Hanging 3D Printer Uses Entire Room As Print Bed

There are many things people do with spare rooms. Some make guest rooms, others make baby rooms, while a few even make craft rooms. What do hackers do with spare rooms? Turn them into giant 3D printers of course. [Torbjørn Ludvigsen] is a physics major out of Umea University in Sweden, and built the Hangprinter for only $250 in parts. It follows the RepRap tradition of being completely open source and made mostly from parts that it can print.

The printer is fully functional, proven by printing a five-foot tall model of the Tower of Babel. [Torbjorn] hopes to improve the printer to allow it to print pieces of furniture and other larger household items.

[Torbjorn] hopes that 3D printing will not go down the same road that 2D printing went, where the printers are designed to break after so many prints. Open source is the key to stopping such machines from getting out there.

Thanks to [Jeremy Southard] for the tip!

Continue reading “Hanging 3D Printer Uses Entire Room As Print Bed”

Animated Picture Frame Needs Charging Once Per Month

[Kyle Stewart-Frantz] took one look at a black and white photo of a mountain stream, and decided it was way too boring. How much cooler would it be if the water was moving! Like any good hacker worth his weight in 2N2222s, [Kyle] set out to make his idea a reality. After discovering some pricey options, he found a Kindle Paperwhite with a display that had decent resolution and 16 levels of grey. But would 16 levels be sufficient to produce an animation that’s pleasing to the eye?

After stumbling upon a community dedicated to hacking Kindles, [Kyle] got to work. Using a custom Amazon command called eips, he was able to access the display’s memory location and paint images to it. The next trick was to write a script that called the command multiple times to produce a GIF-like animation effect.  This… didn’t work so well. He then found some code from [GeekMaster] (thanks for the tip!) that ran a specialized video player on the Kindle that used something called ordered dithering. After a few more tweaks, he got everything working and the end result looks like something straight out of the world of Harry Potter.

The animated picture frame can run for three to four weeks between charges. This is a hack that would make a great gift and look nice in your office. If you make one, be sure to put the skull and wrenches on it first and let us know!

Continue reading “Animated Picture Frame Needs Charging Once Per Month”

Flexible Quadcopter Is Nearly Indestructible

We’ve all crashed quadcopters. It’s almost inevitable. Everything is going along fine and dandy ’till mother nature opens her big mouth a blows a nasty gust of wind right at you, pushing your quad into the side of a wall. A wall that happens to be composed of a material that is quite a bit harder than your quadcopter. “What if…” you ask yourself while picking up the pieces of you shiny new quad off the ground… “they made these things out of flexible material?”

Well, it would appear someone has done just that. The crash resistant quadcopter is composed of a flexible frame (obviously) which is held rigid with magnets. So the frame works just like the frame of your average quad. Until you crash it, of course. Then it becomes flexible.

The idea came from the wing of a wasp, which you can apparently crumple without damaging it. Be sure to check out the video below of the drone showing off its flexible frame, and let us know if you’ve seen any other types of flexible frame drones in the wild.

Thanks to [JDHE] for the tip!

Continue reading “Flexible Quadcopter Is Nearly Indestructible”

Super Computing with Mini ITX Cluster

[Colin Alston] was able to snag a handful of Mini ITX motherboards for cheap and built a mini super computer he calls TinyJaguar. Named partly after the AMD Sempron 2650 APU, the TinyJaguar boasts four, yes that’s four MSI AM1I Mini-ITX motherboards, each with 4GB of DDR memory.

A Raspberry Pi with custom software manages the cluster, and along with some TTL and relays, controls the power to the four nodes. The mini super computer resides in a custom acrylic case held together by an array of 3D printed parts and fasteners.There’s even a rack-like faceplate near the bottom to host the RPi, an Ethernet switch, an array of status LEDs, and the two buttons.

With 16 total cores of computing power (including GPU), the TinyJaguar is quite capable of doing some pretty cool stuff such as running Jupyter notebook with IPyParallel. [Colin] ran into some issues getting the GPU to behave with PyOpenCL. It took a bit of pain and time, but in the end he was able to get the GPUs up, and wrote a small message passing program to show two of the cores were up and working together.

Be sure to check out [Colin’s] super computer project page, specifically the ten project logs that walk through everything that went into this build. He also posted his code if you want to take a look under the hood.

Storing Data on a Single Atom

In the electronics industry, the march of time brings with it a reduction in size. Our electronic devices, while getting faster, better and cheaper, also tend to get smaller. One of the main reasons for this is the storage medium for binary data gets smaller and more efficient. Many can recall the EPROM, which is about the size of your thumb. Today we walk around with SD cards that can hold an order of magnitude more data, which can fit on your thumb’s nail.

Naturally, we must ask ourselves where the limit lies. Just how small can memory storage get? How about a single atom! IBM along with a handful international scientists have managed to store two bits of information on two pairs of holmium atoms. Using a scanning tunneling microscope, they were able to write data to the atoms, which held the data for an extended period of time.

Holmium is a large atom, weighing in at a whopping 67 AMU. It’s a rare earth metal from the lanthanide series on the periodic table. Its electron configuration is such that many of the orbiting electrons are not paired. Recall from our article on the periodic table that paired electrons must have opposite spin, which has the unfortunate consequence of causing the individual magnetic fields to cancel. The fact that holmium has so many unpaired electrons makes it ideal for manipulation.

While you won’t be seeing atom-level memory on the next Raspberry Pi, it’s still neat to see what the future holds.

Thanks to [Itay] for the tip!

Via Gizmodo.

The God Particle

The Greek philosopher Plato is well known for his allegories and metaphors. Of particular interest is his Allegory of the Cave, which appeared in The Republic, written around 380BCE. In it, Plato describes a group of prisoners which are chained to a wall within a cave, and have been all of their lives. They have no direct interaction with the world outside of the cave. They only know of the world via shadows that are cast on the wall opposite of them.  For the prisoners, the shadows are their reality.  Though you and I know the shadows are only a very low-resolution representation of that reality.

Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”, drawing by Markus Maurer

Theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Prize winner who works out of the University of Texas at Austin, once likened himself to a prisoner in Plato’s cave. We are forever chained to this cave by the limitations in measurements we can make and experiments we can perform. All that we can know are shadows of the reality that exists in the sub-atomic world. We can see the shadowy figures lurking in our math and as wisps of misty vapor trails in our cloud chambers. We attempt to pierce the veil with the power of our imagination and draw nifty looking charts and animations depicting what our mind’s eye thinks it can see. But in the end, we are all trapped in a cave… staring at shadows. Reflections of a reality we can never truly know.

In our last Quantum Mechanics article, we introduced you to the idea of quantum electrodynamics, or to put it more simply — quantum field theory. In this article, we’re going to explore how QED lead to the prediction and eventual confirmation of something known as the Higgs Boson, also known as the God Particle. As usual, we’ll aim to keep things as simple as possible, allowing anyone with a curious mind to know what this God particle talk is all about. Like so many things in the quantum world, it all started with an unexpected outcome…

Continue reading “The God Particle”

Where Are the Autonomous Lawnmowers?

It’s impossible to know when society began to manicure its front lawns. Truth be told — cutting the grass was, and still is a necessity. But keeping the weeds at bay, trimming, edging and so forth is not. Having a nice lawn has become a status symbol of modern suburbia all across the globe. When the aliens arrive, one of the first things they will surely notice is how nice our front lawns are. This feature of our civilization could have only been made possible with the advent of specialized grass-cutting machines.

reel mower
Reel Mower [Public Domain]
It could be argued that the very first lawnmowers were live stock. The problem was they were quite high maintenance devices and tended to provide a very uneven cut, which did not bode well for families striving for the nicest front lawn on the dirt road. Coupled with the foul odor of their byproducts, the animals became quite unpopular and were gradually moved out of site into the back yards. Other solutions were sought to maintain the prestigious front yard.

The first mechanical lawnmower was invented in 1830 by a man named Edwin Budding, no doubt in an effort to one-up his neighbor, who still employed a Scythe. Budding’s mower looked much like today’s classic reel mowers, where a rotating cylinder houses the blades and rotates as the mower is pushed forward. Budding was granted a patent for his device by England, much to the dismay of his fellow neighbors — most of whom were forced to buy Budding’s mower due to the fact that everyone else in the neighborhood bought one, even though they weren’t actually needed.

By the early 1930’s, the cold war started by Budding and his neighbor had spread to almost every front yard on earth, with no end in sight. Fast forward to the modern era and the lawn and garden market did 10 billion in sales in 2014 alone. Technological advances have given rise to highly advanced grass-munching machines. For smaller yards, most use push mowers powered by a single cylinder IC engine. Many come with cloth bags to collect the clippings, even though everyone secretly hates using them because they gradually fill and make the mower heavier and therefore more difficult to push. But our neighbors use them, so we have to too.  Larger yards require expensive riding mowers, many of which boast hydrostatic transmissions, which owners eagerly brag about at neighborhood get-togethers, even though they haven’t the slightest clue of what it actually is.

Us hackers are no different. We have front lawns just like everyone else. But unlike everyone else (including our neighbors) we have soldering irons. And we know how to use them. I propose we take a shot-across-the-bow and disrupt the neighborhood lawn war the same way Budding did 85 years ago. So break out your favorite microcontroller and let’s get to work!

Continue reading “Where Are the Autonomous Lawnmowers?”