Very few people want to invent the universe before they blink their first LED. Sure, with enough interest a lot of folks will drill-down to the atomic level of technology and build their way back up. But there’s something magical about that first time you got your blinky to blink, and knowing how to write makefiles plays no part in that experienc). Now apply that to projects using smartphone as wireless interfaces… how simple can we make it for people?
Jose David Cuartas is working to answer that very question and gives us a guided tour of his progress in this Meta_Processing workshop held during the Hackaday Remoticon. Meta-Processing is an IDE based on — as you’ve probably guessed — Processing, the programming language that unlocked higher-level functionality to anyone who wanted to perform visually-interesting things without becoming software zen masters. The “Meta_” part here is that it can now be done with very limited typing and interchangeably between different spoken languages.
The approach is to take the best of text programming and block programming languages and mash them together. In that way, you don’t type new lines, you add them with a click of the mouse and select the instruction you want to use on that line from a list. It means you don’t need to have the instructions memorized, and avoids typos in your code. The docs for that instruction will be shown on the bottom bar of the IDE to help you with parameters. And the kicker is that since you’re selecting the instructions, choosing any of the IDE’s 14 available spoken languages will update your “code” with translations into the new language.
People learn in many different ways. Having options like this to help people get to blinky very quickly is a great way to break down barriers to understanding and using computers.
There’s a lot of folklore around post-processing of prints from FDM printers. Proponents swear by their methods, which are generally intended to either strengthen the part or to improve its appearance, or both. But do they actually work?
Knowing that a collection of anecdotes is no substitute for actual data, [Stefan] from CNC Kitchen has again performed some valuable experiments, this time testing the strength of parts that have been annealed in salt. This was a follow-up to his recent experiments with baking prints after entombing them in plaster, which yielded mixed results in terms of strength gains. Viewers commented that common salt makes a good medium for annealing prints, so he set about finding the right kind of salt. It turns out that the finer the grain, the better — powdery salt packs tighter and leaves little space for the softened plastic to flow — but that powdery salt is not easier to find. He ended up making his own by pulverizing table salt in a blender. He also had to play around with temperatures and times until coming up with a good process.
The results are impressive. PETG, ABS, and two varieties of PLA prints tested with force applied perpendicular to the print layers all showed marked increase in strength after breaking, to the point of nearly matching the strength of parts printed with the layers parallel to the stress. As with the plaster, parts were printed at 100% infill; a Benchy printed at 20% was notably unseaworthy after annealing. Surface finish on the annealed parts is an interesting combination of pitting with white residue — not unattractive but still a bit weird.
[Michael] volunteers with emergency services, and sometimes has to monitor radio traffic. Sometimes there’s a lot to review, and to make it easier he wrote a noise gate — think of it as a squelch — to break apart recorded audio into parts. Rust has been gaining popularity for writing low level software, and that’s the language he uses. However, you’ll see even if you don’t know Rust, it is pretty easy to figure out.
For test data, [Michael] took some publicly-available recordings of air traffic control. Using some ready-made audio processing functions and a simple state machine makes the code easy to write.
Consoles over the years have innovated, bringing new features and experiences with each subsequent generation. Rumble, motion controls and more recently VR have all come to the fore as companies vie for supremacy in the marketplace. Nobody’s really had the guts to tackle fire, though. Until now.
The build is based on the Nintendo 64. The motherboard is removed from the original case, and fitted to a sheet metal enclosure of impressive craftsmanship. This allows the fitment of the machine’s party piece — twin jets of flame, triggered by an extra button on the controller. There’s also a spinning N64 logo built into the front of the case, backlit in a foreboding red — hinting to the player that this is no regular console.
The console is capable of shooting flames up to 4 feet long, and if you have to ask why, you’re likely on the wrong website. We’d love to see the jets triggered by rumble, ideally on a per player basis — making bouts of Mario Kart and Smash Brothers more perilous than ever.
The main body of the handheld is constructed from attractive black and gold PCBs, and features a screen, some controls and an on/off switch. There’s also a microSD socket is on the board, which interfaces with cartridges which carry the microcontroller. Change the cart, and you can change the game.
[bobricius] has developed carts for a variety of common microcontroller platforms, from the Attiny85 to the venerable ATmega328. As the microSD slot is doing little more then sharing pins for the screen and controls, it’s possible to hook up almost any platform to the handheld. There’s even a design for a Raspberry Pi cart, just for fun.
Parallel processing is an idea that will be familiar to most readers. Few of you will not be reading this on a device with only one processor core, and quite a few of you will have experimented with clusters of Raspberry Pi or similar SBCs. Instead of one processor doing tasks sequentially, the idea goes, take a bunch of processors and hand out the tasks to be done simultaneously.
It’s a fair bet though that few of you will have designed and constructed your own parallel processing architecture. [BB] sends us a link which though it’s an old one is interesting enough to bring you today: [Michael] created a massively parallel array of Parallax Propeller microcontrollers back in 2008, and he did so on a breadboard.
The Parallax Propeller is an 8-core RISC microcontroller from the company that had found success in the 1990s with the BASIC Stamp, the PIC-based board that was all the rage before Arduino came into the world. In the last decade it was seen as an extremely exciting prospect, but high price and arcane development tools compared to a new generation of low-cost and easy to code competitors meant that it never quite caught on and remains today something of an intriguing oddity. So today’s value in this project lies not in something that you should run out and do yourselves, but instead in what the work tells us about the nuts and bolts of parallel processing architecture. It involves more than simply hooking up a load of chips and hoping for the best, and we gain some insight into the different strategies involved.
The Propeller certainly wasn’t the first attempt at a massively parallel microcontroller, and we doubt it will be the last. We’re certainly seeing microcontrollers with more than one core becoming more mainstream even in our community, but even with those how many of you have made use of the second core in your dual-core ESP32? Is a multicore microcontroller a solution searching for a problem, or will somebody one day crack it and the world will never be the same again? As always, the comments are below.
An ultrasonic knife is a blade that vibrates a tiny amount at a high frequency, giving the knife edge minor superpowers. It gets used much like any other blade, but it becomes far easier to cut through troublesome materials like rubber or hard plastics. I was always curious about them, and recently made my own by modifying another tool. It turns out that an ultrasonic scaling tool intended for dental use can fairly easily be turned into a nimble little ultrasonic cutter for fine detail work.
I originally started thinking about an ultrasonic knife to make removing supports from SLA 3D prints easier. SLA resin prints are made from a smooth, hard plastic and can sometimes require a veritable forest of supports. These supports are normally removed with flush cutters, or torn off if one doesn’t care about appearances, but sometimes the density of supports makes this process awkward, especially on small objects.
I imagined that an ultrasonic blade would make short work of these pesky supports, and for the most part, I was right! It won’t effortlessly cut through a forest of support bases like a hot knife through butter, but it certainly makes it easier to remove tricky supports from the model itself. Specifically, it excels at slicing through fine areas while preserving delicate features. Continue reading “Making An Ultrasonic Cutter For Post-processing Tiny 3D Prints”→