Yosys Fronts For Xilinx ISE

We always marvel at how open-source tools can often outstrip their commercial counterparts. Yosys, the open-source tool for Verilog synthesis, is a good example. Although the Xilinx ISE design suite is something close to abandonware, a lot of people still use it because it supports older FPGAs the newer tools don’t. Its Verilog parser is somewhat slow to catch up to new standards, and according to a recent GitHub update, Yosys can now provide files for ISE that target Spartan 6, Virtex 7, and Series 7 FPGAs. In addition, there is some support for Spartan 3, Virtex 2, 4, and 5, although those are not ready yet.

According to the post, you’ll want to use the synth_xilinx command along with the -ise option and a -family option that matches your target (that is, xc6s for Spartan 6).  On the output side, you’ll write an EDIF file using the write_edif command.

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Burning Propane Beautifully Illustrates How A Tesla Valve Works

When you hear the name “Tesla”, chances are good that thoughts turn instantly to the company that’s trying to reinvent the motor vehicle and every industry that makes it possible. While we applaud the effort, it’s a shame that they chose to appropriate the surname of a Serbian polymath as their corporate brand, because old [Nikola] did so many interesting things in his time, and deserves to be remembered in his own right.

Take the Tesla valve. In essence a diode for fluids, the Tesla valve uses a tortuous path to allow flow in one direction but severely restrict it in the other. Understanding how it works isn’t necessarily intuitive, though, which is why [NightHawkInLight] chose to demonstrate the Tesla valve principle with exploding propane. It’s not new territory to him; we’ve covered his propane-powered rifle in the past.

The swirling blue and green flame front in those experiments make burning propane the perfect working fluid to demonstrate how the Tesla valve works. The video below tells the tale, with high-speed footage showing the turbulence that restricts the reverse flow. The surprise discovery is that in the forward direction, the burning gas actually seems to accelerate as it moves down the valve; hypersonic Tesla plasma cannon, anyone?

We’ve seen Tesla valves before, including one made from a “Shrinky Dink”. That did a pretty good job of visualizing the flow patterns that make the valve work, but there’s a huge showmanship gap between tiny channels filled with colored water and the explosive decomposition of a fuel-air mix. It’s a bit riskier, and standard “don’t try this at home” disclaimers apply, but luckily [NightHawkInLight] still has his eyebrows, so he must be doing something right.

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A Modular System For Building Heavy Duty 18650 Battery Packs

With 18650 cells as cheap and plentiful as they are, you’d think building your own custom battery packs would be simple. Unfortunately, soldering the cells is tricky, and not everyone is willing to invest in a spot welding setup just to put the tabs on them. Of course that’s only half the battle, you’ll still want some battery protection and management onboard to protect the cells.

The lack of a good open source system for pulling all this together is why [Timothy Economu] created DKblock. Developed over the last three years, his open source system allows users to assemble large 18650 battery packs for electric vehicles or home energy storage, complete with integrated intelligent management and protection systems. Perhaps best of all there’s no welding required, the packs simply get bolted together.

Each block of batteries is assembled using screws and standoffs in conjunction with ABS plastic cell holders. A PCB is placed on each side of the stack, and with tabs not unlike what you’d see in a traditional battery compartment, all the cells get connected without having to solder or weld anything to them. This allows for the rapid assembly of battery packs from 7.2 VDC all the way up to 150 VDC , and means individual cells can easily be checked and replaced in the future should the need arise.

For monitoring the cells, a “Block Manager” board is installed on each block, which communicates wirelessly to a “Pack Supervisor” board that monitors the overall health of the system. Obviously, such a robust system is probably a bit overkill if you’re just looking to build a pack for your quadcopter, but if you’re looking to build a DIY Powerwall or juice up a custom electric vehicle, this could be the battery management system you’ve been looking for.

Interview: FieldKit Team The Morning After Winning The 2019 Hackaday Prize

We caught up with Shah Selbe and Jacob Lewallen the morning after their project, FieldKit, won the Hackaday Prize. FieldKit is an open-source field-based research data collection platform. Which is basically a lot of fancy words for saying it’s a system for collecting sensor data in the field without being snagged by the myriad of problems associated with putting electronics in remote locations. It’s a core project of Conservify, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower conservation research.

As grand prize winner the FieldKit project was awarded a $125,000 cash prize, which Shah and Jacob say is transformative for a non-profit pursuing technology research and development. It seems the grant process has not evolved to embrace developing electronics, while opportunities for research projects have begun to involve recording large data sets in order to test a hypothesis. This is where FieldKit truly shines. Their vision is to provide a low-cost and extensible system that other researchers can use to collect data while making their own grant dollar go much further.

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Reflection On A Decade Of Hackerspace Expansion

A few days ago I was invited to a party. Party invites are always good, and if I can make it to this one I’ll definitely go. It’s from a continental European hackerspace, and it’s for their tenth birthday party. As I spent a while checking ferries and flights it struck me, a lot of the spaces in my sphere are about a decade old. I went to London Hackspace’s 10th earlier in the year, and a host of other British hackerspaces aren’t far behind. Something tells me I’ll be knocking back the Club Mate and listening to EDM of some form at more than one such party in the coming year.

For most of the decade since I found the then-recently-established mailing list of my local hackerspace I’ve spent a lot of my time involved in more than one space. I’ve been a hackerspace director, a member, and many roles in between and I’ve seen them in both good times and bad ones. Perhaps it’s time to sit back and take stock of that decade and ask a few questions about hackerspaces. How have they fared, what state are they in now, and where are they going?

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Hackaday Podcast 046: Bring Us Your Nonsense, Hacking NES Clones, Grasping FPGAs, Many A Music Hack, And Fish Tanks Full Of Random

Difference of two Vikram moon images, contrast tweaked.

Hackaday editors Elliot Williams and Mike Szczys highlight the most delightful hacks of the past week. Need a random-number showpiece for your office? Look no further than that fish tank. Maybe the showpiece you actually need is to complete your band’s stage act? You want one of Tristan Shone’s many industrial-chic audio controllers or maybe just a hacked turntable sitting between your guitar and amp.

Plus citizen science is alive and well in the astronomy realm, and piezo elements are just never going to charge your electric vehicle.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (63 MB)

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3D Printed Metro Charger Ready For The Wasteland

In the video game Metro 2033 and its subsequent sequels, players fight their way through a post-apocalyptic version of Russia using improvised weapons and tools cobbled together from the sort of bits and bobs the survivors of a nuclear war might be able to scavenge from the rubble. One of the most useful devices in the game is known as the “Universal Charger”: a hand-operated dynamo that the player must use periodically recharge their electrical devices.

The in-game Universal Charger

Being a fan of the series, [Nikola Petrov] wanted to build his own version of the Metro 2033 charger; but rather than going for an exact screen replica, he decided to explore the mechanism itself and see if he could 3D print a functional device.

As demonstrated in the video after the break, his charger manages to produce enough energy to light an LED on each squeeze of the trigger. Though if we were packing our gear to go fight mutated beasties in alternate-future Moscow, we might look for something with a bit more kick.

Beyond the 3D printed parts, the charger uses a couple short pieces of 8 mm rod, a NEMA 17 stepper motor, and a one-way bearing that’s usually used for pull starting small gasolene engines.

Interestingly, [Nikola Petrov] is no stranger to 3D printed electrical generation. If you’re interested in getting some real power out of a NEMA 17 stepper, his fantastic printed wind turbine is a must-see.

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