The promise of USB Power Delivery (USB-PD) is that we’ll eventually be able to power all our gadgets, at least the ones that draw less than 100 watts anyway, with just one adapter. Considering most of us are the proud owners of a box filled with assorted AC/DC adapters in all shapes and sizes, it’s certainly a very appealing prospect. But [Mansour Behabadi] hasn’t exactly been thrilled with the rate at which his sundry electronic devices have been jumping on the USB-PD bandwagon, so he decided to do something about it.
[Mansour] wanted a simple way to charge his laptop (and anything else he could think of) with USB-PD over USB-C, but none of the existing options on the market was quite what he wanted. He looked around and eventually discovered the STUSB4500, a a USB power delivery controller chip that can be configured over I2C.
With a bit of nonvolatile memory onboard, it can retain its settings so he didn’t have to include a microcontroller in his design: just program it once and it can be used stand-alone to negotiate the appropriate voltage and current requirements when its plugged in.
The board that [Mansour] came up with is a handy way of powering your projects via USB-C without having to reinvent the wheel. Using the PC configuration tool and an Arduino to talk to the STUSB4500 over I2C, the board can be configured to deliver from 5 to 20 VDC to whatever device you connect to it. The chip is even capable of storing three seperate Power Delivery Output (PDO) configurations at once, so you can give it multiple voltage and current ranges to try and negotiate for.
The purpose of Geometer becomes apparent when you realize its simplicity: [David Troetschel]’s project is to create an easily understandable design tool that encourages goal-oriented design. The kit comes with physical components and digital counterparts that can be combined in a modular way. They each have a specific geometry, which provide versatility while keeping manufacturing simple.
For the prototyping phase, small snap-on parts 3D printed on a Formlabs printer mimic the module components on a smaller scale. Once a design is conceived and the Geometer Grasshopper program finalizes the module arrangement necessary for the model, the larger pieces can be used as a mold for a concrete or hydrocal mold casting.
The present set of modules is in its seventh iteration, initially beginning as a senior thesis for [Troetschel]. Since then, the project itself has had an extensive prototyping phase in which the components have gone from being injection-molded to 3D printed.
The overall process for prototyping is faster than 3D printing and more cost-effective than sending to a third-party shop to build, which adds to the project’s goal of making manufacturing design more accessible. This is an interesting initiative to introduce a new way of making to the DIY community, and we’re curious to see this idea take off in makerspaces.
Four weeks from today the Hackaday Superconference comes alive for the fifth year. From engineering in challenging environments to elevating the art form of electronics, here are nine more talks that will make this a year to remember.
In addition to the slate of speakers below there are three other announcements, plus workshops. Jeroen Domburg (aka Sprite_TM) is designing this year’s badge based around a beefy FPGA running a RISC-V core and using open source synthesis tools. We’ll have more on that soon, but if you just can’t wait, check out the expansion board spec he just published, and join the conference chat room for the inside track. Badge hacking is sure to be the liveliest we’ve ever seen.
Tickets are sold out but you can still get on the waiting list and hope that one becomes available. If you are holding onto one of these hot commodities but are unable to use it, please return your ticket so that we can get it to someone waiting with their fingers crossed.
The Talks (Part Four of Many)
When it Rains, It Pours
Over the last two years my work has been beyond ordinary, building and prototyping in strange locations like being stranded on a sailboat in the Atlantic Ocean, teaching US Marines in Kuwait, and building fuel gauge sensors for generators for vital systems in North Carolina post hurricane Florence. Some of the big lessons I’ve learned are about how to source materials and supplies in weird places, like finding potentiometers in the backwoods of North Carolina when Amazon cannot physically deliver across flooded highways, how to find welding gas in Kuwait City (and how a local chef could possibly be your best bet), or how far you can get with an O’Reilly’s Auto Parts store near the city docks. These situations help you really see the “engineer creep” that can happen to a project. I’ve learned that when you’re in high-risk situations, you really should stop caring about whether the edges of your 3D print are chamfered. In fact, version 1 of the hurricane fuel gauge sensor was demonstrated while being housed inside an elegant, tasteful sandwich baggie.
Building Whimsical Wearables: Leveling Up Through Playful Prototyping
Whether it’s for a theme party, Halloween, cosplay, or That Thing in The Desert, designing wearables for whimsical self expression presents a great opportunity to challenge yourself as a maker, wearer, and collaborator. As an artist and designer who crash landed into a career in tech, I’ve found that imposter syndrome can often place limits on what feels personally achievable from an electronics and programming standpoint. Recontextualizing a project to shift the focus from ‘wearable tech hardware endeavor’ to ‘quirky mixed media experiment in personal styling’, I’ve created a safe space to play and try new things just outside my skill set and produced some of my most technically complex and polished personal work. Take a journey with me through the process of conceptualizing and building my Color Stealing Fairy project, an exercise in iterative design and upgrading an interactive wearable project over the course of two years and counting.
Michael Ossmann and Kate Temkin
The popularity of Software-Defined Radio (SDR) has led to the emergence of powerful open source software tools such as GNU Radio that enable rapid development of real-time Digital Signal Processing (DSP) techniques. We’ve used these tools for both radio and non-radio applications such as audio and infrared, and now we are finding them tremendously useful for diverse sensors and actuators that can benefit from DSP. In this talk we’ll show how we use the open source GreatFET platform to rapidly develop an SDR-like approach to just about anything.
“Hacking Nature’s Musicians” (or, “The Art of Electronic Naturalism”)
The general lack of acceptance of electronic art results from a scarcity of critics, curators, collectors, and grantors who understand electronic media, compounded by a cultural gap between the artistic and engineering communities. In order to solve this problem, we must stretch our comfort zone and vocabularies to have a respectful, enlightening conversation with people with different educational backgrounds. In this talk I’ll discuss my wonderment at the simple, analog circuit designs that mimic life-like behavior such as chirping crickets and singing birds. This will include discussion of various schematics and demonstrations of a small. along with an abbreviated survey of my work to-date.
Setting your Electronics Free
In this panel we’ll discuss the key ways to get your projects from your workshop into the hands of the first few users, and what you can do to scale up from there. We’ll talk about common pitfalls, and also what are the best resources to draw upon.
MicroFPGA – The Coming Revolution in Small Electronics
Big FPGA’s are awesome. They’re doing what they’ve always done, enabling AI, signal processing, military applications etc. However, there is a new possibility emerging – FPGA’s for small applications – which is quite possibly even more significant. Using open source tools, cheap flexible development boards, and new libraries, designers have a whole new set of options, creating incredibly high performance, flexible, low power projects and products.
Boggling the Boardhouse: Designing 3D Structures, Circuits, and Sensors from PCBs
The presentation will be a series of design features or techniques with a few minutes of exploration into the ‘gotchas’ of each, as well as example layouts in EAGLE and physical examples. I’d like to cover as many different techniques as I can cram into 30 minutes, including bringing weird shapes into EDA, the inside corner problem caused by tab and slot, fillet soldering, stacking boards, imitating model sprues with mouse bites, manipulating the mask layer for custom displays, bendy tab buttons, working rotary encoder, and ergonomic design for handheld PCBs.
Towards an Open-Source Multi-GHz Sampling Oscilloscope
Tektronix designed a 14.5 GHz sampling oscilloscope in 1968. With the easy multi-layer PCB designs, tiny surface-mount parts, blazingly fast semiconductors, and computer horsepower available to the individual designer today, can a similar sampling head be re-created inexpensively with common, off-the-shelf components? Should be easy, right? It’s not. In this talk, I’ll discuss progress towards an open-source GHz+ sampling oscilloscope, including a lot of dead ends, plus some very promising leads.
Building the Hackaday Superconference Badge
The tradition of the Hackaday Supercon badge is to build something unlike any Supercon badge that came before. This year’s badge has an FPGA as its central component, and this comes with some extra challenges: the FPGA only comes in a BGA package with a whopping 381 pads to solder, and instead of just referring to the datasheet of the SoC to write the badge software, the SoC itself had to be written first. I will discuss the development process of the badge, as well as the many challenges encountered along the way.
Keep Your Eye on Hackaday for the Livestream
The speakers you’ll see at Supercon have an amazing wealth of experience and we can’t wait to see their talks. But even if you couldn’t get a ticket, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. Keep your eye on Hackaday for a link to the livestream which will begin on Saturday, November 16th.
Hackaday Editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams opine on the coolest hacks we saw this week. This episode is heavy with 3D printing as Prusa released a new, smaller printer, printed gearboxes continue to impress us with their power and design, hoverboards are turned into tanks, and researchers suggest you pour used coffee grounds into your prints. Don’t throw out those “toy” computers, they may be hiding vintage processors. And we have a pair of fantastic articles that cover the rise and fall of forest fire watchtowers, and raise the question of where all those wind turbine blades will go when we’re done with them.
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!
If you are building a home shop, it is common to try to get the cheapest gear you can possibly get. However, professionals often look at TCO or total cost of ownership. Buying a cheap car, for example, can cost more in the long run compared to buying an expensive car that requires less maintenance. Most consumers will nod sagely and think of ink jet printers. That $20 printer with the $80 cartridges might not be such a deal after all. [JohnAudioTech] bought a few cheap multimeters and now has problems with each of them. Maybe that $120 meter isn’t such a bad deal, after all.
The problems he’s seen are the same ones we’ve all seen: noisy selector switches, suspect display readings, and worn off lettering. You can see the whole story in the video below.
Questionable Casablanca references aside, Amnesty International has reported another attack against human rights workers. In this case, a pair of Moroccan activists were targeted with what appears to be NSO’s Pegasus malware suite. Researchers identified text message phishing that led to malicious web pages, as well as HTTP man in the middle attacks against their mobile devices. Once the target was successfully directed to the malicious site, A collection of zero-day vulnerabilities were used to compromise the phone with the NSO malware.
While the homebrew rebreather the [AyLo] describes on his blog looks exceptionally well engineered and is documented to a level we don’t often see, he still makes it very clear that he’s not suggesting you actually build one yourself. He’s very upfront about the fact that he has no formal training, and notes that he’s already identified several critical mistakes. That being said, he’s taken his rebreather out for a few dives and has (quite literally) lived to tell the tale, so he figured others might be interested in reading about his experiments.
For the landlubbers in the audience, a rebreather removes the CO2 from exhaled air and recirculates the remaining O2 for another pass through the lungs. Compared to open circuit systems, a rebreather can substantially increase the amount of time a diver can remain submerged for a given volume of gas. Rebreathers aren’t just for diving either, the same basic concept was used in the Apollo PLSS to increase the amount of time the astronauts could spend on the surface of the Moon.
The science behind it seemed simple enough, so [AyLo] did his research and starting designing a bare-minimum rebreather system in CAD. Rather than completely hack something together with zip ties, he wanted to take the time to make sure that he could at least mate his hardware with legitimate commercial scuba components wherever possible to minimize his points of failure. It meant more time designing and machining his parts, but the higher safety factor seems well worth the effort.