Removable Extruder Pulls Out The Stops On Features

For all of us fascinated with 3D printing, it’s easy to forget that 3D printer jams are an extra dimension of frustration to handle. Not to mention that our systems don’t really lend themselves well to being easily disassembled for experiments. For anyone longing for a simpler tune-up experience, you’re in luck. [MihaiDesigns] is dawning on what looks to be a cleanly designed solution to nozzle-changing, servicing, and experimenting.

The video is only 39 seconds, but this design is packed with clever editions that come together with a satisfying click. First, the active part of the extruder is detachable, popping in-and-out with a simple lever mechanism that applies preload. For consistent attachment, it’s located with a kinematic coupling on the side with a magnet that helps align it. What’s neat about this design is that it cuts down on the hassle of wire harnesses; tools are set to share the same harness via an array of spring-loaded pogo pins. Finally, a quick-change extruder might be neat on its own, but [MihaiDesigns] is teasing us with an automatic tool change feature with a handy lever arm.

This is a story told over multiple sub-60-second videos, so be sure to check out their other recent videos for more context. And for the 3D printing enthusiasts who dig a bit further into [MihaiDesigns’] video log, you’ll be pleased to find more magnetic extruder inventions that you can build yourself.

The world of tool-changing 3D printers is simply brimming with excitement these days. If you’re curious to see other machines with kinematic couplings, have a peek at E3D’s toolchanger designs, Jubilee, and [Amy’s] Doot Changer.

Continue reading “Removable Extruder Pulls Out The Stops On Features”

Teardown: Linkimals Musical Moose

Like so many consumer products these days, baby toys seem to get progressively more complex with each passing year. Despite the fact that the average toddler will more often than not be completely engrossed by a simple cardboard box, toy companies are apparently hell-bent on producing battery powered contraptions that need to be licensed with the FCC.

As a perfect example, we have Fisher-Price’s Linkimals. These friendly creatures can operate independently by singing songs and flashing their integrated RGB LEDs in response to button presses, but get a few of them in the room together, and their 2.4 GHz radios kick in to create an impromptu mesh network of fun.

They’ll soon be back, and in greater numbers.

Once connected to each other, the digital critters synchronize their LEDs and sing in unison. Will your two year old pay attention long enough to notice? I know mine certainly wouldn’t. But it does make for a compelling commercial, and when you’re selling kid’s toys, that’s really the most important thing.

On the suggestion of one of our beloved readers, I picked up a second-hand Linkimals Musical Moose to take a closer look at how this cuddly pal operates. Though in hindsight, I didn’t really need to; a quick browse on Amazon shows that despite their high-tech internals, these little fellows are surprisingly cheap. In fact, I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that given its current retail price of just under $10 USD, I actually paid more for my used moose.

But you didn’t come here to read about my fiscal irresponsibility, you want to see an anthropomorphic woodland creature get dissected. So let’s pull this smug Moose apart and see what’s inside.

Continue reading “Teardown: Linkimals Musical Moose”

New HackadayU Classes: Antenna Basics, Raspberry Pi Pico, And Designing Complex Geometry

Get ’em while they’re hot: a new session of HackadayU just opened with classes from three fantastic instructors and seats are filling up fast.

Introduction to Antenna Basics — Instructor Karen Rucker teaches the fundamentals of antenna design as if it were your first year on-the-job. She’ll cover the common types of antenna designs and the fundamentals of radio frequency engineering that go into them. Begins Thursday, May 6th.

Raspberry Pi Pico and RP2040 – The Deep Dive — Instructor Uri Shaked guides the class through the internals of the RP2040 microcontroller, covering system architecture, hardware peripherals, and dipping into some ARM assembly language examples. Begins Wednesday, May 5th.

Designing with Complex Geometry — Instructor James McBennett helps you up your 3D modelling game with a course on using complex geometries in Grasshopper3D (part of Rhino3D). Dive into Non-uniform rational B-spline (NURBS) and go from simple shapes to incredibly complex objects with a bit of code. Begins Tuesday, May 4th.

Each course includes five weekly classes beginning in May. Being part of the live class via Zoom offers interactivity with the instructor and other attendees. All tickets are “pay-as-you-wish” with a $20 suggested donation; all proceeds go to socially conscious charities.

For the benefit of all, each class will be edited and published on Hackaday’s YouTube channel once this session has wrapped up. Check out our playlists for past HackadayU courses, or watch them all in one giant playlist.

You might also consider becoming an Engineering Liaison for HackadayU. These volunteers help keep the class humming along for the best experience for students and instructors alike. Liaison applications are now open.

Continue reading “New HackadayU Classes: Antenna Basics, Raspberry Pi Pico, And Designing Complex Geometry”

BEAM-Powered, Ball-Flinging Beam Has Us Beaming

We have a soft spot for BEAM projects, because we love to see the Sun do fun things when aided by large capacitors. [NanoRobotGeek]’s marble machine is an extraordinary example — once sufficiently charged, the two 4700 μF capacitors dump power into a home-brew solenoid, which catapults the ball bearing into action toward the precipice of two tracks.

[NanoRobotGeek] started with the freely-available Suneater solar circuit. It’s a staple of BEAM robotics, slightly modified to fit the needs of this particular project. First up was verifying that the lever (or beam, if you will) principle would work at all, and [NanoRobotGeek] just built it up from there in admirable detail. The fact that it alternates between the swirly track and the zigzag track is entrancing.

There are several disciplines at play here, and we think it’s beautifully made all around, especially since this was [NanoRobotGeek]’s first foray into track bending. We love the way it flings the ball so crisply, and the track-changing lever is pretty darn satisfying, too. You can check it out in action in the video after the break.

Although this was [NanoRobotGeek]’s maiden marble track, it’s not their first circuit sculpture — check out this flapping, BEAM-powered dragonfly.

Continue reading “BEAM-Powered, Ball-Flinging Beam Has Us Beaming”

Weren’t We Supposed To Live In Plastic Houses In The Future?

Futurism is dead. At least, the wildly optimistic technology-based futurism of the middle years of the 20th century has been replaced in our version of their future by a much more pessimistic model of environmental challenges and economic woes. No longer will our flying cars take us from our space-age wonder-homes to the monorail which will whisk us through sparkling-clean cities to our robotised workplaces, instead while we may have a global computer network and voice controlled assistants we still live in much the same outdated style as we did decades ago. Our houses are made from wood and bricks by blokes with shovels rather than prefabricated by robots and delivered in minutes, and our furniture would be as familiar to a person from the 1950s as it is for us.

A Plastic Future That Never Quite Happened

There was a time when the future of housing looked remarkably different. Just as today we are busily experimenting with new materials and techniques in the type of stories we feature on Hackaday, in the 1950s there was a fascinating new material for engineers and architects to work with in the form of plastics. The Second World War had spawned a huge industry that needed to be repurposed for peacetime production, so almost everything was considered for the plastic treatment, including houses. It seemed a natural progression that our 21st century houses would be space-age pods rather than the pitched-roof houses inherited from the previous century, so what better way could there be to make them than using the new wonder material? A variety of plastic house designs emerged during that period which remain icons to this day, but here we are five or six decades later and we still don’t live in them. To find out why, it’s worth a look at some of them, partly as a fascinating glimpse of what might have been, but mostly to examine them with the benefit of hindsight.

Continue reading “Weren’t We Supposed To Live In Plastic Houses In The Future?”

An RP2040 Board Designed For Machine Learning

Machine learning (ML) typically conjures up ideas of fancy code requiring oodles of storage and tons of processing power. However, there are some ML models that, once trained, can readily be run on much more spartan hardware – even a microcontroller! The RP2040, star of the Raspberry Pi Pico, is one such chip up to the task, and [Arducam] have announced a board aiming to employ it to those ends – the Pico4ML.

The board goes heavy on the hardware, equipping the RP2040 with plenty of tools useful for machine learning tasks. There’s a QVGA camera on board, as well as a tiny 0.96″ TFT display. The camera feed can even be streamed live to the screen if so desired. There’s also a microphone to capture audio and an IMU, already baked into the board. This puts object, speech, and gesture recognition well within the purview of the Pico4ML.

Running ML models on a board like the Pico4ML isn’t about robust high performance situations. Instead, it’s intended for applications where low power and portability are key. If you’ve got some ideas on what the Pico4ML could do and do well, sound off in the comments. We’d probably hook it up to a network so we could have it automatically place an order when we yell out for pizza. We’ve covered machine learning on microcontrollers before, too – with a great Remoticon talk on how to get started!

Alien Art Drawn With Surprisingly Simple Math

Programmer [aemkei] Tweeted the formula (x ^ y) % 9 alongside code for more “alien art”. But how can a formula as simple as (x ^ y) % 9 result in a complex design? The combination of Bitwise XOR (^) and Modulo (%) generate a repeating pattern that’s still complex enough to satisfy the eye, and it’s ok if that doesn’t sound like an explanation. Bitwise operations are useful when working with memory and shift registers, but also worth learning if you want to drive lines or matrices of LEDs or interpret combinations of multiple switches, or in this case a great way to throw an interesting test pattern up on a new flip-dot display or low-res LED matrix. Are you into it? We are, so let’s jump in.

XOR Truth Table
0b00 0b01 0b10 0b11
0b00 0b00 0b01 0b10 0b11
0b01 0b01 0b00 0b11 0b10
0b10 0b10 0b11 0b00 0b01
0b11 0b11 0b10 0b01 0b00

Bitwise XOR compares each binary digit of the two inputs. The XOR returns a 1 when only one of the two digits is a 1, otherwise, it returns a zero for that position. Let’s say the coordinates were 3, 2. Converted to binary we have 0b11 and 0b10. From this truth table, we can see the most-significant digits are both 1, returning a 0, while only one of the least-significant digits is a 1, so the comparison returns a 1.

Moving onto the %, which is the Modulo operator has nothing to do with percentages. This operator divides two numbers and returns the remainder if any. Take 9 % 5. When dividing 9 by 5, 5 goes in once with a remainder of 4 so 9 % 5 = 4. Now our original formula from the top will draw a black box for every ninth number except that the bitwise XOR throws a wrench into that count, varying how often a number divisible by 9 appears and supplying the complexity necessary for these awesome patterns.

detail of aemkei's xor patterns

What are the most interesting designs can you create in a simple formula?