A Simple Air Suspension Demo With Lego Technic

The most common suspension systems on automobiles rely on simple metal springs. Leaf spring and coil spring designs both have their pros and cons, but fundamentally it’s all about flexing metal doing the work. Air suspension works altogether differently, employing gas as a spring, as demonstrated by this simple Lego build from [JBRIX].¬†

The suspension system is employed on a Lego Technic car, with a relatively unsophisticated design. The car has no real form of propusion, and serves solely to demonstrate the air suspension design. They may look like dampers, but the system is actually using Lego pneumatic pistons as springs for each wheel. The pistons are connected to the upper control arm of a double wishbone suspension setup. Each piston is pneumatically connected to a main reservoir. With the reservoir, and thus the pistons, pressurized, the suspension system can support the weight of the car. If a bump perturbs a wheel, the piston compresses the air in the system, which then returns the piston to its original position, thus serving as a spring. If the reservoir is vented, the suspension collapses. Air springs on real, full-sized automobiles work in basically the same way. However, they usually have a separate reservoir per corner, keeping each wheel’s suspension independent.

Overall, if you’re working on some kind of Lego rambler, you might find this suspension concept useful. Alternatively, you might simply find it good as a learning aid. If you want to learn more about oddball suspension systems, we can help there too. Video after the break.

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Toxic Telescope Makes You Mad As A Hatter

[Hank Green] posted an interesting video about the first liquid mirror telescope from back in the 1850s. At the time, scientists were not impressed. But, these days, people are revisiting the idea. The big problem with the early telescope is that it used mercury. Mercury is really bad for people and the environment.

The good thing about a liquid scope is that you can pretty easily make a large mirror. You just need a shallow pool of liquid and a way to spin it. However, there are downsides. You need to isolate the liquid from vibrations and dust. Another downside is that since gravity makes the shape of the mirror, these telescopes only go one way — straight up.

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A red and blue Lytro camera with a serial port soldered onto one

Unlocking Hidden Features Of An Unusual Camera

Back in 2012, technology websites were abuzz with news of the Lytro: a camera that was going to revolutionize photography thanks to its innovative light field technology. An array of microlenses in front of the sensor let it capture a 3D image of a scene from one point, allowing the user to extract depth information and to change the focus of an image even after capturing it.

The technology turned out to be a commercial failure however, and the company faded into obscurity. Lytro cameras can now be had for as little as $20 on the second-hand market, as [ea] found out when he started to investigate light field photography. They still work just as well as they ever did, but since the accompanying PC software is now definitely starting to show its age, [ea] decided to reverse-engineer the camera’s firmware so he could write his own application.

[ea] started by examining the camera’s hardware. The main CPU turned out to be a MIPS processor similar to those used in various cheap camera gadgets, next to what looked like an unpopulated socket for a serial port and a set of JTAG test points. The serial port was sending out a bootup sequence and a command prompt, but didn’t seem to respond to any inputs. Continue reading “Unlocking Hidden Features Of An Unusual Camera”

Pizza-Making CNC Machine Is The Only Tool We’ve Ever Dreamed Of

Making pizza is fun, but eating pizza is even better. Ideally, you’ll get to spend much more time doing the latter than the former. If you had a pizza-making CNC machine, that would help you achieve this goal, and thankfully, [Twarner] is working on that very technology.

The Pizza-Pizza CNC Machine is based on Marlin firmware running on a Mini RAMbo 3D printer motherboard, and is a 3-axis CNC machine. At a glance, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s some kind of fancy futuristic vinyl player, but it’s actually intended to cook a tasty delicious pie. It’s a gantry-based machine that uses two tool ends, one charged with distributing sauce, and the other cheese. It’s programmed with G-code to designate areas to coat with sauce and areas to cover with cheese. It can’t create dough from scratch sadly, but instead operates using pre-manufactured pizza bases.

The current level of sophistication is low, and there are issues with cheese clogs and the general messiness of the operation. However, this doesn’t mean there’s no value in automated pizza manufacture. If anything, we want to see the more open-sauce development in this area until we end up with a pizza factory on every kitchen bench worldwide. We’ve already seen that hackers have mastered how to build a good pizza oven, so now we just need to solve this part of the equation. Video after the break.

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I’ve Been Printing On The Dragon Railroad…

We know many people who put much effort into building model train setups. But [Rambros] has an entire set 3D printed, and the files are open source, so you can print your own or modify it to suit you. When we first read “complete open source ecosystem,” we thought it might have been a bit of hyperbole, but it isn’t. The S-scale set includes two locomotives, a tanker, a box car, a hopper car, and a gondola car. There are different sections of track, customizable with Fusion 360. The “Dragon Railway” takes a few mechanical parts and electronics, of course. You can see one of several videos about the system below.

You can control the whole system using Bluetooth and a smartphone. The electronics are pretty simple, consisting of an ESP32 board, some motor drivers, N20 motors, and a few miscellaneous parts. We expect it would be compatible with other off-the-shelf S scale tracks and cars, but we don’t know that for sure.

Although you’ll need Fusion 360 to customize, there are plenty of ready-made STL files if you want to get started quickly. Some of the track items, like the crossing and turnout are not customizable, anyway. One particularly¬† impressive item is a printed auto-coupler; while a small item, getting that to work reliably with printed parts seems like it may be the most difficult part of the whole thing.

Maybe an OLED display would be the next thing? We’ve seen other printed trains, but this seems like a real labor of love.

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Supercon 2022: Sophy Wong Is Making An Impact With Artistic Wearables

Prolific designer and maker Sophy Wong is always looking toward the future, and that goes for everything from the costume pieces she makes to the idea of making itself. In her excellent and highly-visual Supercon talk, Sophy explores both, and gives the viewer a window on her evolved-and-evolving design philosophy.

You likely know Sophy as That Maker Who 3D Prints On Fabric, a label she is quick to dismiss, pointing animatedly toward the seminal work of one David Shorey, who also happened to be at Supercon 2022. As Sophy explains, the process begins by modeling disconnected bodies to be printed, then printing the first layer and pausing the print. At this point, a piece of nylon mesh is inserted, and the print is resumed. The result is that the mesh is trapped between the first and second layers, and the bodies are now connected by a common thread. Carefully remove the sandwich from the print bed and you have a highly-flexible, mesmerizing piece of material that almost acts like chain maille.

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DIY Macro Keyboard Wood Be Nice

Editing video tends to involve a lot of keyboard shortcuts, and while this might be fine for the occasional edit, those who regularly deal with video often reach for a macro pad to streamline their workflow. There are plenty of macro keyboards available specifically meant to meet the needs of those who edit a lot of video, but if you want something tailored for your personal workflow you may want to design your own keyboard like this wooden macro pad from [SS4H].

The keyboard itself is built around an STM32 microcontroller, which gives it plenty of power to drive and read the keyboard matrix. It also handles an encoder that is typically included on macro keyboards for video editing, but rather than using a potentiometer-type encoder this one uses a magnetic rotary encoder for accuracy and reliability. There’s a display built into the keyboard as well with its own on-board microcontroller that needs to be programmed separately, but with everything assembled it looks like a professional offering.

[SS4H] built a prototype using 3D printed parts, but for the final version he created one with a wooden case and laser etched keys to add a bit of uniqueness to the build. He also open-sourced all of the PCB schematics and other files needed to recreate this build so anyone can make it if they’d like. It’s not the only macro keyboard we’ve seen before, either, so if you’re looking for something even more esoteric take a look at this keyboard designed to be operated by foot.

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