimes being over-complicated is kind of the point such as in this way-too-complex gumball machine.

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CV Based Barking Dog Keeps Home Secure, Doesn’t Need Walking

Meet [Tanner]. [Tanner] is a hacker who also appreciates the security of their home while they’re out of town. After doing some research about home security, they found that it doesn’t take much to keep a house from being broken into. It’s true that truly determined burglars might be more difficult to avoid. But, for the opportunistic types who don’t like having their appendages treated like a chew toy or their face on the local news, the steaks are lowered.  All it might take is a security camera or two, or a big barking dog to send them on their way. Rather than running to the local animal shelter, [Tanner] used parts that were already sitting around to create a solution to the problem: A computer vision triggered virtual dog.

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Toddler EV Gets Big Boy Battery Upgrade

No matter the type of vehicle we drive, it has a battery. Those batteries wear out over time. Even high end EV’s have batteries with a finite life. But when your EV uses Lead Acid batteries, that life is measured on a much shorter scale. This is especially true when the EV is driven by a driver that takes up scarcely more space in their EV than a stuffed tiger toy! Thankfully, the little girl in question has a mechanic:

A 3d printed adapter sends go-juice to the DC-DC converter

Her daddy, [Brian Lough], who documented the swift conversion of his daughter’s toy truck from Lead Acid to Li-Ion in the video which you can see below the break.

Facing challenges similar to that of actual road worthy passenger vehicles, [Brian] teamed up with [bitluni] to solve them. The 12 V SLA battery was being replaced with a 20 V Li-Ion pack from a power tool. A 3d printed adapter was enlisted to break out the power pins on the pack. The excessive voltage was handled with a DC-to-DC converter that, after a bit of tweaking, was putting out a solid 12 V.

What we love about the hack is that it’s one anybody can do, and it gives an inkling of what type of engineering goes into even larger projects. And be sure to watch the video to the end for the adorable and giggly results!

Speaking of larger projects, check out the reverse engineering required in this Lead Acid to Li-Ion conversion we covered in 2016.

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Love Is A Burning Flame, And So Is This Underwater Burning Ring Of Fire

When Johnny Cash wrote “Ring of Fire”, he was talking about love. But when an unnamed follower of [TheBackyardScientist] took it literally and suggested making actual rings of fire — underwater —  they rose to the challenge as you can see in the video below the break.

Of course there are several ingredients to underwater fire rings. First you need water, and a pool clearly does the job in this video. Second, you need flammable rings of gas. [TheBackyardScientist] decided to build a machine to create the gas rings, and it’s quite interesting to see them go through several iterations before settling on a voice coil based poppet valve design. We must say that it works absolutely swimmingly.

Lastly there needs to be fire. And for fire, you need something flammable, and something shocking. Forty thousands volts light up a spark plug, even underwater. The fuel is provided by what appears to be compressed air and acetylene but we’re not 100% sure. We are sure that it goes bang! quite sufficiently, as demonstrated by its aptitude for blowing things up.

We appreciated the engineering that went into the project but also the rapid iterations of ideas, the overcoming of serious obstacles and the actual science that went into the project. Even if it is just randomly making literal burning rings of fire.

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Protecting The Hughes H4 Hercules With… Beach Balls?

Ryan in the Spruce Goose pilot seat

While visiting the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, OR, USA over the weekend, I came across a hack.

In addition to the excellent displays on site and an area where one can watch a video on repeat, the museum offers guided tours for a very reasonable price. And it was during this tour that my life as an aviation geek changed forever. Why? I got to visit the flight deck of the H4 and even sit in the pilots seat where Howard Hughes sat when he flew the plane almost 75 years ago.

It was later in the tour, after I’d had a moment to take in the enormity of sitting in the seat, that I found a wonderful hack to share with you all: and it’s all about beach balls. Continue reading “Protecting The Hughes H4 Hercules With… Beach Balls?”