This WiFi Filament Sensor Is Unnecessary, But Awesome

As desktop 3D printers have inched towards something resembling the mainstream, manufacturers have upped their game across the board. Even the quality of filament that you can get today is far better than what was on the market in the olden days, back when a printer made out of laser-cut birch wasn’t an uncommon sight at the local makerspace. Now, even the cheap rolls are wound fairly well and are of a consistent diameter. For most folks, you just need to pick a well-reviewed brand, buy a roll, and get printing.

But as with everything else, there are exceptions. Some people are producing their own filaments, or want to make sure their extrusion rate is perfectly calibrated. For those that need the capability, the WInFiDEL from [Sasa Karanovic] can detect filament diameter in real-time while keeping the cost and complexity as low as possible. Even better, with both the hardware and software released as open source, it makes an excellent starting point for further development and customization.

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Students’ Leaf Blower Suppressor To Hit Retail

Electric leaf blowers are already far quieter than their gas-powered peers, but they still aren’t the kind of thing you’d like to hear first-thing on a Saturday morning. Looking to improve on the situation, a group of students from Johns Hopkins University have successfully designed a 3D printed add-on that manages to significantly reduce the noise generated by a modern electric leaf blower without compromising the amount of air it’s able to move. The device has proven to be so successful in tests that Stanley Black & Decker is looking to put a commercial version of the device on store shelves within the next two years.

The team says the first part of the problem was identifying where the noise was actually coming from. After taking an example leaf blower apart and studying all of its moving components, they determined that most of the noise produced wasn’t mechanical at all — what you’re actually hearing is the complex cacophony of high-speed air rushing out of the nozzle. With this knowledge in hand, they isolated the frequencies which were the harshest to the human ear and focused on canceling them out.

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Printable Keycaps Keep The AlphaSmart NEO Kicking

Today schools hand out Chromebooks like they’re candy, but in the early 1990s, the idea of giving each student a laptop was laughable unless your zip code happened to be 90210. That said, there was an obvious advantage to giving students electronic devices to write with, especially if the resulting text could be easily uploaded to the teacher’s computer for grading. Seeing an opportunity, a couple ex-Apple engineers created the AlphaSmart line of portable word processors.

The devices were popular enough in schools that they remained in production until 2013, and since then, they’ve gained a sort of cult following by writers who value their incredible battery life, quality keyboard, and distraction-free nature. But keeping these old machines running with limited spare parts can be difficult, so earlier this year a challenge had been put out by the community to develop 3D printable replacement keys for the AlphaSmart — a challenge which [Adam Kemp] and his son [Sam] have now answered.

In an article published on KBD.news, [Sam] documents the duo’s efforts to design the Creative Commons licensed keycaps for the popular Neo variant of the AlphaSmart. Those who’ve created printable replacement parts probably already know the gist of the write-up, but for the uninitiated, it boils down to measuring, measuring, and measuring some more.

Things were made more complicated by the fact that the keyboard on the AlphaSmart Neo uses seven distinct types of keys, each of which took their own fine tuning and tweaking to get right. The task ended up being a good candidate for parametric design, where a model can be modified by changing the variables that determine its shape and size. This was better than having to start from scratch for each key type, but the trade-off is that getting a parametric model working properly takes additional upfront effort.

A further complication was that, instead of using something relatively easy to print like the interface on an MX-style keycap, the AlphaSmart Neo keys snap onto scissor switches. This meant producing them with fused deposition modeling (FDM) was out of the question. The only way to produce such an intricate design at home was to use a resin MSLA printer. While the cost of these machines has come down considerably over the last couple of years, they’re still less than ideal for creating functional parts. [Sam] says getting their keycaps to work reliably on your own printer is likely going to involve some experimentation with different resins and curing times.

[Adam] tells us he originally saw the call for printable AlphaSmart keycaps here on Hackaday, and as we’re personally big fans of the Neo around these parts, we’re glad they took the project on. Their efforts may well help keep a few of these unique gadgets out of the landfill, and that’s always a win in our book.

Sandwizz Promises To Reinvent The Breadboard

The solderless breadboard is perhaps the electronic hobbyist’s most commonly used tool, but let’s be honest, it isn’t exactly anyone’s favorite piece of gear. Even if you’ve got an infinite supply of jumpers in just the right size, any mildly complex circuit quickly becomes a nightmare to plan out and assemble. To say nothing of the annoyance of trying to track down an intermittent glitch, only to find you’ve got a loose wire someplace…

The Sandwizz Breadboard hopes to address those problems, and more, by turning the classic breadboard into a high-tech electronics prototyping platform. The Sandwizz not only includes an integrated power supply capable of providing between 1.8 and 5 volts DC, but also features an array of integrated digital and analog components. What’s more, the programmable connection system lets you virtually “wire” the internal and external components instead of wresting with jumper wires.

To configure the Sandwizz, you just need to connect to the device’s serial interface with your favorite terminal emulator and work your way through its text-based menus. You can also export a netlist file from your KiCad schematic and upload it into the board to make all the necessary connections automatically. This lets you make the leap from concept to physical prototype in literally seconds.

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This Tiny Game Boy Lets The Real Thing Play Online

Back in 2021, [stacksmashing] found that it took little more than a Raspberry Pi Pico and some level-shifters to create a USB connection with the Game Boy’s link port. Add in the proper software, and suddenly you’ve got online multiplayer for the classic handheld. The hardware was cheap, the software open source, and a good time was had by all.

Inspired by both the original project and some of the hardware variations that have popped up over the years, [weiman] recently set out to create a new version of the USB link adapter that fits inside a miniature 3D printed Game Boy.

The big change from the original design is that this is using the far smaller, but equally capable, RP2040-Zero development board. This is mated with a SparkFun logic level converter board (or a clone of one from AliExpress) by way of a custom PCB that also includes the necessary edge connectors to connect directly to a Game Boy Link Cable.

Once the PCB is assembled, it’s dropped into the 3D printed Game Boy shell. [weiman] really worked some nice details into the case, such as aligning the d-pad and buttons in such a way that pressing them engages either the RESET or BOOTSEL buttons on RP2040-Zero. The screen of the printed handheld also lines up with the RGB LED on the top of the dev board, which can produce some cool lighting effects.

The original project from [stacksmashing] was an excellent example of the capabilities of the Pi Pico, and we’re glad to see it’s still being worked on and remixed by others. Even though the state of Game Boy emulation is nearly perfect these days, there’s still something to be said for working with the original hardware like this.

Gather ‘Round This Unique 4-Player Arcade Cabinet

Usually when we see arcade cabinet builds, they’re your standard single-player stand up variety. Even one of them takes up quite a bit of room, so as appealing as it might be to link up two or more cabinets together for the occasional multiplayer session, the space required makes it a non-starter for most of us.

But this cleverly designed 4-player cocktail cabinet from [OgrishGadgeteer] goes a long way towards solving that problem. The circular design of the cabinet gives each player a clear view of their respective display in a much smaller footprint than would otherwise be possible, and the glass top allows the whole thing to double as an actual cocktail table when it’s not game time.

The cabinet was modelled in 3D before construction.

According to a post on r/cade, it took [OgrishGadgeteer] three months to go from paper sketches of the cabinet’s basic shape to the final product. Most of the components were picked up on the second hand market, which brought the total cost of the build to around $350. That wouldn’t have been a surprising price for a traditional full-size cabinet build, so for this, it seems like an absolute steal.

A Dell OptiPlex 7060 small form factor PC provides the power for this build, with the video output passing through a 4-way VGA distribution amplifier into 20 inch monitors. At $75, the four player control kit ended up being the single most expensive component of the build, though you could make do with some parts bin buttons and a Pi Pico if you wanted to really bring this one in on a budget.

Perhaps the most surprising element of the whole build is that, despite the cabinet’s complex design, [OgrishGadgeteer] pulled it off without a CNC to cut the plywood panels. Instead, a vinyl cutter was used to make full-size templates of the cuts and holes that needed to be made, which were attached directly to the wood. After that, it was just a matter of following the lines with a jigsaw. Not the fastest or most convenient solution, but it’s hard to argue with the final results.

We’ve seen other cocktail cabinet builds in the past, but this is the first that managed to cram four players in. Well, unless you count Dungeons & Dragons, anyway.

Protoboard Z80 Computer Teaches The Basics

As curious people, we’re all incredibly fortunate to live in an age where information can so easily be obtained. If you want to learn how something works, from a cotton gin to an RBMK reactor, you’re just a few keystrokes away from articles, diagrams, and videos on the subject. But as helpful as all of that information can be, we also know that there’s no substitute for hands-on experience.

While we can’t recommend you try building a miniature graphite-moderated nuclear reactor, there’s plenty of other devices that you can study by constructing your own functioning model. For example, when [Jorisclayton] wanted to really know what was going on inside a computer, they decided to go back to basics and build their own Z80 machine. To maximize the experience, they skipped any of the existing kit designs and instead wired the whole thing up by hand across a few perfboards.

The main board contains a 4 MHz Z80 processor, paired with 32K ROM and 64K RAM. Here you’ll also find the clock generator, I/O decoder, serial port, voltage regulator, and a trio of expansion slots that use a long strip of 2.54 mm pin headers as the interface. In the first expansion slot you’ve got a primordial “graphics card” based around the TMS9918 video display controller (VDC) and 16K of additional RAM. The second expansion card has a CompactFlash reader and an LED array mapped to I/O address 0x00h so it can be used for various notifications.

[Jorisclayton] says the final expansion board is still being worked on, but the idea is for it to handle user input through a PS/2 keyboard connector, as well as provide ports for a pair of Super Nintendo (or compatible) controllers. Everything is held together with a minimalist 3D printed frame to show off all that careful soldering.

Obviously there’s no PCB design files to share for this one, but [Jorisclayton] has posted a schematic for wiring everything up if you’re looking for resources to build your own Z80 computer. Sure the chips themselves might no longer be in production, but that doesn’t mean this venerable CPU is going anywhere just yet.