Ask Hackaday: Stripping Wires With Lasers

Most of us strip the insulation off wires using some form of metal blade or blades. You can get many tools that do that, but you can also get by with skillfully using a pair of cutters, a razor blade or — in a pinch — a steak knife. However, modern assembly lines have another option: laser stripping. Now that many people have reasonable laser cutters, we wonder if anyone is using laser strippers either from the surplus market or of the do-it-yourself variety?

We are always surprised that thermal strippers are so uncommon since they are decidedly low-tech. Two hot blades and a spring make up the heart of them. Sure, they are usually expensive new, but you can usually pick them up used for a song. The technology for lasers doesn’t seem very difficult, although using the blue lasers most people use in cutters may not be optimal for the purpose. This commercial product, for example, uses infrared, but if you have a CO2 laser, that might be a possibility.

The technique has found use in large-scale production for a while. Of course, if you don’t care about potential mechanical damage, you can get automated stripping equipment with a big motor for a few hundred bucks.

We did find an old video about using a CO2 laser to strip ribbon cable, but nothing lately. Of course, zapping insulation creates fumes, but so does lasering everything, so we don’t think that’s what’s stopping people from this approach.

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Ask Hackaday: Would A Scooter Get You Back To The Office?

So we’re two plus years into the pandemic at this point. Are you still working from home in the most comfortable clothes ever sewn? We figure that of the lot of you who said goodbye to that drab, tiled carpet in 2020, most have probably heard rumblings about returning to the office. And probably a good portion have at least been forced into a hybrid schedule.

Lots of companies would love to see their employees once again milling about all those glass and steel observation tanks office buildings they pay so much for. And while some are likely just forcing employees to come back, others are offering incentives, such as Google. The tech giant recently partnered with electric scooter manufacturer Unagi to provide a “Ride Scoot” program designed to lure many of Google’s US-based employees back to those brightly-colored code playgrounds they call offices with a fun mode of private transportation. The plan is to offer a full reimbursement of the monthly subscription fee for Unagi’s Model One folding scooter, which retails for $990.

The subscription is normally $49 a month plus a one-time $50 sign-up fee, but this amount will be slightly discounted (and waived) for eligible Google employees. There is one caveat to the system: an employee must use the scooter for a minimum of nine commutes to the office per month, although Google says they’re gonna be a bro about it and use the honor system.

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Ask Hackaday: What’s Your Worst Soldering Job?

Soldering! It’s the primary method for attaching one component to another in the world of electronics. Whether you’re free-forming a circuit, attaching connectors to cables, or populating a PCB, you’ll eventually find yourself doing some soldering, whether by hand, reflow, or maybe even a fancy wave soldering machine.

It’s a fundamental skill that nevertheless remains one of the biggest hurdles for newcomers to overcome when diving into the electronics hobby. Difficult jobs with tiny components or with large heat sinks can up the challenge for even well-practiced hands. Thus, today we ask the question: What’s your worst soldering job?
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Art of 3D printer in the middle of printing a Hackaday Jolly Wrencher logo

Ask Hackaday: Are Extruders The Only Feasible Tools For Toolchanging?

Toolchanging in 3D printers is no longer something from the bleeding edge; it’s going mainstream. E3D has a high-quality kit for a toolchanger and motion system, our own Joshua Vasquez has shared details about the open-source toolchanging Jubilee design, and just recently Prusa3D formally announced the Prusa XL, which promises toolchanging with up to five different extruders.

A toolchange in progress

It’s safe to say toolchanging on 3D printers has stepped to the front, but what comes next? What kind of tools other than extruders make sense on a 3D printer?

First, let’s explain what makes separate extruders such fantastic tools. Being able to change extruders on-demand during a print enables things like true multi-material printing.┬áPrinting in more than one color or material will no longer be done by pushing different filaments through a single nozzle, which limits a print to materials that extrude under similar conditions and temperatures. Toolchanging means truly being able to print in multiple materials, even if they have different requirements, because each material has its own extruder. That’s a clear benefit, but what about tools other than extruders?

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Ask Hackaday: Why Don’t Automakers Make Their Own EV Batteries?

Sales of electric vehicles continue to climb, topping three million cars worldwide last year. All these electric cars need batteries, of course, which means demand for rechargeable cells is through the roof.

All those cells have to come from somewhere, of course, and many are surprised to learn that automakers don’t manufacture EV batteries themselves. Instead, they’re typically sourced from outside suppliers. Today, you get to Ask Hackaday: why aren’t EV batteries manufactured by the automakers themselves? Continue reading “Ask Hackaday: Why Don’t Automakers Make Their Own EV Batteries?”

Ask Hackaday: What Can Only A Computer Do?

It is easy to apply computers to improve things we already understand. For example, instead of a piano today, you might buy a synthesizer. It looks and works — sometimes — as a piano. But it can also do lots of other things like play horns, or accompany you with a rhythm track or record and playback your music. There’s plenty of examples of this: word processors instead of typewriters, MP3 players instead of tape decks, and PDF files instead of printed material. But what about something totally new? I was thinking of this while looking at Sonic Pi, a musical instrument you play by coding.

But back to the keyboard, the word processor, and the MP3 player. Those things aren’t so much revolutionary as they are evolutionary. Even something like digital photography isn’t all that revolutionary. Sure, most of us couldn’t do all the magic you can do in PhotoShop in a dark room, but some wizards could. Most of us couldn’t lay out a camera-ready brochure either, but people did it every day without the benefit of computers. So what are the things that we are using computers for that are totally new? What can you do with the help of a computer that you absolutely couldn’t without?

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Ask Hackaday: What’s The Best Way To Heat A Tent With A Laptop?

For Europeans, August is usually a month of blistering heatwaves, day after day of cloudless skies and burning sun that ripens fruit and turns we locals a variety of shades of pink. Hacker camps during this month are lazy days of cool projects and hot nights of lasers, Club-Mate, and techno music, with tents being warm enough under the night sky to dispense with a sleeping bag altogether.

Sometimes though, the whims of the global weather patterns smile less upon us hackers, and our balmy summer break becomes a little more frigid. At BornHack 2021 for example we packed for a heatwave and were met with a Denmark under the grip of the Northern air mass. How’s a hacker to keep warm?

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