Cheap Flamethrower Is Predictably Worrying

We’d never criticize somebody for coming up with a creative way to save a few bucks. In truth, pickings would be pretty slim around here if we deleted every project or hack where cost savings was a prime motivator. That being said, there’s still some things you should probably spend a few extra dollars on. You know, the essential things in life that you need to know will be safe and reliable, like your car and…your flamethrower.

While we don’t have any information about what kind of car [Steve Hernandez] is driving, but over on Hackaday.io, he’s posted some info about his 3D printed wrist-mounted flamethrower. The final result does look pretty impressive, but given the subject matter and the lack of any safety gear, we would firmly plant it in the “Don’t try this at home” category.

At the heart of this flamethrower is a solenoid valve recovered from a Glade air freshener. Rather than spraying out the smell of lilacs, this valve has found a new purpose in life by squirting out butane from a pressurized can. The butane is then ignited by a spark gap made up two nails connected to a 300 kV boost coil.

[Steve] designed the frame of this creation in OpenSCAD, and printed it out in a single piece. It holds the butane can and solenoid in position, as well as keeping the nails in the proper orientation for the spark gap to function. Admittedly the head of his printed flamethrower does look very cool, but if there was ever a situation where you should be suspect of the heat tolerance of 3D printed plastic, a flamethrower is probably it.

What’s noticeably lacking of course is any method to keep the flame from potentially traveling back up through the valve and into the butane can. The high-speed flow coming out of the nozzle is probably enough to keep that from happening, but we still wouldn’t feel comfortable strapping his device to our wrist as-is.

You may be surprised to find that wrist-mounted flamethrowers are a relatively popular project here at Hackaday. We’ve covered quite a few over the years, but still aren’t convinced this is something we personally need to add to our collection of gear.

Visual 3D Print Finishing Guide

With 3D printers now dropping to record low prices, more and more people are getting on the additive manufacturing bandwagon. As a long time believer in consumer-level desktop 3D printing, this is a very exciting time for me; the creativity coming out of places like Thingiverse or the 3D printing communities on Reddit is absolutely incredible. But the realist in me knows that despite what slick promotional material from the manufacturers may lead you to believe, these aren’t Star Trek-level replicators. What comes out of these machines is often riddled with imperfections (from small to soul crushing), and can require considerable cleanup work before they start to look like finished pieces.

If all you hope to get out of your 3D printer are some decent toy boats and some low-poly Pokemon, then have no fear. Even the most finicky of cheap printers can pump those out all day. But if you’re looking to build display pieces, cosplay props, or even prototypes that are worth showing to investors, you’ve got some work cut out for you.

With time, patience, and a few commercial products, you can accomplish the ultimate goal: turning a 3D printed object into something that doesn’t look like it was 3D printed. For the purposes of this demonstration I’ll be creating a replica of the mobile emitter used by the “Emergency Medical Hologram” in Star Trek: Voyager. I can neither confirm nor deny I selected this example due to the fact that I’m currently re-watching Voyager on Netflix. Let’s make it look good.

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Homebrew SNES Mini Aims for Historical Accuracy

While “normies” are out fighting in the aisles of Walmart to snap up one of the official “Classic Mini” consoles that Nintendo lets slip out onto the market every once and awhile, hackers have been perfecting their own miniature versions of these classic gaming systems. The “Classic Mini” line is admittedly a very cool way to capitalize on nostalgic masses who have now found themselves at the age where they have disposable income, but the value proposition is kind of weak. Rather than being stuck with the handful of generation-limited games that Nintendo packed into the official products, these homebrew consoles can play thousands of ROMs from systems that stretch across multiple generations and manufacturers.

But for those old enough to remember playing on one of these systems when they first came out, these modern reincarnations always lack a certain something. It never feels quite right. That vaguely uncomfortable feeling is exactly what [ElBartoME] is aiming to eliminate with his very slick miniature SNES build. His 3D printed case doesn’t just nail the aesthetics of the original (PAL) console, but the system also uses real SNES controllers in addition to NFC “cartridges” to load different ROMs.

The project’s page on Thingiverse has all the wiring diagrams and kernel configuration info to get the internal Raspberry Pi 3 to read an original SNES controller via the GPIO pins. He also gives a full rundown on the hardware and software required to get the NFC-enabled cartridges working with EmulationStation to launch the appropriate game when inserted. Though he does admit this is quite a bit trickier than the controller setup.

[ElBartoME] has put a video up on YouTube that shows him inserting his mock cartridges and navigating the menus with an original SNES controller. If it wasn’t for the fact that the console is the size of a smartphone and the on-screen display is generations beyond what the SNES could pull off, you’d think he was playing on the real thing.

We’ve seen some incredibly impressive emulation boxes based on the Raspberry Pi, and builds which tried to embrace original hardware components, but this particular project may represent the best of both worlds.

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High Speed Chronograph Looks Like Pro Gear

It can be hard enough to take a good photograph of a running kid or pet, and if we’re being honest, sometimes even stationary objects manage to allude our focus. Now imagine trying to take a picture of something moving really fast, like a bullet. Trying to capture the moment a fast moving projectile hits an object is simply not possible with a human behind the shutter button.

Enter the ballistic chronometer: a device that uses a set of sensor gates and a highly accurate timer to determine how fast an object is flying through it. Chronometers that operate up to a couple hundred meters per second are relatively common, but [td0g] had something a little faster in mind. He’s come up with an optical setup that he claims can capture objects moving as fast as Mach 2. With this chronometer tied into a high-speed flash rig, [td0g] is able to capture incredible shots such as the precise instant a bullet shatters a glass of water.

Because he couldn’t find any phototransistors with the sub-microsecond response time necessary to detect a small object moving at 1,000 m/s, [td0g] ended up using LEDs in a photoconductive configuration, where 27 VDC is applied backwards against the diode. Careful monitoring of voltage fluctuations across the diode allows for detection of changes in the received light level. To cut down on interference, [td0g] used IR LEDs as his light sources, reasoning there would be less ambient IR than if he used something in the visual range.

What really impresses with this build is the attention to detail and amount of polish [td0g] put into the design. From the slick angled bracket that holds the Arduino and LCD to the 3D printed covers over the optical gates, the final device looks like a professional piece of equipment with a price tag to rival that of a used car.

For the future, [td0g] plans on upgrading to faster comparators than he LM339’s he has installed currently, and springing for professionally done PCBs instead of protoboard. In it’s current state this is already a very impressive piece of kit, so we’d love to see what it looks like when it’s “finished”.

If you don’t need something quite this high end but still would like to see how fast something is going, we have covered chronometer builds to fit every budget.

80’s Smartwatch Finally Plays Tetris

While the current generation of smartwatches have only been on the market for a few years, companies have been trying to put a computer on your wrist since as far back as the 80s with varying degrees of success. One such company was Seiko, who in 1984 unveiled the UC-2000: a delightfully antiquated attempt at bridging the gap between wristwatch and personal computer. Featuring a 4-bit CPU, 2 KB of RAM, and 6 KB of ROM, the UC-2000 was closer to a Tamagotchi than its modern day counterparts, but at least it could run BASIC.

Dumping registers

Ever since he saw the UC-2000 mentioned online, [Alexander] wanted to get one and try his hand at developing his own software for it. After securing one on eBay, the first challenge was getting it connected up to a modern computer. (Translated from Russian here.) [Alexander] managed to modernize the UC-2000’s novel induction based data transfer mechanism with help from a ATtiny85, which allowed him to get his own code on the watch, all that was left was figuring out how to write it.

With extremely limited published information, and no toolchain, [Alexander] did an incredible job of figuring out the assembly required to interact with the hardware. Along the way he made a number of discoveries which set his plans back, such as the fact that there is no way to directly control individual pixels on the screen; all graphics would have to be done with the built-in symbols.

The culmination of all this hard work? Playing Tetris, naturally. Though [Alexander] admits that limitations of the device’s hardware meant the game had to be simplified a bit, he’s almost certainly having more fun than any of the UC-2000’s original owners did with this device. He’s setup a GitHub repository for anyone who wishes to join him in this brave new world of vintage wrist computing.

[Alexander] isn’t the only one experimenting with fringe wearable computers. We’ve seen our fair share of interesting smartwatches, featuring everything from novel input methods to complete scratch-builds.

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Face ID Defeated With 3D Printed Mask (Maybe)

Information about this one is still tricking in, so take it with a grain of salt, but security company [Bkav] is claiming they have defeated the Face ID system featured in Apple’s iPhone X. By combining 2D images and 3D scans of the owner’s face, [Bkav] has come up with a rather nightmarish creation that apparently fools the iPhone into believing it’s the actual owner. Few details have been released so far, but a YouTube video recently uploaded by the company does look fairly convincing.

For those who may not be keeping up with this sort of thing, Face ID is advertised as an improvement over previous face-matching identification systems (like the one baked into Android) by using two cameras and a projected IR pattern to perform a fast 3D scan of the face looking at the screen. Incidentally, this is very similar to how Microsoft’s Kinect works. While a 2D system can be fooled by a high quality photograph, a 3D based system would reject it as the face would have no depth.

[Bkav] is certainly not the first group to try and con Apple’s latest fondle-slab into letting them in. Wired went through a Herculean amount of effort in their attempt earlier in the month, only to get no farther than if they had just put a printed out picture of the victim in front of the camera. Details on how [Bkav] managed to succeed are fairly light, essentially boiling down to their claim that they are simply more knowledgeable about the finer points of face recognition than their competitors. Until more details are released, skepticism is probably warranted.

Still, even if their method is shown to be real and effective in the wild, it does have the rather large downside of requiring a 3D scan of the victim’s face. We’re not sure how an attacker is going to get a clean scan of someone without their consent or knowledge, but with the amount of information being collected and stored about the average consumer anymore, it’s perhaps not outside the realm of possibility in the coming years.

Since the dystopian future of face-stealing technology seems to be upon us, you might as well bone up on the subject so you don’t get left behind.

Thanks to [Bubsey Ubsey] for the tip.

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Conductive Concrete Confounds Circuitry

There’s a fairly good chance you’ve never tried to embed electronics into a chunk of concrete. Truth be told, before this one arrived to us via the tip line, the thought had never even occurred to us. After all, the conditions electronic components would have to endure during the pouring and curing process sound like a perfect storm of terrible: wet, alkaline, and with a bunch of pulverized minerals thrown in for good measure.

But as it turns out, the biggest issue with embedding electronics into concrete is something that most people aren’t even aware of: concrete is conductive. Not very conductive, mind you, but enough to cause problems. This is exactly where [Adam Kumpf] of Makefast Workshop found himself while working on a concrete enclosure for a color-changing barometer called LightNudge.

While putting a printed circuit board in the concrete was clearly not workable, [Adam] was hoping to simplify manufacturing of the device by embedding the DC power jack and capacitive touch sensor into the concrete itself. Unfortunately, [Adam] found that there was a resistance of about 200k Ohm between the touch sensor and the power jack; more than enough to mess with the sensitive measurements required for the touch sensor to function.

Even worse, the resistance of the concrete was found to change over time as the curing process continued, which can stretch out for weeks. With no reliable way to calibrate out the concrete’s internal conductivity, [Adam] needed a way to isolate his electronic components from the concrete itself.

Through trial and error, [Adam] eventually found a cheap method: dipping his sensor pad and wire into an acrylic enamel coating from the hardware store. It takes 24 hours to fully cure, and two coats to be sure no metal is exposed, but at least it’s an easy fix.

While the tip about concrete’s latent conductivity is interesting enough on its own, [Adam] also gives plenty of information about casting concrete parts which may be a useful bit of knowledge to store away for later. We have to admit, the final result is certainly much slicker than we would have expected.

This is the first one we’ve come across that’s embedded in concrete, but we’ve got no shortage of other capacitive touch projects if you’d like to get inspired.